MarkMonitor looks at the top online brand protection strategies for the year ahead.
1. Define your priorities
Proactive measures can reduce brand abuse significantly. It’s all a matter of understanding the "who, what, where and when" of the brand abuse you’re up against. A great place to start is by reviewing the intelligence provided by your brand protection program.
Look for answers to questions such as: Who are the top offenders? What are the common tactics used by fraudsters? Where is abuse taking place and which infringing websites receive the most traffic? When does infringement peak?
By understanding the answers to these questions, you can prioritize your efforts and maximize results.
2. Act early
The evidence shows that early detection and action substantially increase the success of brand protection efforts. Rogue site operators are much more likely to comply with requests to take down infringing domains when the infringement is detected early, before they invest significant time or money building the site and driving traffic to it.
In other words, timely detection - and ongoing vigilance in monitoring rogue sites - leads to better enforcement results.
3. Focus on rogue networks, not single operators
Targeting rogue site operators one by one can be time consuming and ineffective. A more effective approach is to identify networks of rogue sites, sometimes numbering in the thousands, operated by a single individual or group.
Start by checking Whois records for registration information and examining IP addresses for similarities that link the sites together. Performing these searches manually is time and resource intensive so look for a technology solution to help you.
4. Monitor social media
The reach, transparency and viral nature of social media make it ideal for scammers who want to exploit the value and power of established brands for their own gain. With so much at stake, it’s imperative to include social media in your brand protection strategy. Make sure your brand is registered on leading social media sites in all the countries in which you do business.
Monitor these sites for impersonation or fraud so your fans and followers can engage with your brand safely. And when you detect instances of malicious brand infringement and fraud, be sure to use the enforcement tools provided by these sites.
5. Monitor your affiliate and reseller channels for compliance
In digital channels, resellers and affiliates provide a multiplier effect driving new customers and traffic to your site—and helping you to generate incremental revenue. However, when affiliates go astray and bid on branded keywords, they are essentially intercepting traffic intended for your brand. That means a higher cost-per-click (CPC) for you as well as unnecessary affiliate commissions. So what are brands to do?
Develop a clear policy for use of branded keywords, make sure affiliates and resellers understand these terms and conditions and monitor for compliance. These actions will help you maintain harmony with partners, while keeping your margins healthy and your overall brand strong.
6. Establish clear ROI metrics
Smart brands measure the success of their brand protection program just as they do other digital marketing initiatives. Start by defining concrete objectives for your brand protection program and identify the metrics you’ll use to measure performance and ROI. Track key performance indicators such as compliance rates, number of recovered domains or product de-listings.
If paid search is an important part of your brand protection program, measure improvements in CPC for branded terms, along with boosts in web traffic, conversion rates and revenues.
7. Prepare your brand for the launch of new gTLDs
With the launch of new generic Top-Level Domains (gTLDs), the size of the domain namespace is expected to dramatically increase. As a result, defensive registration practices of the past will need to be reconsidered. Attempting to register every variation, misspelling and typosquat in every new TLD will quickly become cost prohibitive.
Cast a critical eye on your domain portfolio and drop domains you no longer need. Candidates for elimination include those domains associated with expired promotions, outdated products or locations where you no longer do business. By paring down your domain portfolio, you’ll free up resources to take action in the new namespace. And if you’re in a legal role, be sure to familiarize yourself with ICANN’s Trademark Clearinghouse.
8. Lock your valuable domains
Domain name hijackings, social engineering attacks and other types of domain name security breaches are on the rise. That’s why your company should identify its most valuable domain names and, where possible, lock them at the registry level. Registry locked domains are impervious to hijackings, erroneous name server updates and social engineering attacks.
9. Brand protection begins before the product launches
Your brand protection efforts start well before your product is launched. In fact, you should build brand protection into your entire product lifecycle. For example, coordinate trademark registration efforts with domain name registration efforts to multiply your brand defenses.
10. Sync your brand protection strategy with your global business strategy
As more consumers around the globe turn to digital channels, scammers take note of new behaviors and respond accordingly. In response, you need to expand your brand protection efforts. Identify the leading geography-specific marketplaces, auction sites, search engines and social media sites. Define a scalable brand protection strategy so your company can easily adapt and respond to country-specific channels.
The nature of brand abuse in the digital age requires a new approach to brand protection. With brand abuse running rampant online - and new problems cropping up at every turn - your organization needs to adopt a company-wide, coordinated approach to protecting its brand. By applying the ten strategies we’ve outlined, you can minimize the impact of brand infringement on online marketing, channel management, customer service and product quality and safety - and safeguard your reputation and revenues.