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Brandjacking Inc.

July 27, 2010

My last post mentioned the topic of Brandjacking, which reminds me of an era in the not so distant past where someone would register a URL of a brand, product or individual in the hopes of garnering a hefty payoff to turn it over to the rightful owner.

The benefits of brandjacking for an individual may not be directly financial, but the effects on the original brand-holder may often include financial loss – for example, negative publicity may result in the termination of a celebrity’s sponsorship deal, or, for a corporation, potentially lead to lost sales or a reduced share price. Just today there was a report of footballer on a fake Facebook page stating he was moving to another team.

Perhaps this new type of brand-jacking, is exactly why Twitter launched their “Verified Account” service. It prevents companies from becoming the unwilling victim of an ugly brand-jacking attack. Fortunately the rumors were debunked quickly, however the fake Facebook Page still remains. I’m assuming it won’t be around for too much longer.

This type of behavior is cropping up in ‘agencies’ that will “support” your brand if the price is right. They register your brand/company page for you, add content and then restrict YOUR access to it. For a hefty ransom.

Recently a blogger posted about one such ‘agency’ in detail. You can click the link and read the rant here or read it below.

Seth Godin Tries Out Brandjacking

Seth Godin has ginormous balls. There, I said it.

This morning, Seth used his much respected blog to reveal the news about Brands In Public. If you missed it (and if you did, you should really adjust the volume on your Internet), Brand in Public was designed to show the world just how much Seth cares about your brand. Yep, he loves you so much that he has sent his team of goblins out to register your Brands in Public company page for you, fill it with scraped content (blog posts, tweets, Google News, Trends, etc) and then lock it down so that you have absolutely no way to touch or control it. Unless you pay him.

Four hundred dollars. A month.

Wow. I’d personally like to welcome Seth Godin to the world of brandjacking and hostage taking. I didn’t know you had it in you.

It may sound as if I’m being flip, but honestly, I’m more horrified than anything. That someone with the respect, authority and following of Seth Godin is using it to take advantage of people. And that’s what he’s doing here.

Brands In Public helps no one. Except maybe Seth Godin.

If you’re a large brand like Guinness, Home Depot or All State, you don’t want Brands in Public. You’d be much better suited creating your own internal dashboard to track mentions or investing in a program like Radian 6. Brands in Public isn’t nearly as powerful as you’d need it to be. To be honest, Brands in Public is nothing more than a 5k a year public Google Alert. And it’s the “public” part that Seth says makes these pages so valuable. It allows you to do your monitoring in full of view of everyone on the Internet. Personally, I’m not sure why the thought of that is so exciting. I tend to look at brand monitoring like showering. They’re things I like to do in private. Or at least only with people I really, really like.

And if you’re a small or medium-sized brand, well then you’ll really hate Brands in Public. Because they’re trying to extort 5k a year from you for a free listening station you could very easily create all by yourself (or for $18/month with Trackur). And if you choose to continue doing it by yourself, you still have to accept the fact that Seth just brandjacked your name. And now you have someone representing your brand when they have no affiliation with your company. Thanks for the online reputation management nightmare, Seth!

Seth is right on one thing, though. These conversations are already happening throughout the Web. He’s not doing anything but aggregating them. But he’s aggregating them in a way that takes advantage of brands and the way search engines work. Because these pages are going to rank. So you either give him his 5k a year in hush money or you let someone else rank for your brand. There’s a reason that username signup company only allows people to register brands they can prove an affiliation with. Because knowem is not corrupt.

It’s hard when the people that you once respected start forgetting why they were unique and start doing stupid shit. When they grow up to think they’re better than the community and that others have to bed to them. It now looks like Seth Godin has headed down that path.

Well, Seth, I hope you went out and registered one of those hijacked brand pages for your own brand because it partially went up in flames today. You may want to head back to yesterday in your blog to your post entitled win the fight, lose the customer. It seems especially appropriate right now.

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