Brand Hijack | Alex Wipperfürth

Summary of: Brand Hijack: Marketing Without Marketing
By: Alex Wipperfürth


Welcome to the new era of marketing, where consumers hold the reins and define brand identity. In ‘Brand Hijack: Marketing Without Marketing,’ Alex Wipperfürth explores the phenomenon of brand hijacking, as consumers assume control and redefine brands like Starbucks, The Blair Witch Project, and Napster. Discover the three reactions consumers have while hijacking a brand: discovery, commentary, and mission. Learn why brands are not inherently hijacked and the conditions that enable effective hijacking. This summary will open your eyes to curious instances and strategies that both consumers and big companies have stumbled upon or executed deliberately to create successful brand hijacks.

Brand Hijacking

The power in marketing has shifted from professionals to consumers who are now doing more to build brands than expensive advertising campaigns and promotions. This shift has led to breakthrough brands that are either functional gadgets or social badges. Brand hijacking occurs when buyers take over marketing from professionals and define the brand’s image, creating a fundamental shift from the marketing department to the consumer. This shift in control leads to increased brand loyalty and often translates into more money for the brand. This new model is happening with increasing frequency and has helped create wildly popular brands such as Starbucks and The Blair Witch Project without the need for extensive national campaigns.

Brand Hijackings

Consumers react to brands in three ways: “The discovery” for early adopters, “The commentary” as a political statement, and “The mission” to support the little guy. Marketers do not encourage brand hijackings because consumers are selective and require specific circumstances to do so. The quality of the product is not a significant factor in brand hijacking.

The Rise of Napster

Napster’s success story began with college freshman Shawn Fanning sharing his experimental music-sharing software with a small group of friends, who then spread it to other music fans. Within three years, Napster saw massive growth, boasting 80 million users within 18 months. With a marketing investment of only $200,000, the company became a virtual “public property” as its enthusiastic young users fueled its expansion. The platform’s success can be credited to its attractive anti-establishment image, well-managed services, and its alternative offering to the unpopular record industry. Companies seeking brand hijacks often fail due to ghosts of conventional marketing, making Napster’s growth remarkable.

The Power of Brand Ownership

The story of Dr. Maertens boots showcases how the public takes ownership of a brand’s future. The cushioned support boots were licensed by a UK company and sold as all-purpose boots. The convergence of cultural elements like the movie A Clockwork Orange, punk movement, and rock band endorsements made Dr. Martens a symbol of punk culture. The boots were seen as customizable and comfortable for making social and political statements. The manufacturer’s neutral marketing approach showed that consumers, not marketing managers, are in charge of a brand’s success.

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