The US-headquartered global food giant has fallen victim to a Barcelona-based Twitter user (@mrkhndy), who started tweeting in Heinz's name on Tuesday (27 May).
Hi guys. I work for Heinz now. I will be in charge of their social media as an intern for a trial period of one month. Please buy Heinz.— Heinz (@mrkhndy) May 27, 2014
While the initial tweets from the fake Heinz account were harmless encouragements to "Buy Heinz", these gradually escalated from the political "Mrs Farage has revealed that Nigel has a hectic lifestyle and skips meals. If you're like Nigel, why not try heinz beans on toast" to the absurd.
My boss has asked me to do a poster for twitter to make beans more sexy and appeal to younger people. pic.twitter.com/ckwRcvTwvX— Heinz (@mrkhndy) May 28, 2014
This led Heinz to respond via its real Twitter account @HeinzUK, tweeting: "Whilst we appreciate loyal Heinz Beanz fans,we also appreciate transparency. Please visit @HeinzUK, the official Twitter of Heinz UK".
However, this simply sparked a flurry of anti-Heinz tweets from the @mrkhndy account, including "Boycott Heinz", "Heinz Beans are quite expensive" and "I do not like Heinz beans". These were followed by the more subversive "This is the official Heinz Beans Twitter account and the opinions here are the opinions of Heinz" and the assertion that:
Most of our budget goes on marketing and branding. Only a bit goes on the taste of the beans. This means you get the brand you deserve.— Heinz (@mrkhndy) May 29, 2014
Heinz told PR Week that it had reported the fake account to Twitter. Nigel Dickie, corporate and government affairs director for Heinz Europe, said: "Whilst we appreciate loyal Heinz Beanz fans, we also appreciate transparency. We are in touch with Twitter given this breaks with their T&Cs."
This has apparently led to a threat of legal action against @mrkhndy, although at the time of writing the account remained unchanged.
I have been informed that legal proceedings will start unless I shut down this account immediately.— Heinz (@mrkhndy) May 29, 2014
UPDATE 4pm: The account has now been suspended.
UPDATE 31 May: The account is now back in action, has been renamed 'Not Heinz' [causing the same change in the tweets embedded above] and includes the following message ...
I am very sorry for hurting the feelings of @HeinzUK. I realise now that twitter is not my personal playground.— Not Heinz (@mrkhndy) May 30, 2014
... and this new profile: