As businesses move more of their operations online, the value of a strong brand protection strategy increases significantly.
The digital economy presents more opportunities than ever, but it also poses new considerations for businesses trying to manage their online presence.
Product or company brand reputations are critical, as they constitute a significant portion of the value directly attributed to their name. For example, in the case of well-known brands like Coca-Cola, more than 30% of the shareholder value comes from the brand name and its established identity.
Therefore, it is crucial for any business operating in the digital space to develop a strong brand protection strategy. A well-crafted and successful strategy can help protect your brand from reputation damage, trademark infringement, and counterfeiting. Moreover, it can help ensure your position as an authoritative source in your industry. This blog post will explore some critical steps to ensure you are utilizing the best possible brand protection solutions for your business.
What is Online Brand Protection, and Why Do You Need It?
Online brand protection means proactively monitoring the internet for potential violations of your company's trademarks, copyright infringements, and counterfeiting activities. Brand protection strategy employs advanced technology to scour the entire internet – including social media accounts, online platforms, online marketplaces, and illegitimate or fake websites – to find potential brand impersonations or cases of brand abuse.
Unsurprisingly, businesses are increasingly turning to open-source intelligence (OSINT) as a crucial part of their online brand protection strategy. OSINT is the collection, analysis, and legal distribution of attainable public information. The amount of uploaded data on the internet increases each year. Security teams have the impossible task of monitoring this ever-growing mass of content.
OSINT helps brand protection strategy by:
- Proactively identifying online threats before they get to the crisis level.
- Verifying the authenticity of sources.
- Providing insights into how the public perceives corporate practices.
Brand protection strategy involves responding when bad actors threaten a company's reputation. Effective responses include sending cease-and-desist notices to violators, filing legal claims if necessary, and monitoring compliance with requests to remove the infringing material from bad actors’ websites or other platforms.
In essence, an effective brand protection strategy helps ensure that customers can find reputable information about your business and products while discouraging any false or negative brand claims. Studies show that 72% of customers will switch brands after one bad experience. A proactive approach to brand protection is essential to preserve brand trust, integrity, and your bottom line.
How to Create a Brand protection Strategy that Fits your Business Needs
Step 1: Monitor your online brand image
The initial step in creating your online brand protection strategy is monitoring your online brand image. Stay current on any mentions or reviews of your company and track any unauthorized use of your company's intellectual property, such as logos and trademarks.
A common OSINT tactic to monitor online brand image is a keyword query. Security teams can use tools such as web monitoring software to set up a list of keywords related to their brand. When these words are used anywhere across the web, it sends an automated alert to an OSINT analyst’s email, mobile device, or desktop. Once the security team receives the signal, the next step is to assess whether a post represents a legitimate or illegitimate use of the company's brand.
Suppose a fashion house wants to identify whether counterfeiters are selling their clothing using its legitimate brand name. The house could locate the non-original brand products by creating a keyword query in a social media monitoring system that includes the words "copy" and "replica" as well as the brand name.
In other cases, security analysts don't know what they don't know. Put another way, analysts might not know what might be considered a threat. Threshold alerts are notifications that are triggered at a specific limit. For example, if social media users mention the name of an organization's brand more than 500 times, the security team is notified. This threshold limit helps prevent the burnout of having to investigate every single instance when a brand or product is mentioned on the internet.
Step 2: Establish Policies to Protect Your Online Brand
Once you have identified and monitored potential threats to your online presence, the next step is establishing policies to protect it. Some of those policies might be:
- Registering a trademark for your business and regular monitoring. Registering a trademark can go a long way in protecting your business from unfair competition. It gives you legal recourse to sue, stop bad actors from abusing your brand identity, and receive compensation for any reputational damage.
For example, in 2017, Forever 21 filed a case against Gucci to cancel the latter's trademarks for green-red-green stripes and blue-red-blue stripes on fashion items. Forever 21 and Gucci reached a confidential out-of-court settlement. Ultimately, Gucci was able to maintain its registered trademarks. This demonstrates the importance of a trademark as a brand protection solution. Much like Coca-Cola, Gucci’s prestige, and exclusivity comprise a significant part of its value.
- Consistent monitoring using any of the previously mentioned OSINT strategies- keyword strategy, threshold alerts- will help ensure that no one Is using your company’s trademarks without permission on social media sites, websites, or other platforms.
- Being Proactive about Domain Name Registration. It's vital to be proactive in registering domain names that include your company's name or trademarked terms before someone else does. Domain registration ensures that no one else can register a website address containing these words and potentially use it for malicious purposes, such as phishing scams or spamming campaigns designed to damage the reputation of your company's products or services. Additionally, registering variant domain names with different extensions (such as .net and .org) will prevent threat actors from using them for malicious purposes.
- Designate a Brand Protection Department. Brand protection has a certain nebulous quality in that the damage can be hard to pinpoint and can go undetected. Companies may only know that their customers have been exposed to risk or duped into buying counterfeit products once it is too late. Brand protection is essential but often takes a backseat to more pressing issues. Creating a department dedicated to brand protection solutions and ensuring a system is in place for responding quickly and professionally to counterfeiters, trademark infringers, customer inquiries, or complaints will go a long way toward enhancing your brand protection strategy.
Step 3: Develop an Action Plan to Address Issues Quickly
Develop an action plan for addressing any issues that arise quickly and decisively. All employees involved in managing the company's digital presence must know what steps to take if there is ever an issue with customer satisfaction, counterfeiting, or unauthorized use of intellectual property. Filing cease and desist orders and initiating a lawsuit are the most common ways of protecting a company’s brand.
The Bottom Line on Developing a Successful Online Brand Protection Strategy
Developing an online brand protection strategy is essential for businesses looking to succeed in today’s digital world. By following these steps, companies can effectively safeguard their reputation while ensuring customer satisfaction- all while positioning themselves as industry leaders in their respective fields.
At LifeRaft, our unified intelligence platform, Navigator, automates data point collection, filtering and features investigative tools that explore and validate threats across the board. Navigator is a valuable OSINT tool that has many applications, including brand protection.
Contact us today, and let’s start a conversation about creating a brand protection strategy to help your business build a successful online presence that will last well into the future.