The strange world of Twitter, where brands engage with their customers at their peril. The main lesson learned from the recent #WalkersWave Twitter promotion is one that brands have heard before: the British public love nothing more than a piss-take.
So for the famous snack brand Walkers to entrust the Twittersphere with the face of its star ambassador, Gary Lineker, and its logo was a huge leap of faith. It is perhaps unsurprising then that some people abused the promotion so the Walkers Twitter feed began spitting out pictures of Lineker posing with Jimmy Saville and other unsavoury individuals.
While Walkers will not have wanted their logo to be placed next to Harold Shipman’s mugshot, the amount of damage actually done to Walkers’ brand is probably negligible. Having your brand’s marketing efforts being the subject of gentle public and media mocking only serves to increase brand recognition. Yes, their marketing team look a bit silly, but they’ve done nothing wrong and the only real criticism that can be levelled against them is a lack of foresight.
But what does this say about brands’ control over their IP? In particular on social media, brands are faced with a tension between engaging with the public (which often involves tolerating some use of its trade marks) and wanting to protect those marks from being tarnished. Creating any tool that allows the public to create materials featuring those trade marks is both more engaging, but also more likely to result in the mark being used in a way that is less than ideal.