With the lines becoming increasingly blurred between the real and digital world, it’s more important than ever that businesses know how to properly navigate online without running into trouble, which is where Thunderbolt Digital comes in; we offer SMEs a range of services to help positively boost their online presence, including web design, SEO, and social media marketing Surrey. Our team is always up to date with developments in online marketing, including corporate use of the hashtag.
Like it or not, hashtags are now a regular part of our online experience, and can be expected to be seen multiple times a day depending on your media consumption habits. As well as a conversation starter, hashtags are quickly becoming a very useful marketing tool, as well as a way of strengthening brand identity, so it’s no small wonder that companies are starting to treat them as intellectual property and attempt to protect them. In fact, only seven hashtag trademark applications were filed worldwide in 2010, but this number soared to 1,398 in 2015.
So why would a hashtag need to be trademarked? Well, whilst consumers are encouraged to use company hashtags and ‘join the conversation’, businesses aren’t pleased when other brands start to join in too; this becomes a particular problem when done for financial gain or to imply familiarity. This trend has even given rise to the term ‘ambush marketing’ where companies will use hashtags for events they’re not official sponsors for, hoping to reap the exposure that would have gained from being specifically associated with it. This has even lead to the US Olympics Committee trademarking a list of hashtags for the 2016 Olympics to prevent commercial accounts from using hashtags such as #Rio2016 or #TeamUSA.
The attempt to guard certain hashtags against competitors could arguably cause issues for smaller companies who don’t have the funds for traditional advertising, and who instead use social media to generate leads. After all, hashtags can massively increase exposure and engagement, especially when they’re popular or topical. With this in mind, it pays to be careful which hashtags you piggyback on, and make sure that you have the right to use them! Of course, on the small scale you’re likely to receive a takedown notice over anything harsher, but it still pays to be cautious!
Interestingly, this leads into some of the consequences of trademarking hashtags, as actively protecting them can actually be viewed negatively by the public and can even end up having the opposite of the intended effect, by netting the free publicity for the offender and even painting them as a victim.
So, it seems that trademarking hashtags may not be all it’s cracked up to be, especially when it’s revealed that not all trademark applications are successful as they may not meet the requirements. On top of this, successful claims can take months to get registered, meaning that it’s not a feasible process for spontaneous or short term hashtags, and this it’s best reserved for long term use or something planned well in advance (such as the aforementioned Olympics).