Let me open with asking this question – “Is Brandjacking and/or subterfuge marketing an ethical and legal way to build your personal or corporate brand?”
Wikipedia defines brandjacking as follows:
Brandjacking is an activity whereby someone acquires or otherwise assumes the online identity of another entity for the purposes of acquiring that person’s or business’s brand equity.
Inc Magazine has raised the issues surrounding the jacking of hashtags when it comes to brandjacking:
Brandjacking is growing more sophisticated and better funded. Social media marketers will feel its impact, even if their companies are not the target.
But… Brandjacking isn’t always centered around trying to build a personal brand or some other form of legit business. Since 2009 we have seen a rise in email phishing and pharming where cyber-criminals “pretend” to be the real brand and steal from people.
So, now when I see marketers in any industry or niche trying to highjack the brand name, hashtags, tag lines or even custom URLs of companies or people they are not affiliated with just to drive traffic to themselves or to cause harm, I do my best to contact the people or companies harmed.
I have also gone out and contacted the brand jackers themselves and in the majority of cases, I quickly realize this new generation of jackers, have no clue what they are doing is both unethical and illegal in most cases.
When I ask what they know about copyright/trademark infringement laws, they are clueless. When I explain they are violating intellectual property laws, in most cases, you can hear the keyboard start to light up as they start to search.
Going back to Wiki for a second, here is how they defined:
Intellectual property (IP) rights are the legally recognized exclusive rights to creations of the mind. Under intellectual property law, owners are granted certain exclusive rights to a variety of intangible assets, such as musical, literary, and artistic works; discoveries and inventions; and words, phrases, symbols, and designs. Common types of intellectual property rights include copyright, trademarks, patents, industrial design rights, trade dress, and in some jurisdictions trade secrets.
So when people “STEAL” brandjack the company name, hashtags, tag lines, and start using them to “STEAL” business. There is really nothing else this can be called but stealing. Instead of going out and building your one’s own brand, to build their business people steal from others.
Now some of you may be saying “I’m just taking back what was mine!”
We see this most often when a sale leader or whole organization leaves a company, to move to another and they feel the customers and independent sales professionals left behind should really go with them to the new company.
Legal precedent has been set in many courts, that the LOS (Line of Sponsorship) of both customers and independent sales reps belong to the company, not to the sales leader who attracted customers or reps to the company.
The only time this would not be true, is when a special agreement has been entered into above and beyond what all other sales reps sign.
My advice is as follows:
If you have purchased a blackhat marketing course teaching you to use subterfuge marketing or brandjacking as a way to build your business, STOP! These are unethical tactics and in most cases illegal, which means the companies, and people could hit you with a civil lawsuit. And worse than a civil case, you could be charged criminally!