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How a Company Reacts to a Brand Hijacking

by Scott Hoffman on February 17, 2010

Yesterday AdAge published a story about by Michael Werch entitled “My Life as H.J. Heinz: Confessions of a Real-Life Twitter Squatter

Michael created a Twitter account with the user name @HJ_Heinz on Dec 1st 2009 and posted Heinz ketchup bottles in the profile background, a link to the company’s corporate website, and a brief bio: “News, recipe ideas & fun facts for all things Heinz.”

For the next two weeks Michael continued tweeting about all things Heinz. He maintains that all tweets were positive in nature.

As of Dec. 14, he had tweeted 175 times and gained 367 followers from the @HJ_Heinz feed. Micheal goes on to write:

“At 7 p.m., I logged on to discover my handle had been changed to “@NOThj_Heinz,” and that the ketchup-bottle background, website link and brief bio had all been removed. There was no explanation besides an e-mail from Twitter HQ stating: “It has come to our attention that your Twitter account, @username, is in violation of the Twitter Rules, specifically the section on Trademark. … To avoid confusion regarding brand and/or official affiliation with the business or company in question, we’ve made the following changes to your account … ”

The story which ran on AdAge had some of the most vibrant discussions on the matter, including one that I found most interesting from JimboJones from Lafayette, Indiana. Jimbo writes:

“Maybe you should think for a while and consider not all brands need to be on twitter. Heinz is already top of mind when people are walking through the condiments isle, what do they have to gain by spending hours of time for 300 followers? Do you have any concept of scale? This is a 130 year old company with over 32,000 staff, sales of 10 billion and a 50% share of the ketchup market.”

To read the full article click here. Michael Werch is an independent social-media consultant and also works with Adforum.com. As of this posting Micheal who can still be found on twitter at @NOThj_Heinz has 949 followers.

To learn more about brand identity and how you can prevent it from happening to you read the following:

Your brand may have already been Stolen on Twitter (and other Social Networks)

Is your brand at risk for online identity theft?: What you need know and do

30 social sites your brand should register on to prevent identity theft

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