Well-known British bakery chain Greggs suffered a PR nightmare yesterday when their iconic logo was hijacked in Google’s knowledge graph, being replaced with a similar looking logo that made derogatory comments about the brand and its usual customers.
Anyone who searched for Greggs on the UK version of Google would have been presented with the fake logo in the knowledge graph box at the top of the search results. The logo was present only for a short period of time, but it was noticed by a huge number of users and created a storm of activity on Twitter, Facebook and other social networks.
To their credit, Greggs responded to the logo issue in good humour, answering comments from Twitter users, alerting Google to the issue, and using it to promote their doughnuts and sausage rolls, even creating a Google logo out of sausage rolls to act as a bribe or a joking “logo swap” for the search engine.
A Great Example of Effective PR in Action
The response from Greggs is a great example of how to handle a PR disaster. The offensive logo could have had a huge negative impact on the company, but instead it got people talking about the bakery in a positive light.
If anyone is likely to come out of this PR disaster looking bad, it is Google themselves. The offensive logo came from the user-generated satire website Uncyclopedia – a rather questionable resource for the search giant to be using for their knowledge graph data.
The issue should be one that concerns all brand owners. If it is that easy for a high-profile brand’s logo to be hijacked, what else could be sneaking into knowledge graphs? The Greggs logo change was noticed quickly and corrected almost immediately but a smaller brand could have their logo (or some other information about the brand) being displayed incorrectly for days, or longer, depending on how pro-active their own web and social media team are.
Google’s ranking algorithm may be impressive, but the recent events expose several flaws with the knowledge graph system. It will not be long before unscrupulous marketers find ways to exploit Google’s knowledge graphs and try to get their own materials and false information into the graphs of rival brands. Google will have to act quickly to reassure brand owners that it can keep the knowledge graph system spam free.