Thameslink vs. Poundland: How to protect your brand and reputation on social media
Formalities before TweetingBefore responding online, I would telephone or write directly to the business telling them that you object to what they have said and ask them to remove the offending post immediately. (If you do telephone, back up the call with a written demand to remove the post.) Also, take a screen shot for yourself in case you need it as evidence later. Be very careful if you react to the post publicly and I wouldnt recommend making any comments (humorous or otherwise) about their brand in your reply. I know Poundland did and it managed to pull it off in its response, but a situation like this could easily escalate into a tit-for-tat public argument. If it does, it’s likely to end up more damaging to your brand than the original post. If the post isnt removed voluntarily, contact the platform. Any business making false or damaging comments about someone else’s brand is likely to be in breach of the platform’s terms and conditions. You will have to explain that you are the owner of the brand in question and explain why the comment is damaging to your brand and reputation. Usually, they will remove it and then leave the two businesses to argue about who is right or wrong. __________________________________________________________________________________
Nando’s vs. Fernando’s: The brand making claims of trademark infringement After chicken giant Nando’s launched legal action against a small restaurant it believed had lifted the chain’s branding, David Walker helped business owners protect themselves from similar claims. __________________________________________________________________________________ In the vast majority of cases this will be an end to the matter, but occasionally you will have to consider the possibility of legal action. This may be to force the removal of the offending post if neither the business nor the platform have removed it. Alternatively, it may be to claim compensation if you can show it has caused lost sales or serious damage to your reputation. Trademarks provide excellent protection for brands and using another business’s registered trademark in a detrimental way is a specific offence under the Trade Marks Act 1994. So, if you have protected your brand by registering it as a trademark, the first and most obvious action to take is for trademark infringement. If your brand isnt registered as a trademark, you can still take legal action. You can sue for passing off but this is a much trickier claim than trademark infringement. To be successful you have to prove that you have strong reputation in your brand, that someone else took unfair advantage of your reputation whilst trying to sell their products and as a result you suffered damage (usually that you have lost sales). If the post was made by a competitor and they were comparing their products, services, brand or prices with yours, this could be comparative advertising (which I talked about in a previous article). If it is, you can complain to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) and ask them to investigate further. An interesting point to keep in mind is that if, in the Thameslink example, the disgruntled passenger had Tweeted something along the lines of This service is more Poundland chocolate than Ferrero Rocher? this wouldnt be comparative advertising and the ASA wouldnt get involved. However, if Thameslink retweeted that Tweet or even liked it, this could be seen as an endorsement of the passenger’s view and then the ASA may take action. This is why businesses need to be so careful with their social media. A quick tap of the screen without a second thought suddenly turns into an embarrassing PR exercise at best or an expensive legal battle at worst. If a comment is factually wrong and people think less of your brand because of it, it could be defamatory. This gives you another option for legal action. As you can see, if someone insults, disrespects or makes offensive comments about your business or brand in their social media, there are plenty of options for you to consider. If you have any questions about protecting your brand on social media, please feel free to email me at email@example.com and Ill happily answer them for you.