What brands can do when their identity is hijacked

Becca White Clearly PR
By Becca White

Branding. Arguably, it’s the most important part of your business, and one the company never really stops working on. After all, if you don’t know who you are, how can you tell your customers about why they should buy from you, and buy into you?
At one time or another, your brand image might not only be skewed from its original identity, but also adopted or hijacked by competitors, or even thieves.

So what do you do about it, when it happens to you?

There are two main ways in which brand hijacking can happen. The first is when your brand identity is hijacked with malicious intent.

These brand hijackers are clever, assuming the identities of legitimate brands and using false personas to set up fake social media accounts and websites. They normally set up an account that appears to be affiliated with a certain product, but they use it in such a way as to cause damage to that brand’s reputation.

On a more serious level, you might become a victim of a hacker who then takes control of your social media account – posting in your name, or targeting customers with offensive or irrelevant content.

The degrees to which this can happen can vary – sometimes it’s easier to overcome than others, but in some cases, it can really harm your brand identity and cause you lasting damage. This is even more damaging when your name is your brand, and we often see celebrities and public figures having to speak out to defend themselves when this happens to them.

Money saving expert Martin Lewis and entrepreneur Deborah Meaden, for example, have both had to distance themselves from stories claiming they support bitcoin schemes or other investment plans. Lewis has even gone so far as to start legal proceedings against Facebook.

Making sure your assets are secure is a full-time job, and you need to seek the necessary advice, to be able to do this effectively.

The second form of brand hijacking is when another company adopts values, communication strategies or even collateral, that is similar to yours. They say imitation is the greatest form of flattery, and true, you must be communicating to your customers in the right way if another brand wants to adopt your voice, but that doesn’t mean a thing when your customers are going elsewhere.

The flip side of this, of course, is that brand identities can be adopted so fervently that faithful, original customers abandon it in droves, because of a whole new demographic. Just Google what happened to Burberry.

To combat this, you need to stay engaged with your customers, and true to your own voice. With the growth of social media and all the two-way channels of communication open to organisations, brand identity is more at-risk than ever. Losing control of your ‘voice’ can be fatal.

At the same time, to maintain this authenticity you need to sometimes allow your customers a chance to steer the brand. Not only does this indicate to them that you trust them, but it also gives you a chance to gauge sentiment and make the necessary changes, or continue doing what makes them happy.

Competing in any type of market is always risky, but maintain your confidence in your product and your values as a company, and you will always have authenticity, and if you always have authenticity, you will always have a customer base.