Doppelgänger brand image

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"Hacker Inside", a parody of the Intel inside logo

A doppelgänger brand image (DBI) is a collection of disparaging images and stories about a brand which are circulated in popular culture by a fairly loosely organized network of anti-brand activists, bloggers and opinion leaders. Such images are most likely to be spread via social media, blogs, and websites of anti-brand activists such as Adbusters. They are often intended to highlight ethical issues regarding the product advertised and are commonly associated with the brand's lack of authenticity. The purpose of creating doppelgänger brand images is to expose the true nature/effects of the company at stake, since it is believed to promote untruthful claims about its products.

The word Doppelganger is actually the German word Doppelgänger. Doppel means double and ganger means walker. Thus a doppelganger is a double walker. This was based on a belief that people have an alter ego that looks like them, but is ghost like in nature and if they encounter doppelganger face to face, bad things will happen.

A 2012 study concluded that doppelgänger brand images were able to negatively affect sales, because they created a perception of mistrust in the minds of the customers.[1] A 2006 study concluded that, Doppelgänger has an impact on emotional brand image of a brand.[2]

In a 2006 paper, Craig J. Thompson, Aric Rindfleisch and Zeynep Arsel suggest that doppelgänger brand images are a sign that "an emotional-branding story is beginning to lose its cultural resonance", and can be useful as a warning symptom.[3]

Usually when customers perceive a brand is inauthentic they are more motivated to create Doppelgänger brand image. Generally customers perceive a brand as inauthentic because of two primary reasons. The first reason is imitation-when customers start to feel that a particular brand is trying to copy the basic ideology of another brand they lose trust in that brand. The second case is when there is a mismatch between the existing image of the brand and the promotional activities of the brand. This happened in the case of McDonalds when they tried to portray themselves as an eating joint with healthy food choices.

Usually, the brands that face Doppelganger brand campaigns are the big and more popular ones, which have a large customer base and more reach, and that are perceived as lacking authenticity.

Most DBIs are created as a form of individual protest and often located on an individual's blog, Twitter account or Facebook page. Sometimes these individual accounts are picked up by a larger digital media outlet, such as Reddit, Digg, BuzzFeed, or even more traditional news channels.

Firms and managers can use a variety of tactics to combat DBI: monitor digital cues, identify identify & track brand avoiders, develop & test a new story and vaccinate the brand from the threat of a DBI.[4]


  • The "Joe Chemo" campaign, an internet campaign created by an organization called Adbusters, criticized the product message of Camel cigarettes, and emphasized the harmful effects of smoking, by depicting the company's camel mascot as "a camel who wishes he'd never smoked cigarettes".[5] In this doppelganger image the confident, cool and popular Joe Camel is replaced by this sick, depressed and lonely Joe Chemo. Shortly after this doppelganger campaign began, Joe Camel was withdrawn from the market.
  • McDonald's is often criticized because of its harmful effects on human health. To illustrate its negative effect, the McDonald's logo was redesigned as "McDiabetes". For this DBI, there is a long running hashtag on Twitter.[6]
  • In 2015, a designer reinterpreted the Pepsi logo to represent a corpulent man. The intention was to emphasize the direct relation between consumption of sweetened soft drinks and obesity.[7]
  • After General Motors launched the Hummer H2 in the mid-2000s, a creative viral Internet campaign called "FUH2" began. This campaign concentrated not only on the brand itself, but also on its owners who were portrayed as savages who cared about style more than the environment.
  • During Donald Trump's 2016 presidential campaign, comedian John Oliver satirised Trump's "Make America Great Again" slogan with the parody "Make Donald Drumpf Again", referring to Trump's alleged ancestral surname.[8]
  • Nike's logo and slogan ("Just do it") appear in several images either altered or adjusted, often highlighting the company's use of sweat shop labor.[9]
  • Following the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010, several satirical logos reflecting a negative image were born out of a contest sponsored by Greenpeace.[10]
  • The South Butt was an attempt to commercialize a parody of The North Face's brand.[11]
  • The Indian Premier League major cricket sporting event was severely criticized as Indian Puppet League, after revelations came out in 2015 regarding the match fixing and mis-governance issues associated with it. This negative portrayal of brand affected the events popularity and the credibility of associated players. The Board of Control for Cricket in India was also severely affected.[citation needed]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Markus Giesler: Craig J. ThompsonHow Doppelgänger Brand Images Influence the Market Creation Process: Longitudinal Insights from the Rise of Botox Cosmetic Journal of Marketing, 76, November 2012, S. 55–68
  2. ^ Thompson, Craig J.; Rindfleisch, Aric; Arsel, Zeynep (2006). "Emotional Branding and the Strategic Value of the Doppelgänger Brand Image". Journal of Marketing. 70: 50–64. doi:10.1509/jmkg.70.1.050.qxd. S2CID 220604265.
  3. ^ Thompson, Craig J.; Rindfleisch, Aric; Arsel, Zeynep (1 January 2006). "Emotional Branding and the Strategic Value of the Doppelgänger Brand Image". Journal of Marketing. 70 (1): 50–64. doi:10.1509/jmkg.2006.70.1.50.
  4. ^ Markus Giesler: Craig J. ThompsonHow Doppelgänger Brand Images Influence the Market Creation Process: Longitudinal Insights from the Rise of Botox Cosmetic Journal of Marketing, 76, November 2012, S. 55–68
  5. ^ "Joe Chemo: A Camel Who Wishes He'd Never Smoked". Retrieved 2015-09-10.
  6. ^
  7. ^ "Designer Makes Fun Of Pepsi, Turns Its Logo Into A Fat Man -". Retrieved 2015-09-10.
  8. ^ "John Oliver's 'Make Donald Drumpf Again' Is Really Taking Off". Retrieved 29 September 2018.
  9. ^ "Nike: Modern Day Slavery". 23 February 2012. Retrieved 29 September 2018.
  10. ^ ""We've got a winning logo"". Archived from the original on 2016-11-24. Retrieved 2017-02-21.
  11. ^ Netter, Sarah (2009-10-01). "The North Face vs. The South Butt: Entrepreneurial Teen Undaunted by Lawsuit Threat". ABC News. Retrieved 2017-06-23.
  12. ^ Thompson, Craig J., Aric Rindfleisch, and Zeynep Arsel (2006), "Emotional Branding and the Strategic Value of the Döppelganger Brand Image" Journal of Marketing, 70 (January), 50-64