Doppelganger Brand Image: your product is not what you think

Every organization from non-profit to most profitable ones, from corporations to startups, dedicate an enormous part of their budget and effort to shape their brand. Brand is not just a tool in hands of marketing team, but also is everything your company has to offer. But guess what? your brand can easily get shot and killed by its “doppelganger!”

What is Doppelganger Brand Image?

The word “Doppelganger” has German roots and is equivalent for “double-goer”. There is a myth that everyone has a doppelganger (double of a person) in the world and if you happen to see yours, bad things would happen to you.

Dante Gabriel Rossetti, How They Met Themselves, watercolor, 1864

But in marketing world, doppelganger brand image (DBI) is a collection of disparaging images and stories about a brand circulated in popular culture by a loosely organized network of anti-brand activists, bloggers and opinion leaders. This negative images compete with the brand owner’s intended image.

Lots of companies try to create some sort of appeal through their brands that will help them distinguish their product from competitors. This appeal that is mostly emotional, can be created by communicating claims that a brand is devoted to provide the consumers with. If the company is authentic in what it is communicating, consumers will enjoy an easier selection and purchase process, while the brand harvests a better revenue. But what happens if what the company is claiming to be, is not authentic in eyes of some people?

At this point, we may see a new mental image getting visual shape by those people. This new image which is not under company’s control, will find its way to social media, blogs, or even conventional media, protesting and weakening the original brand.

Can a DBI be created by other companies to hit your product in the market? Of course! Take Apple’s well-known “Get a Mac” or Microsoft’s “Gmail Man” for instance. Also who can forget the “Bendgate” campaign against iPhone 6 plus? Your competitors can simply get a flaw or unauthentic claim in your product or your marketing manners, blend it in with a little spice of humor and it’s done; now you potentially have a brand doppelganger.

Humor is always more viral than moralistic critique.

Even though these kind of campaigns may seem mean and dirty, but you can never trust your competitors taking the high road. With that being said, DBI is mostly considered as an independent move. You are always being judged by people in social media and photo editing software can be found on every smart device and computer.

What are some examples of Doppelganger Brand Image?

After Egypt revolution, Vodafone started a campaign suggesting it helped inspire the revolution in the country. However, like any other operator during the time, Vodafone shut down its Egyptian network during the uprising against former president Hosni Mubarak, and sent propaganda messages by text to its customers.
People felt that this operator’s claim is not authentic. In this picture, the man is trying to call an ambulance for his dying friend but the “V” letter in Vodafone logo is playing the role of a scissor for cutting the connection.

Another good example of a DBI, belongs to the Iranian car manufacturer, Saipa. The main slogan for this brand is “Saipa, Motmaen” which roughly translates into “Saipa, Safe”. This company has a claim on safety and peace of mind for the customers, while its top selling product, Pride, has the lowest quality and safety in the market. Thus, Saipa brand has numerous wide spread and yet continuous DBIs.

How to prevent or overcome a Doppelganger Brand Image?

Many brands, especially big ones suffer from DBI. If you want to prevent the formation of such images, the best way is to be authentic in what you claim in your marketing campaigns. Vodafone ran an ad campaign with a nice line of “Power to you” just a couple of weeks before Egypt revolution. Maybe if they could have hold their tongue and don’t try to yell about it with that 24 hours of service blackout, they had much stronger image in that market.

But sometimes being authentic is not enough and the message may not be communicated correctly. You should always be prepared for such events.

Monitor the web

DBIs are not just a threat, but could also be considered as an opportunity to keep the brand relevant. Brand managers should keep an eye on industry and brand related websites, social media, and other channels in order to ensure that they keep on top of any potential brand backlash.

I suggest that you use the existing brand monitoring tools like Mention, Google alerts, and Brand Watch to ease the process on yourself and increase the accuracy.

Track those who avoid your brand

If you successfully identify and track your brand avoiders, you can better understand the effects and sources of a DBI. Some of these avoiders will use social powering tools like social media and blogs to broadcast their discontent.

After identifying the problem, brand managers can consider defensive approaches like fixing the claim or developing new campaigns that can address the issue.

Forestall the avoiders

If you are honest and authentic enough in your claim, you can outsmart any false brand image by conducting campaigns that shows your claim in action and prove it to be true. Just don’t forget to make it viral by using fun and humor elements. For example, if you created an anti-shock device that claims to be indestructible, create a series of videos and put the device under an elephant’s foot, let it fall from a skyscraper or fire it with a shotgun! And remember, if your device survived, make sure to send me one!

Now I think we can agree that your product is not actually what you think, it’s what your customers think it represents.

Do you know of any other good example of Doppelganger Brand Image? Or have you encountered one? Share it with me and others in the comments section.