Earlier this week, many of us in the Des Moines Twitter community learned about a rip-off of epic proportions: Local web startup SmartyPig had its CSS layout, logo and name carbon-copied by a Romanian company called TrustyPig.
Here is SmartyPig’s website (a legitimate, FDIC-insured company), designed by the legendary HappyCog:
And here is TrustyPig’s blatant rip-off:
A representative from SmartyPig had this to say in their Twitter stream to all their followers:
SmartyPig: B aware of trustypig.com. We are in NO Way affiliated with this Romanian ad outfit. Not sure what they are up to. But they have good taste.
Mike Ferarri, one of SmartyPig’s founders, expressed to me that he didn’t think there was any possible legal recourse since TrustyPig is located in Romania. That’s when the Twitter community decided to take matters into their own hands. I called for the organization of an angry mob. Andy Brudtkuhl got more specific and demanded a brand hijack, an effort which he led and organized with other Twitter users and bloggers.
A brand hijack is basically an orchestrated way to use blogs, SEO and social networks like Twitter and FriendFeed to “hijack” a brand’s placement in search engine listings. Andy further describes it in his blog post from August 11:
A brand hijack is an attempt to infuse a message as related to a brand. Often times companies do this internally or accidentally. Sometimes it starts from an external source. Most of the times it is viral. Rarely it is organized. Our goal is to takeover search results and word of mouth for the TrustyPig brand in order to communicate our message to any of TrustyPig’s potential customers.
Below is a screenshot of how effective Andy’s efforts were:
So this is a perfect example of why every company, including yours, should work their asses off to have brand enthusiasts — loyal customers who will take time out of their own schedules to defend your image.
In the first year that they’ve been in business, SmartyPig has fostered a community of customer evangelists by accomplishing the following:
- Creating an innovative, killer product: An online piggy bank that helps users visualize and share their savings goals while allowing others to contribute.
- Providing amazing customer support.
- Use of a popular social network (Twitter) to engage in real, authentic conversations with their customers. This beats an advertisement any day.
Two days after the brand hijack project began, TrustyPig changed their web design and we declared victory:
Let’s sum this up. By working hard to foster a loyal customer base, SmartyPig ended up spending zero dollars in legal fees when faced with this trademark infringement issue. The Twitter Mob took care of it for them.
Follow the SmartyPig vs. TrustyPig conversation:
TrustyPig steals SmartyPig website via NerdFlood.com
TrustyPig – A Webjacker Gets Pwned via BlawgIT.com
TrustyPig.com Rips Off SmartyPig.com design via TroyRutter.com
Brand Hijack – Blogging via Getanewbrowser.com
TrustyPig – Social Brand Hijack via Getanewbrowser.com
(More links to conversations can be found on del.icio.us.)