How to protect your brand online

17th September 2019

Oli Hope

Oli Hope
Head of Commercial

If you were to purchase a brand-new sports car but decide to save money by not servicing it regularly, you’ll end up with expensive repair bills. Costs and risks are a good incentive to take better care of our valuables, however, brands continue to risk losing money to online criminals without making essential changes to protect themselves.

What’s at stake?

According to a report by MarkMonitor, many believe brand protection in their organisation to be undervalued and up to 47% of those surveyed were out of pocket as a result of counterfeiting. For seven in ten brands, the sales lost racked up to 25% of their revenue. But an impact on sales is not the only cost or risk these brands had to deal with – infringement, cybersquatting and brand abuse were also encountered.

As the world increasingly shifts to online, these sorts of risks will become the new normal. The growth in online shopping and the proliferation of channels and sites that brands now use opens up opportunities for cyber criminals to make their move.

In order to survive in an unpredictable consumer market, businesses should have a brand protection plan to safeguard their business. A comprehensive plan will help to preserve the brand reputation as well as retaining the consumer trust.

Although 50% of those surveyed considered brand protection to be undervalued in their organisation, only 64% have an online brand strategy in place. The reality is that there can be a lot of obstacles in the way, whether it’s staff knowledge, lack of resources or even just the volume of infringements which makes it challenging to get on top of.

Where do you start?

To ensure a multi-department and multi-disciplinary approach to protecting your online brand, the leadership team should first be made aware of the risks of not having a strategy in place. You should involve your legal, digital and communication teams in the process of planning and assessing the threats to detect key areas for maximum impact.

It’s essential that you continue to monitor the landscape for potential risks. Threats will evolve and take different shapes, so your protection plan should keep up with these changes.

Awareness of the drive for brand protection online should become widespread throughout the organisation. Along with this, you should develop continuity plans to use when responding to potential issues. Creating these plans in advance will take away some of the stress and last-minute panic when faced with a situation.

You might want to consider researching what your competitors are doing. Digital risks are part and parcel of digital activity, so think about safeguarding your digital space with a personalised domain name. A personalised domain name involves registering your brand as a .brand – for example .gucci or .bbc – and would provide full control of domain name endings and all sites registered to the brand.

A .brand doesn’t just provide the opportunity for a powerful marketing campaign, but it also creates a new level of online protection to keep the brand safe and minimise the openings for cyber criminals. Many global banks have endorsed this approach by securing their own .brand – for example, Barclays, Bradesco and BNP Paribas.

That said, they have been popular industry-wide, with well-known names such as Seat, Audi, Gucci and Google already owning their piece of online real estate. Operating from a .brand makes it more challenging for criminals to carry out phishing scams and makes it much easier for your customers to detect and avoid emails from phoney accounts. As a result, customers are reassured of the authenticity of the website they are visiting.

How to secure a .brand

As you might expect, securing a .brand does require planning, with provision for an internal or external registry service provider to manage the back end of the domain. You’ll need to complete a detailed application form, which will be submitted to ICANN – the organisation responsible for assigning new domain names.

ICANN accepts applications for branded domain names every few years and the next window is expected to be in 2021 – so you have time to put your plan into action.

Consider adding operating a .brand to the agenda in your meetings around brand protection and wider company issues. It should serve as the longer-term objective in the overall mission to improve the protection of the online brand. It’s only by merging all these components together – people, departments, planning and both short and long term goals – that a brand can realistically prepare to compete on the digital battleground in the long run.

It’s time to take back control of your online brand, more and more brands are recognising the need to take their security more seriously. We operate digitally, but the lesson is just as simple as the one we learn when we purchase a new car and don’t look after it – identify the risk, acknowledge the value, and protect it accordingly.

Find out more about securing a .brand.