A change presents opportunities and threats. The business landscape, along with buyer behavior, has been changing at a rapid pace. Digital transformation and a global supply chain have enabled brands to get more exposure. But what does this exposure entail? On the one hand, the digital world has made targeted marketing a wonderful reality. But exposure also brings in threats. A brand is an intangible asset you cannot protect in your warehouses. Out in the real world, brands can be used and abused. Building a brand is a back-breaking task. But how long does it take to lose brand value and reputation? With hacking and counterfeiting techniques becoming more sophisticated, brands need protection.

Is brand abuse a real threat?

Any advertisement and marketing strategy builds the value as well as the vulnerability of a brand. A rogue website or fake products can devalue a brand in no time. But can you stop venturing into eCommerce and social media marketplace sites? Brands looking to expand their market share need to take calculated risks. But what happens when brands do not have a strategy to mitigate the threats?

  • One-third of all the buyers on e-commerce platforms are victims of fake products

  • Even online customer reviews are fake. Reports estimate that one in every four online reviews is fake.

  • Retail products like clothes and accessories are most commonly found in fake items online. In 2018, these accounted for nearly 18% of the counterfeit products sold on eCommerce sites. 

  • Beyond retail and luxury items, counterfeiting is rising in the medical and pharmaceutical sectors. In addition, the COVID-19 pandemic has inadvertently boosted the sale of fake medicines and medical products. 

The dangers of counterfeit products: who suffers and who pays?

Counterfeit is not just a nuisance to brands and customers. The issue of fakes is a social menace. 

  • Ill-gotten gains fuel crimes: It is not just about losing revenue to the brands. Fake manufacturers evade taxes. Moreover, the profits from the grey market pay to forward criminal activities

  • It is not just about substandard but also dangerous products: Did you know that children have lost their lives due to spurious baby formula? Cheap replicas of sports products can cause severe injuries to people. So counterfeit is not limited to cheap duplicates. Counterfeit products can take lives!

  • Consumer data privacy and the digital domain: Online abuse and malware attacks are the newest forms of cybercrime. Social media platforms are no longer just for entertainment. They are a repertoire of user data. With little regulatory control, hackers can access sensitive information about customers.

  • Brand devaluation and loss of customer trust: Online and offline brand abuse can cost a lot to an unsuspecting user. Will customers buy from a brand that could not protect their financial data? Customers have many options in the vast world of online marketplace sites. So, will they reward a brand with loyalty if the brand does nothing to protect them from fakes? 

Five ways to protect your brand in 2022:

Brand protection seems like an umbrella term. It is no doubt that you cannot prevent brand abuse. The problems are numerous, and solutions are not always doable. But does that mean taking a passive approach is ok? Can brands afford to act only after an attack? 

A good brand protection strategy must include:

  • Automated brand protection across the internet: Domain spoofing, phishing, and rogue websites have become a new threat to brands. The speedy digital transformation and the lack of awareness have opened brands to many forms of online abuse. 

  • Typos in domains to cheat users: fraudsters create fake domains that resemble the original ones and dupe users. Most online users have little time to read a domain name carefully. Using such fake domains, fraudsters trick users into clicking on dangerous links that can hack the system.

  • Hostile domains: Hostile domains are as dangerous as they sound. In this scenario, a third party uses a brand’s domain name and the brand name but tweaks the country of origin. For example, most websites in India would end with a ‘.in.’ Hostile domains will have everything similar to the actual website but a different suffix.

  • Clone domains: Like hostile domains, domain cloning is also an example of a rogue website. Your entire website is made to look and feel like the original one. 

Keeping track of rogue websites is difficult and time-consuming unless you have an automated tool. Automated anti-counterfeit solutions can detect and report rogue websites in real-time.

  • Protecting your intellectual property: IP enforcement and control can be a lengthy procedure. It becomes a bigger hassle if you have not patented your trademarks and copyrights. Your website, content, and logos give your brand a unique identity. They are your stand-out factors. If you do not patent and protect them, who will? When it comes to domain names, you can purchase similar-sounding variations of your domain name.

  • Protection from impersonation on social media and eCommerce: When did a site for entertainment and connection become a marketing hub? While brands are grappling with the changing uses of social media, the threat is galore. Anybody can create an account on social media. This means that your official pages are subject to impersonation. Unofficial accounts and damaging comments can dilute your brand’s reputation. Fake listings on eCommerce and malicious product placement are equally harmful.

  • Robust track and trace mechanism: Complex global supply chains give rise to many gaps through which counterfeit products enter the market. With multiple stakeholders involved, end-to-end visibility is a must for product safety. Serialization and codes that integrate with packaging and blockchain technology build trust in the supply chain. The track-and-trace solution should be easy to use, even for your customers.

  • Building customer awareness and engagement: Calling customer care to report issues with a product is painful for all. On the one hand, your customer care has to deal with an angry buyer. At the same time, there is no way to verify the authenticity of the claims. Besides, many customers do not understand that the product they have purchased is fake. So, they end up blaming the brand for quality issues. A holistic brand protection strategy involves building awareness about the problems of fakes. 

Brands work hard to remain relevant in a competitive market. Redirecting your customers through fake websites and pages is unfair to your hard-working team. At the same time, customers will penalize brands for inaction rather than genuine mistakes. Implementing the above five steps is a good start for a robust brand protection strategy.