Late 2009, AdAge guest columnist Michael Werch conducted a social media experiment where decided to impersonate a famous brand and see how long it would take for them to notice and what the resposne would be.
For two weeks, he posed as a Twitter representative of Heinz under the username @HJ_Heinz where he shared information about the brand as well as recipes and tips when using Heinz products. In other words, he was an advocate for the brand. Once Heinz got wind of the account, however, it was swiftly shutdown and Werch’s username changed to @notHJ_Heinz with a stern warning that he had violated Twitter’s rules.
In contrast, @Adelaide_FC started life as the unofficial Twitter account for the Adelaide Crows with an unnamed fan tweeting regular updates and news about the team including links to the Crows official website. Once the Crows found out about it, however, they did not ask Twitter to close the account but instead reached out to @Adelaide_FC and asked if he would continue tweeting officially for the team.
Today’s digital tools have empowered consumers to spread the word and share their passion. However, it is up to brands themselves to decide how much control of their brand and their message they are willing to cede to their customers.
How much control do you think an organisation needs to keep over their brand?
Do unofficial brand advocates need to be kept on a leash to prevent them from saying something damaging or are brands better served letting them spread the word authentically and without interference?