I appeared to have uncovered a worrying level of brand cybersquatting of one of the UK's most recognised high street chains.
It all came about following a visit to a Bristol branch of the Costa Coffee this afternoon which led to this blog post. As is usual nowadays I turned to Twitter to see if the company has a presence. It took me seconds to find @CostaCoffee and @Costa_Coffee_UK. The first was registered in October 2008 and has made one tweet. It is followed by over 1,000 people and is included on 37 Twitter lists. The latter has many less followers but has been much more active in its tweeting. Here are a selection, two of which are pretty shocking:
A company spokesperson has confirmed to me that both accounts are unofficial. Why on earth are they still online then?! The @CostaCoffee account was registered nearly two years ago and the potentially brand damaging comments about "slave grown" bananas and drug-laden coffee beans were posted around two months ago!
If my message to the spokesperson is the first time the company has heard about these accounts it is a pretty shocking state of affairs. All I did to find the accounts was type 'Costa Coffee Twitter' into Google. No sophisticated brand monitoring tools required! Despite being a consumer-facing brand with branches across the UK, this is one company that clearly has a lot to learn about the new world of social media!
It turns out the spokesperson I spoke to who works for an external agency can't definitely confirm the status of the two accounts. He has told me to get in touch with the internal Costa Coffee press office. I have.
UPDATED (13:35 25/05/10)
I've just clicked on @Costa_Coffee_UK and guess what happens?
So it appears Costa Coffee has finally recognised it is victim of brand hijacking! Was it because of my blog post? Possibily. I can't say whether it definitely is because Costa's press office still hasn't got in touch with me to discuss the issue. I will keep trying.