Brand protection online needs attention

18th April 2018

Stephen Roberts headshot

Stephen Roberts
Sales Manager

If I buy a top-of-the-range, expensive bike and a cheap lock, it gets stolen. Next time, I buy an expensive lock to match my bike – lesson learnt. Costs and risks are a good incentive to take more care of our valuables, and yet brands continue to risk losing money to online criminals without making changes to protect themselves.

A recent report from MarkMonitor found that many brands feel brand protection is undervalued in their organisation despite 47% of them losing sales due to counterfeiting. The loss was up to 25% of revenue for seven in ten brands, and many other risks were widely reported with associated costs: cybersquatting, infringement and brand abuse being some of the most significant.

These risks will only continue to rise as the world increasingly moves – and depends on being – online. The opportunities for cyber criminals increase alongside the growing interest in online shopping and the proliferation of channels that brands now use, from social media platforms to various global sites. Such easy access to brands is a great bonus for customers, but this must be tempered with a thorough brand protection plan to ensure the business is protected and able to retain consumer trust, as well as preserve brand reputation. Both are necessary for survival in this capricious consumer market.

However, that’s not always the reality. The survey found 50% believe brand protection is undervalued in their organisation and only 64% have an online brand strategy in place. The challenges are many, from a lack of resources or knowledgeable staff, to the sheer volume of infringements making it difficult to prioritise. Crucially, there is a lack of interest in it, which seems self-destructive in the face of the hazards and considering there is much that can be done to create robust brand protection plans.

Protection starts with leadership awareness of the risks and ownership to create a multi-department and multi-disciplinary approach to meeting the challenge head-on. Involve communications, legal and digital in the process of thoroughly planning and assessing the risks to identify key areas and direct resources for maximum impact. These threats change, so ongoing monitoring of the landscape and the progress of efforts will allow the plan to be refined, evolving for efficiency and accuracy.

Cross-company teams should be made aware of the drive for brand protection online and involved in mitigation efforts. It’s important to create continuity plans for responding to any potential issues, so preparation is key and could make all the difference if things go awry.

It could also be worth looking at what the competition is doing. Digital risks are part and parcel of digital activity, so consider refining and safeguarding your digital space with a personalised domain name. This involves registering your brand as a .brand – such as .gucci or .bbc – and would ultimately provide full control of domain name endings and all sites registered to the brand.

While a .brand could form a powerful part of a marketing campaign, more crucially it offers a new level of online protection to keep the brand safe, seriously curtailing the opportunities for cyber criminals. The efficacy of the approach is endorsed by the fact that so many global banks have secured their own .brand, such as Bradesco, Barclays and BNP Paribas. That said, they have been popular industry wide, with big names such as Audi, Seat, Google and Gucci already owning their piece of online real estate. Perhaps more valuably, operating from a .brand makes it more difficult for criminals to execute phishing scams and makes it easier for customers to spot – and avoid – emails from fake accounts. It also reassures customers of the authenticity of the site they are visiting.

Of course, making a .brand a reality does require detailed planning, with provision for an internal or external registry service provider to operate and manage the back end of the domain. It also involves a detailed application form to secure the name; this will be submitted to ICANN, the organisation responsible for assigning new domain names. Fortunately, there is plenty of time to prepare and put this plan into action, as ICANN only accepts applications for branded domain names every few years, with the next window of opportunity expected in 2021.

Securing and operating a .brand can be added to the agenda in meetings around brand protection and wider issues management, and serve as the longer term goal in the overall mission of enhancing the protection of the brand and its assets online. It’s only by bringing all these elements together – people, departments, planning and both short and long term goals – that a brand can truly prepare to compete favourably on the digital battleground for integrity and longevity.

The time for complacency is over, with this the new report spurring more brands to take security and revenue more seriously than they have so far. We operate digitally but the lesson is just as simple as the one we learn when our bike is stolen: recognise the risk, appreciate the value, and protect accordingly.

Click through to find out more about securing a .brand.