Business Law & Compliance

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Top tips to help protect brands online

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In the UK, sales of goods and services increased 15.8 per cent to £44.97bn in 2014, according to the Centre for Retail Research. The organisation also forecasts that online sales is expected to grow a further 16.2 per cent in 2015.

This growth demonstrates the clear appetite that customers have for making purchases online. Yet there are several threats in the online space, including counterfeiting, brandjacking, loss of revenue, and damage to reputation. 

The need for an online brand protection strategy to address these risks has never been greater. 

The launch of the new generic top-level domains (gTLDs) has seen a dramatic increase in the number of gTLDs, with more than 600 new ones coming into play in the next three years. The changes to gTLDs has to form an integral part of an organisation’s future online brand protection strategy, whether the company decides to register, block or police the brand in the new registries.

It’s imperative that brands take immediate steps to safeguard themselves in the digital channels, as brand abuse in this space is constantly evolving. So how can companies implement a comprehensive brand protection brand at such a critical time? We have put together some top tips to help brands protect themselves online:

1. Keep brand impersonators and counterfeiters from intercepting your web traffic 

Online brand impersonators and counterfeiters create brand confusion by interfering with your digital promotions, intercepting your web traffic and threatening e-commerce revenues. Be proactive and keep fraudsters from coming between you and your customers. By addressing their deceptive tactics, marketers can reclaim web traffic and revenues, and improve ROI on digital marketing initiatives. 

2. Make sure your partners are compliant with your brand guidelines

Partners are key extensions of your brand, driving online traffic and revenue. To maintain a consistent brand experience across digital channels, it’s critical to ensure that affiliates, resellers, franchisees and even employees, understand and comply with your brand guidelines. Putting together a clear compliance policy – and monitoring digital channels to ensure all internal and external partners align with these guidelines – will help you avoid customer confusion, reclaim your rightful web traffic and minimise unnecessary commissions. 

Read more about brand protection:

3. Optimise domain portfolios

Reach out to corporate domain administrators and make sure your company’s domains are serving their purpose. To maximise web traffic, you’ll want to ensure that every domain your company owns points to appropriate content. Consider matching foreign-language domain names (IDNs) to language-specific websites, or domain names that contain key brands to dedicated content. Take advantage of a quick win: uncover quality web traffic and improve your digital marketing performance too. 

4. Protect brand reputation across all digital channels 

Digital channels, including social media and mobile apps, are becoming an increasingly important part of people’s personal and business lives. Don’t overlook the threats of brand impersonation, brand fraud and counterfeit goods in these rapidly evolving digital channels. With marketing ROI at risk, marketing executives must make social and mobile essential components of their brand protection strategy.

5. Better defences

With the new gTLDs, it’s no longer economically possible to register every key brand term in every new extension. This may force a change in approach to online brand protection strategies from a strategy based on traditional defensive domain registrations, to one that monitors this larger internet namespace for brand abuse. Ideally this should involve brand protection, legal and risk management personnel. This collaboration will assist the organisation in developing policies to detect, police and mitigate domains that infringe on your trademarks and steal your website traffic.

With record online sales more consumers than ever are now making their purchases online, and this is opening up a world of opportunity for businesses. The most successful organisations are putting online brand protection strategies in place to combat the risks while they exploit the many opportunities the online space has to offer. Now is the time for businesses to act, brand abuse is evolving, and protection and prevention is vital.

Simon Whitehouse is senior director of MarkMonitor.

Image: Shutterstock

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