When your startup has a recognized logo, your brand is a super brand with a special type of power. The type of power where you can place your logo somewhere and, without your brand having to say anything at all, a passerby will just know the promise that stands behind it.
For example, you experience this super power the moment you see Coca Cola’s logo. Although it may appear that the logo is just comprised of a red and white color palette with fancy flourishes, there happens to be an underlying force that allures you. When you see the logo on a hot summer day, Coca Cola’s super power becomes very apparent.
As you glance at the logo, you can almost hear the bottle pop and imagine the subtle sizzle of carbonation dancing its way to the top. Especially when your throat seems to be a bit dry, you will anxiously anticipate the refreshing “Ahhhh.”
This is the brand “super power” that I am talking about…
See Also: How To Find Your Brand Story
But, a brand’s precious super power is hard to protect in today’s world when web and social media publishing is ubiquitous across the globe. As you can imagine, it’s a precarious situation for your brand on the web. Your brand’s name can become compromised simply by an infringer typing the keys to spell out your brand’s name. Your brand can then be delivered a painful stab by an infringer effortlessly hitting the post button with cruel intentions.
Coca Cola recently experienced one of these painful stabs to it’s brand in 2013 with a commercial by Oxfam (Oxfam Novib Netherlands), “The Bitter Taste of Sugar.” The commercial parodied a Coca Cola Zero commercial drawing attention to Coca Cola and its unsustainable business practices.
So, just as Superman is always looking out for The Joker, every super brand also has their share of villains to be weary of – especially on the web.
But who are these villains? How do you spot one?
Your super brand’s villains specifically go by the moniker “brandjackers.” Below are some tips on how to spot these evil foes and some tips on how to handle them.
Who Are Brandjackers?
Brandjackers are mastermind infringers in disguise. Their crime consists of assuming a brand’s identity in order to steal its business brand’s equity.
For example, the brandjacker might create a fake website that is carefully adorned with your branding in order to trick people into thinking they’re ordering your products. In reality, a customer mistakenly buys a phony product. In some cases, the customer won’t even receive a product and will be robbed of their money blind.
In other cases, the brandjacker may just be attempting to damage a brand’s reputation. (As seen in the Coca Cola parody commercial mentioned above)
These scenarios can be very costly for not only the customer, but also the victimized brand. Once a brand has been conned, it can require large amounts of capital for PR repair, and often times it can be difficult – if not impossible – to regain the lost market share, clientele and sales as a result.
Oh, God! I think I’ve Been Brandjacked – What Now?
First of all, don’t panic too much.
Before you put on your superhero cape to fight the brandjacker villain off with full force (i.e. bad-mouthing your imposters and starting feuds), remember being brandjacked is not fun but it is also not the end of the world.
Instead take a calm and tactful approach. First, be sure that you have actually filed a trademark. In order for a brandjacker to be held liable from a legal standpoint, you have to prove the alleged offender infringed upon your distinctive trademark in commerce and in connection with goods, services or commercial activities. Read more about trademark rules of practice and federal statuses here.
Once you have qualified the foe to – indeed – be a true brandjacker send a Trademark Cease & Desist Letter. If the infringers are not responsive to the letter, you could certainly opt to pursue legal action against the offending party (or parties.)
What Can I Do To Prevent Being Brandjacked To Begin with?
Fortunately, there is a certain amount of protection that is guaranteed to that of smart super brands – that is trademarked super brands. A trademark will stand as a super brand’s secret weapon against any prospective infringement issues.
Although trademarks are your best weapon (and shield) against the nefarious brandjackers, you still need to be vigilant about enforcing your rights to your brand. This means, that you should not let your guard down after you file your trademark.
To understand why, take into consideration what happened in the the brandjacking case of the multinational oil and gas company, BP Global. In 2010, the @BPglobalPR Twitter account was created and grew in popularity during BP’s deepwater horizon oil spill.
To the un-trained eye, this account would seem to be associated with BP Global. But to the owner of a super brand, who is looking to protect and defend their brand, this account would seem suspicious. If you also felt suspicious, your intuition would prove to be correct.
It turns out that this account, created back in 2010 was not an official voice for BP Global, but was the account of a brandjacker attempting to bad mouth the BP brand. This account and was so successful it even attracted more followers than the official BP Twitter account!
Case in point, you should not let your guard down after you have filed a trademark. Be sure to also seek to register your brand name across as many social network sites as possible after you file your trademark. This will thwart would-be jackers and also serve as an effective way to establish your name on the web.
In addition, register any obvious variations of your domain names that a villainous brandjacker might feel tempted to use to defame your brand. These would include common misspellings or variations of your brand’s name (ex: Google also owns “goggl.com” and “gooogle.com”), different location URLs (.eu, .ca, etc.) and the domain names of all products or subdivisions for your brand.
All in all, with great power comes great responsibility. So if you are (or your startup intends to become) a powerful super brand, be sure to take on your responsibility of staking out for the infamous villain – the Brandjacker.