Ask the Expert: Avoiding digital brand hijackers

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The changes to online outreach that all brands should know about.

As more jewellery brands launch dedicated e-commerce sites, online reputation management is becoming even more turbulent. Charlie Abrahams of global brand protection company MarkMonitor outlines how changes to the digital landscape mean brands should pay even more attention to their online presence and the threat of digital imposters.

Jewellery giants such as Links of London have had to pay a price for their success. As brands like these grow bigger, they often fall prey to online counterfeiters, advertising their fake wares on search engines and siphoning away traffic.

In Links of London’s case, as the brand developed into a global luxury retailer, shutting down counterfeit websites became critical to the company growing its e-commerce revenue, as well as protecting the quality and reputation of its brand.

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When Links of London sought the help of online brand protection experts, it emerged that more than 200 counterfeit e-commerce websites were purchasing branded keywords and generating a staggering one million annual visits to their illicit sites. This traffic should have been reaching the official Links of London website. In addition, more than 750 cybersquatted sites were uncovered, siphoning traffic from the luxury jewellery retailer. Action had to be taken and the company found that it was vital for it to work with online brand protection experts and online marketing professionals to develop a brand protection strategy robust enough to combat the online brandjackers.

This is a problem that many brands with an online presence have had to face. Unfortunately, it is not expected to go away any time soon, which is why it is so important for businesses to review or implement successful online brand strategies to protect both their revenues and reputations. The internet is currently going through one of the biggest changes since its inception. There is a massive expansion of the Domain Name System (DNS) underway, and this will certainly impact the way brands do business online.

The introduction of hundreds of new generic top level domains (gTLDs) means the portion of domain names located to the right of the dot that we have all become accustomed to, such as .com, .net or .org, will now include far more consumer targeted names. The ones that are likely to have the biggest impact on the jewellery industry are those gTLDs whose launches are imminent and eye-catching, such as .luxury, .gift and .diamonds.

Many jewellers around the world conduct a significant percentage of their business on the web. Subsequently, as the internet continues to evolve and expand, the need for all brands to protect their digital presence has increased significantly. The business impact of any brand abuse is instantaneous and sweeping. In the midst of such substantial changes, now is the time for businesses to focus on their overall brand protection strategies. As global online brand protection experts we have put together our six top tips to help brands be prepared:

1. THE NEW GTLD REALITY
Whether the new gTLDs represent new business opportunities for jewellers or another front to defend, every brand needs a strategy to address them. More than 617 new gTLDs will come into play in the next two to three years and as they are introduced to the market, companies will need to decide whether to register, block, or police their brands in the new registries. Businesses should involve colleagues across the company to balance risks, opportunities and budget constraints in order to develop a strategy.

2. RETHINKING DEFENCE
More than 40 new gTLDs have been registered in the last month alone and this is set to accelerate. No company can afford to register every key word in each new extension. Most companies will need to rethink their approach to brand protection, shifting from a strategy based on acquiring traditional defensive registrations to one that monitors the expanded internet namespace for brand abuse. Policies should be developed for detecting and mitigating domains that infringe on trademarks or steal a brand’s traffic.

3. EFFICIENT ENFORCEMENT
Many luxury brands, including companies such as Links of London, successfully use technology in the fight against rogue e-commerce sites. The right technology enables companies to scale their efforts and gain greater efficiencies. It can uncover crucial data that charts the relationship between rogue websites, identifying entire networks of rogue sites rather than targeting them one by one individually. This technology-centric strategy speeds up investigations and produces greater ROI from any litigation investments.

4. PRIORITISE DOMAIN SECURITY
Hackers and hacktivists are hijacking domains with more frequency, redirecting or taking down sites altogether. Domains are business critical assets, therefore multiple layers of protection, including the highest possible security from the domain name registrar, should be adopted to maintain business continuity and brand reputation.

5. SOCIAL MEDIA SAVVY
Brandjackers take advantage of social media and mobile apps by impersonating brands. As both markets are fluid, a brand protection strategy should reflect this to stay ahead of brandjackers. A global monitoring strategy is required to fend off brand issues on social sites in specific markets, such as China, which has fast become a hotbed for brand abuse.

6. TAILOR YOUR STRATEGIES GEOGRAPHICALLY
Successfully addressing brand abuse in markets like Asia requires a tailored brand protection strategy that will account for local differences. Businesses need to ensure their trademark registrations account for the requirements of different jurisdictions. In addition, it is important to monitor the wide variety of promotional and distribution channels serving Asian markets.

Charlie Abrahams is senior vice president of worldwide sales, at MarkMonitor, a leading global company focused on protecting the reputation of brands online. www.markmonitor.com
 

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