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How to create the perfect Brandjack

It has been a tense month with politicians holding babies and taking part in awkward selfies. Not to mention the birth of the 2nd royal baby. This has been the perfect opportunity for a brand to hijack a topical story and ride on the coat tails to further extend their brand presence, also known as Brandjacking.

As great as it can be to tie in a brand to a piece that is trending, the brand also runs the risk of stepping over the line into political or sensitive topics. It is crucial to not think whenever to Brandjack, that you do not need to find the balance between risqué and safe, but develop a well-executed PR campaign that can be imitative and engaging at the same time.

The brand that is king at Brandjacking is Oreo. From Superbowl’s power cut, Mars landings to Gay Pride. They have thought of it all. But how do you get this good at Brandjacking? And how do you execute it so well that you can gain those PR links?

Content and social have become big players in Brandjacking and it is key to have either one in the mix to gain great PR. Brands that have done well in gaining PR coverage from their Brandjack are the following:

Political: Russell Brand

SOD-Russell Brand


Unless you have been living under a rock, you would have noticed the media attention that has been around Russell Brand’s Trews News. His frequent You Tube videos and his activity within different communities at a grass roots level gained coverage for his new channel that he and a friend co created. Political Brandjacking is normally a rare thing among brands. This is because no brand wants to alienate a group that could possibly be a customer, or at worst disturb their media and social presence.

As Russell Brand’s ‘brand’ was to promote positive activism, he was also busy promoting his documentary ‘The Emperor’s New Clothes’ and his book ‘Revolution’, both products that conveniently tied in with what the political parties were promising.

He used his platform to dissect each manifesto and press engagement the party member took part in during the run up to the election. He posted his videos, made damning comments that later were picked up by the press. Brand used his own brand to Brandjack interviews with Ed Miliband, members of the Green Party and slate the Conservatives. This gained enough notoriety during election time to promote his movie that was conveniently out in the cinema at the same time.

Product:   The birth of the royal baby

SOD-M&SBrands that created products especially for the Royal Baby no.2 came from baby, food and lifestyle names. As the baby’s sex was not known before the arrival, most brands such as Marks & Spencer and Baby Blooms created products that were unisex and ambiguous. This gave them a brilliant head start in promoting their products prior to birth.

Brands that had tied in their products were The Royal Mint who featured the official UK coin that only have a limited amount of sovereigns on sale, retailing at £500 each.  The tea brand, Yorkshire Tea released a selection of baby blue and pink packages in the run up to Kate Middleton’s Labour Day.

These brands successfully tied in their brand’s personality and rode the wave of the nation’s excitement by launching a PR campaign around the products.

Topical News: Jeremy Clarkson


Topical news has to be quick, smart and have enough juice to keep in the minds of people when the news becomes old news. After Jeremy Clarkson’s incident with a member of Top Gear’s crew, Snickers smartly sent out a package addressed to the Top Gear presenter with the brand’s key line ‘You’re not you when you’re hungry’.  The image was directed to the presenter’s Twitter profile and took up column inches in the most influential sites including Buzzfeed and Yahoo.

The brandjack tied in relevancy, quick timing and its brand’s core values.

So what is there to keep in mind when creating a Brandjack?

Keep it topical

In order to hijack something that is currently trending, you need to stay abreast of what is actually trending! This isn’t rocket science, but speaking about something that only a small group of people online are talking about will not get you the best coverage. The topic needs to be on a national scale to get the attention of the press and the public.

Keep an eye out for what is trending on social media sites. Tools such as Muckrack give you up to the minute updates on what is trending in specific locations. Reading publishing websites that touch on pop culture and what is making the headlines will give you a heads up on what the press are already featuring. If you can see the journalist who featured a current story that is trending, approach them detailing the piece your brand or client has created as a reaction.

Keep it quick

Old news is no news. If you want your client or brand to be the king of Brandjacking, you need to have a small team who’s responsible for noting jack-worthy news and reacting to it with a piece of content that can get sold in to blogs and sites as well as travel on a multitude of social platforms. If the news is older than 24 hours and the social conversation has died down, then it’s too old to react to.

Keep in mind that you need to generate links from a Brandjack and the only way that will happen is if the journalists are still talking about the said news.

Don’t offend

The political debate in the UK went on for months before the election campaign, with so many quirks that could have been worth mentioning, but brands stayed away. Why? A political debate is risqué, and not in the breaking boundaries, winning awards sense. Commenting or Brandjacking on a sensitive topic that could risk dividing the audience or offending is not worth the probable backlash that could happen to your brand. Yes, it could gain links through press mentions, but at what cost to your brand? Stay in the realms of the non-offensive to ensure your Brandjacking is quick, smart and viral worthy.




Jodie Harris heads up the Digital PR division at MediaVision. She has worked in publication relations since 2008. She specialises in bringing the rules of traditional PR to a digital platform.