7 best practices for protecting your brand on the web.

Summer is coming to an end soon- bringing on last minute efforts to soak in the sunshine, enjoy a BBQ and get much needed time away.  Some people are still planning their vacations and are rushing online for last minute deals — from flights to hotels to vacation wear.

The latest MarkMonitor® Online Barometer research revealed that while 68 percent of consumers book their holidays exclusively online – with seven out of every 100 reporting their final plans had fallen short of their expectations, particularly when it came to accommodation, car hire and flights. In addition, 75 percent of consumers in the survey said they went online to search for discounted goods before travelling. While they tend to focus their searches on genuine bargains (83 percent said they would not willingly buy counterfeit goods in order to keep up with seasonal holiday trends) 10 percent of consumers purchased a product online that subsequently turned out to be fake.

This means consumers need to be vigilant when shopping online, particularly when searching for bargains; for brands, the research reinforces the need for a comprehensive brand protection strategy. Brands, regardless of industry, are increasingly being targeted by counterfeiters and online fraudsters, which has a negative impact on both their business and their customers.

MarkMonitor, an online brand protection expert, has developed the following best practices for brands to mindful of:

1. Attain global visibility

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Before a brand can understand the scope of the threat posed by online counterfeit sales, it must expose and quantify the problem. Counterfeiters operate over a wide array of online channels; all of these, including online marketplaces, e-commerce sites, message boards and the rest, must be monitored and analysed. Counterfeiters depend on technology to drive sales volumes so approach the monitoring challenge with the same tools and leverage technology to form a complete and accurate picture of the counterfeiting challenge that a brand faces.

2. Monitor points of promotion

While it’s obviously important to identify and shut down distribution channels, it’s almost certain that counterfeiters will regularly seek new sales venues. So it’s just as critical to monitor the online promotional channels used by these criminals. Counterfeiters use the same effective promotion techniques employed by legitimate marketers while leveraging the powerful, highly recognisable brands built by experts. Using paid search advertising, links within social media, black hat SEO tactics, cybersquatting and spam, they successfully steer traffic to their illicit offerings, and diminish the marketing ROI of legitimate brands. Monitoring for these promotional efforts is critical — and enables our next best practice.

3. Take proactive action

Counterfeiters obviously encounter more success when left to operate unchallenged; they’re also known to shift their energies to more passive targets when brands visibly fight back. Once a brand understands where the greatest threats lie, aggressive action is the best strategy. Brands should:

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Set priorities. Identify the biggest offenders, offering the greatest number of counterfeit goods in the most highly trafficked venues, and address them first

Watch for cybersquatters. Brands should actively monitor the Internet for unauthorized use of their branded terms in domain names. This will aid in rapid detection of e-commerce sites selling counterfeit or unauthorized goods — and frequently also uncovers other abuses such as false association with offensive content like pornography.

Become a difficult target. Brands that visibly, vigorously fight to remove counterfeit goods from online venues often see a dramatic drop in infringement against their brands

Use all your weapons. Most online channels provide mechanisms for dealing with counterfeit sales situations. For example, online marketplaces typically have policies and procedures enabling brand owners to report listings that infringe their brand

Get help from friends. Industry relationships can be powerful weapons in the fight against online counterfeiting. When choosing a brand protection solution provider, look for one with established ties with thousands of ISPs and Registrars worldwide.

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4. Fight online counterfeit sales holistically

Online counterfeit sales are easier to address when the entire enterprise participates. That means brand owners should set up a cross-functional task force to address the issue in a coordinated, holistic manner. Stakeholders — and, therefore, recommended participants — will vary by industry and enterprise, but can include legal, marketing, risk management, loss prevention, channel sales management, manufacturing, supply chain management and other functional units. Because fighting online counterfeiting requires attacking both promotional and distribution channels, this group needs to address more facets of the problem than seen in the physical world.

5. Let online intelligence inform offline defence measures

Because offline measures — physical investigations, factory raids and other activities — can be costly and time-consuming, it’s critical to know where they should be focused. Online intelligence can help identify the most egregious infringers, so that offline defensive efforts can be focused where they’ll be most effective.

6. Act swiftly — and globally

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Perhaps even more than it affects legitimate business, the proliferation of international trade offers tremendous benefits to online counterfeiters. While a domestic seller or manufacturer may seem like an easy first target, brands have learned that it’s more effective to launch global anti-counterfeiting initiatives — and to get them underway expeditiously. Prepare by ensuring your trademarks are registered internationally — especially in China, which observes a “first-to-file” policy that grants registration to whoever files first, even if it’s not the true brand owner. A global effort doesn’t preclude addressing markets that target a specific country exclusively. In some cases, this will require competent language translation resources for monitoring, detection and enforcement. Most companies rely on third-party brand protection solution providers for this kind of expertise.

7. Educate your customers.

Your customers can be an important ally in minimizing sales of counterfeit goods with all its associated costs. Educate your customers about the risks of buying from unauthorized sources, and recruit them to join in the effort by reporting suspicious goods and sellers. The Authentics Foundation and its consumer site, dontbuyfakes.com, have useful resources for consumer education. Also, many brands provide form or email-based mechanisms for reporting suspected infringement. When offering such tools, be sure to reinforce the benefits of buying authentic goods from authorized sellers.

Conclusion

Online counterfeiting and the threat that it poses to brands cannot be ignored. A well-placed, comprehensive online brand protection strategy can certainly help organizations address the risks efficiently and effectively.

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MarkMonitor provides online brand protection services.

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