What is Brand Hacking?

New brand hacking formulaBusiness Identity Theft

Brand hacking can refer to two online activities that threatens your brand equity. It’s a type of business identity theft. There’s one activity you have the power to stop. The other is much harder to control.

Actual Brand Hacking

The first type of brand hacking involves actual hackers; it refers to a third party taking over your brand’s online presence. Most often, it comes in the form of someone gaining unauthorized access to social media accounts.

In February 2013, Burger King’s Twitter account was infiltrated by somewhat amusing hackers who changed the brand’s avatar name to McDonalds. The tricksters then began a barrage of possibly offensive tweets in the King’s name, prompting the brand to have Twitter suspend the account until control was restored.

This type of hacking is dangerous because it discredits the brand and leaves it open for things like slander or libel charges. When brands keep diligent track of their social media accounts, the trouble is generally put to bed sooner rather than later, minimizing damage.

Brand Dilution

Another type of brand hacking is a dilution of the brand’s image across the Internet due to misappropriated use of images, logos, and taglines. Artists may poke fun at brands, for example, by using brand logos and colors in graphic designs. There isn’t much a brand can do to stop such use, outside of taking each artist to court. Often, there’s no real reason to stop this type of brand hacking, especially if there isn’t a negative fallout for the company itself. Brand managers should remain aware of any online content related to the company. Proactive marketers can use alerts (e.g., Google alerts or brand mentions in software programs like HootSuite) to monitor what’s posted on the Web. Awareness is the first line of defense against brand hacking.

Are you concerned about protecting your business’ identity? Do you have a brand hacking story?