What if someone unrelated to your company takes control of its reputation and suddenly has the power to make or break your reputation? Like personal identity theft, it turns out that a fair number of people have taken to brand identity theft by impersonating corporations on Twitter. For any given brand, this could go either way depending on who’s squatting on the brand’s name. Under the guise of research, writer Michael Werch, set up a Twitter account masquerading as the HJ Heinz Company. In the age of Social Media Marketing, Heinz is among the companies that Werch deemed to not have an acceptable level of social media presence.
For two weeks Werch posted positive Tweets about Heinz history and products. He posted recipes and little-known facts. Soon enough he had gained a following, so to speak among fans of Heinz ketchup and other products. Then one day Werch logged on to his account to find that Twitter administrators had booted him from the Heinz domain for violation of Twitter rules. Not even a call or e-mail from the Heinz Company, he thought. No flowers or chocolates or bottles of ketchup for his free PR work. Clearly he wasn’t harming the brand. Or was he?
As it turns out, the Heinz Company wasn’t being twitchy about Twitter, they were protecting their brand by monitoring its usage in the social media world. Meanwhile, though they may not Tweet about it, Heinz has a presence in India, the Philippines, Canada, and beyond, selling about 650 million bottles of ketchup every year. One of the most popular promotional products in American business history may have been the Heinz Company’s pickle pin at the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893. And that famous “57” was just good marketing – they have numerous varieties. It’s their brand and they’ll Tweet if they want to.
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