Your company has many types of valuable assets. Everything from the actual equipment it owns, through its stock inventory, customer lists, and of course, its brand. Don’t discount the value of having a healthy brand name just because it is a non-physical asset. Just look at companies like Coca-Cola, Apple, and Microsoft, all major brands that make sales on brand name alone.
With the Internet playing an ever more central role in global commerce, brands are facing a new type of threat. This threat comes in the form of online brand abuse.
What Is Brand Abuse?
Brand abuse is a term used to encapsulate several different types of malicious activity, all of which share the common theme of exploiting an existing brand in some way. Either to gain specific benefits or to damage the brand reputation. Examples of brand abuse include:
Counterfeiting of products/services – fake physical products such as watches or clothing aside, online counterfeiting is a very common type of brand abuse. The perpetrator will misrepresent themselves as a legitimate brand representative, in an effort to sell goods/services.
Cloaked content – using brand or product names in hidden text, META description and tags, and in keywords, in order to attract web visitors to an alternative product via organic search results.
Brandjacking – falsely implying some kind of associated with the brand. In its simplest form, this could be the use of a brand logo in an attempt to imply affiliation with the brand. At the more extreme end of the scale, it could include phishing style activities, where the perpetrator actively promotes themselves as a legitimate brand representative.
Cybersquatting – finding and registering domain names that have some association with a brand. For example, setting up a domain with the same name, but a different gTLD. For instance, microsoft.ws instead of microsoft.com. Alternatively, setting up domain names to catch misspelled URL entries. Such as, mircosoft.com instead of microsoft.com. The goal is to redirect a portion of web traffic from the original brand and send it to the fake website.
These are just a handful of the most common kinds of activities that can be encapsulated by the term brand abuse, there are many more, such as SEO manipulation, PPC abuse, piracy, and traffic interception.
The Negative Effects of Brand Abuse
There are two main ways that brand abuse can damage a brand. Firstly, if the brand abuse has been carried out in an attempt to capture sales for a competing product or service, then it will lead to a direct loss of revenue.
Secondly, if the brand abuse has been carried out with the specific goal of damaging the brand reputation in some way, then it can result in a loss of brand image, which will negatively affect goodwill.
Managing Brand Abuse
Tackling brand abuse can be a complex, resource hungry process. Firstly, instances of brand abuse need to be uncovered. Once some form of brand abuse has been discovered, then action needs to be taken to stop it. And this is an iterative process, seeking out and stopping fresh instances of brand abuse is something that has to be done regularly. Unless you have the skills and the free resources to tackle this ongoing issue in-house, a more effective approach would be to allow a third party to manage brand abuse for you.