The internet is without a doubt one of the greatest inventions of modern times and has become the venue of choice for marketers the world over. However, as with most good things, opportunities also come with risks. The inherent qualities of anonymity, openness and split second reach make the Internet a lawless land, a kind of cyber Wild Wild West.
Because of the lack of a formal policing body, hijacking of your brand is a constant threat. These cyber pirates are not stupid. They realize the power of the brand that you have been building and know that it is very good for business, namely theirs. These gains come at the expense of marketers.
With the introduction of hundreds of new gTLDS, the number of venues that will be available for hijacking your brand will grow exponentially. The highly disruptive and illicit efforts can be aiming to divert your traffic to competitors, leveraging your brand to generate ad revenues or directly stealing from your bottom line and in effect chipping away at and devaluing your brand’s value. This doesn’t only devalue your brand, it sabotages your marketing efforts, both in its effectiveness and ability to generate revenue.
Gone are the days where marketing was confined to the world of print. Brands today have scant or no control at all in managing their online content. Hence, closer monitoring is required. Marketers at businesses both small, medium and large have the greatest stakes in this effort in order to protect the brand they have been hired in promoting from brand abuse and erosion, protecting it from potential customer mistrust and a damaged reputation. Marketers cannot afford for their brands to suffer from these impacts that only dilute and waste their marketing efforts and budgets.
The fact of the matter is, you really can’t blame your efforts or your customers. Many of them don’t even know they are being scammed or dealing with imposters. However, you should know that these illicit actions can erode your customer trust. Like a row of dominoes, this goes further than just marketing, as customer dissatisfaction can trickle down to your support and troubleshooting centers. It can lead to bad PR and letters to the President of your company.
Now that I hope I have driven home the severity of not taking actions against these abuses, I will highlight the methods and suggest a few tips to protect your brand.
The domain name system as it stands now is expanding with these new gTLDs becoming available at all the registrars. Meantime, in the dark shadows and some quite openly, Domain squatters, Typosquatters are at work non-stop, identifying which trademarks they are slated to abuse.
Domain squatters register domains in bad faith, hoping to profit from the good name of a brand that belongs to someone else. The online registries themselves need a policing system, as they make no attempt to ensure that the buyer of the domain is tied to a particular brand or trademark. These squatters may buy domains that the rightful owner allowed to expire, holding it for ransom and selling it for huge profits. I’m sure you see the Wild Wild West analogy a lot more clearly now.
Typosquatters register commonly misspelled domain names, also with the aim of stealing traffic from the legitimate site to an illicit site selling goods that are counterfeit, host adult content or do other illicit things.
Here are some ways to implement business brand protection and even benefit from the process.
1. Take a Look at the Big Picture
In order to be able to respond to threats, you must gain insight and understanding on the where. Where is your brand more susceptible? Is it in Social Media? Blogs? Domain name piracy? While listing the risks to your brand is a welcome start, you will not be able to prioritize until you gauge the level of threats to your online ad spending and overall marketing efforts.
2. Domain Policing
It is unreasonable to expect companies to register every possible domain, misspelling, etc. It can get prohibitively expensive. There might be a number of domains that are causing your brand damage. The idea here is to implement a system that will use sophisticated algorithms to identify these risks and criticality so you can prioritize where to focus your brand protection efforts. The system also should suggest ways for you to actively respond to infringements.
3. Effective Presentation
In the age of Big Data, the sheer amount of data collected by a brand protection solution can be overwhelming. It should analyze, prioritize and present its findings to the user via an interface that communicates the risks in an easy to understand fashion.
4. It isn’t Only About Risks
Last, but definitely not least, in your efforts to safeguard your business name, an effective solution will also alert you to the online opportunities available to strengthen and grow your brand equity. It should do so by utilizing algorithms that will prioritize which domains you should leverage to keep your brand and its reputation healthy and ahead of the competition.