Brand Hijack

Just when branding became a custom, followed religiously by managers, here comes the bully to sweep off your identity.
What is it and how does it happen?
Is it killing your brand? If yes, then how do you save it?
If no, then how do you use it?
In this post, I have tried to get a closer look at this system of hijacking.
As always, waiting for comments…!

Brand identity v/s brand image
Brand identity is the meaning of the brand that the marketer wants to convey. Brand image is the representation of the brand in the consumer’s mind. Ideally the brand identity and brand image should overlap. But sometimes the brand can be desired by a totally unintended market segments. This is brand hijacking.

Your brand – a public property

Brand managers may give an identity to the brand. But it’s the customer who has the ownership of the brand image.
Consumers appropriate the brand for themselves and add meaning to it.
Example –
Dr. Martens was never a political brand. It was a gardening shoe for
elderly women. But youths and mods hijacked the boot for their own

Well planned accidents!

The marketer intelligently uses creative, low-budget, person-to-person strategy. Connects with the target audience and makes the customer market the brand himself.
Example –
Blair witch project
Pabst blue ribbon
Dr. Martens
Red bull

Hire your customer, he is free!
* They are street smart and will take you to places where you didn’t know you wanted to go.
* Consumers work for you when your brand offers a vision with which they can identify – one which they want to involve themselves more deeply.
* Listening to the mass public is a key aspect of marketing. Without identifying and understanding the needs of the audience a brand would fail to provide products beneficial to the consumer.

Getting consumer in your loop
Make them the discoverers –
The consumer will be passionate about your brand when they feel they discovered it. They think they own the brand and share it with others. Make a statement –
The social or political tribe will associate and relate itself better if the brand fits in their social/political bubble. Eg – Harley davidsonClear mission –
Have your brand define a purpose. When red bull said ‘speed in a can’ – it connected with the demanding lifestyle.Add humor – consumers find it endearing when you show that you can laugh at yourself.

Pulling the odd ones in !
Design plays a crucial role in signaling the right cues to such an aware audience which rejects marketing. Pabst blue ribbon, favored by middle America, are specifically created to appear ‘ anti – design’. Just right for those who reject the concept of marketing all together. Consumer becomes your fan if you can pull off a tough design challenge. Red bull did wonders! Because they acted with patience and sensibility.

Be ‘cool’ , Be ‘in’

* Brand hijack helps making the product look ‘cool’ without trying too hard.
* ‘Cool’ is an attitude, not a behavior.
* Apple never sold out and they continue to market towards their inner circle rather than the mainstream.
* Since the target audience is specific and the ‘cool’ trend setter kind, It delivers loyalty and stability which other brands strive for.

Don’t forget culture, use it instead

The marketer needs to know that the brand adds tremendous value. Adds to quality of life and provides with belief and meaning.
Use the brand tribes
Brand tribes are group of people who share their interest in a Specific brand. They do not accept brand meaning dictated by the brand owner. In fact they reconstruct brands for their own symbolic usage.
Harley Davidson’s success was propelled by the sheer will and energy of its community : the HOG

The hijack-able brand
The ideation for hijack-able brands has to be bigger than a consumer insight.
Early adopters are best story tellers. They add meaning to your brand and translate message to a larger, more conservative market by creating myth and rituals around.
Innovators open doors for the mass media. Hijack marketing uses mass media tactfully rather than person-to-person.

Enjoy loyalty

Marketing needs to stay bold, brave and surprising.
Loyalty is attitude, retention is consumer behavior.
Say it and say it right! – Tell the audience exactly what they want to hear and do it at the time and place where they will be able to remember story.

Once hijacked, land smooth!

* If your brand becomes aspirational – use it.
* If your brand has covert consumption – promote it to the new segment.
* If your brand has partitioned consumption – promote it to the new segment.

Finally, weigh the benefits of supporting the new segment with impact on your intended segment. Supporting the new segment benefits only if it sticks with you. Faddish Segment doesn’t help.

Brand Hijack – Summarized by Kanchan Gokhale


2 comments so far

  1. Michael Tim on

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    Singamaraja visiting your blog

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