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How to protect your brand

With unscrupulous individuals out to exploit your brand, it’s vital that you keep its online reputation safe.

Digital marketing’s immense reach makes it extremely attractive to criminals looking at ways to exploit your brand. Fashion brands are at particular threat from counterfeiters.

It’s vitally important for these brands to engage with followers online; the last thing they want is for their reputation to be tarnished among loyal supporters through their negative experiences.

Thankfully, there is an increasing number of ways to tackle counterfeiters head on and combat the problem.

What is Google doing to help?

With more than 1 million advertisers using AdWords in more than 190 countries, how does Google weed out those who violate its policies against advertising counterfeits?

● It acts on reliable AdWords counterfeit complaints within 24 hours

● It improves its AdSense anti-counterfeit reviews

● It has introduced a new help centre page for reporting counterfeits Google’s Think Insights – Brand Impressions tool offers a view of how your brand is viewed externally using associated images, words and actions.

Marketers fighting back

Brand protection agency MarkMonitor has put together a list of strategies to help brands combat fraud. They cover the need for protecting digital content, particularly as mobile devices encourage additional use of online products.

It’s a good idea to look at traffic volumes from infringing sites because this will indicate where your problem may lie. MarkMonitor also recommends rationalising your domain portfolio and monitoring affiliates and online resellers, as they increase your brand’s presence online. And don’t forget about your social channels – brand impersonation and cybersquatting (where sites unlawfully incorporate a brand’s name into their domain name and sell counterfeit versions of their products) are common ways in which your brand can be abused.

Search engine protection

Search engines make counterfeiting possible by allowing potential counterfeiters to bid on trademarks not registered to themselves (for example Burberry trench coats, Mulberry handbags, Chanel sunglasses).

Search engines do prohibit advertisers from promoting counterfeit goods, although intelligent counterfeiters are usually able to dupe them. For instance, once an ad has been removed by a search engine, the counterfeiter is able to use the same content on a different domain and purchase a new ad. And the cycle begins once again.

From a search marketing perspective, this is hugely frustrating. Not only does it damage the brand’s reputation, it also increases the cost of branded search terms and creates clutter from which the brand has to emerge as the ‘official’ site. It’s hard to say that there is no negative impact to the overall ecommerce success, as well as a decrease in customer confidence for the brand.

It is not enough to leave it to Google to identify counterfeiters; as a brand you need to be proactive in your digital marketing strategy, ensuring your paid and natural search agency is collaborating with a specialist brand protection agency so you are meeting this challenge head on.

The search problem

● Counterfeit sellers divert 120 million annual visits from brands via proven online promotional techniques. This is 75 times more than the number of people that visited Westfield Stratford City when it opened in September 2011. (www.bruceclay.com)

● More than 1,100 sites have a luxury brand name in the domain name

● More than 50 counterfeit sellers buy keyword combinations involving five luxury brands (www.markmonitor.com)

  • Nishma Robb, Partner at digital marketing agency, I Spy Marketing

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