I got Jacked! – Brand Protection Basics “Brandjacking” What Happened?

3 Minute Read
Written by David Howell

Global Online Brand Protection Basics: “Brandjacking”

The term “Brandjacking” was originally coined by MarkMonitor in 2007.  Brandjacking is as common to the web as identity theft is for those outside the web.  Just like everyday consumers, corporate brands are prone to attackers who could use their reputations for financial gains or damage their reputation for other malicious reasons.  A prime example of brandjacking occurred in 2010, during BP’s Deep-water oil spill disaster.  A parody BP account was created on Twitter that was used to attack BP’s bad public relation skills and ultimately shining a negative light on the corporate brand.  This is exactly why corporate brands MUST take steps to protect themselves from these said attackers and create a global online brand protection strategy.

Last night I posted the general basics of Brand Protection, now we are going to start to focus on more practical examples and how we can employ the best practices I am always recommending a brand does.    We will also be hitting on some of the industry terms like “brandjacking

When creating an online brand protection strategy, one of the first thing you should consider is prevention.   Acting early and getting ahead of any brandjacker is important to your company’s brand protection.  You can do this by getting registered trademarks and domain names protected.  Registry lock your valuable domain names during domain registration to prevent domain hijackings and other more serious offenses.   Buy similar domains like .com or .net to prevent phishing, cybersquatting, and typosquatters.   Also, engage your company into a brand protection strategy that is skilled at combating the abuse of brands.  I always say, proactive vs. reactive.   We will be talking about Domain names in the coming weeks to really define this process and its best practices.

Another consideration you can do to protect your brand from brandjacking is to monitor your social media.  We know from my previous posts that Social Media isn’t a favorite of mine, but I recognize the need.   Although social media is a great way to reach out to current customers and expand to new customers, it can also be the prime target for impersonators looking to mislead your fans and followers.  Monitoring your social media sites can help your company detect the brand infringement at its first occurrence and help resolve the situation quickly.

Next thing that you can do is monitor re-sellers and affiliate channels for brand compliance. Pricing can affect the public’s perception of a brand.  When re-sellers and affiliates violate your minimum advertised price (or MAP) to gain commissions, Diversion if you will, that can have a negative effect on the brand.  These affiliate violators can drive new traffic and customers away from the true brand and end up costing your corporate brand thousands of dollars.  Always monitor your affiliates and re-sellers and make sure that they are under compliance with your company’s agreements.  Ask yourself this question “Do I have a strong re-seller compliance agreement?”  That is critical for any enforcement actions.  After all these years I have seen some strong and weak agreements in these regards.  I go as far to aggressively recommend outlining a strong IP Rights portion of your agreement, don’t allow a re-seller use your trademarks without explicit permissions.  To that point, be very reserved when entering into a reseller agreement with an online marketplace, they usually have a clause where you are giving up your own rights to your IP.  We will also discuss this in the very near future.

Lastly, you should do (if at all possible) is to enforce, take the legal action against brand offenders swiftly.  But if you decide to take this route, be sure to be smart in how you pursue them.  Do your Due Diligence and research to make sure you cover all your basis.  Don’t always focus on the single offenders, targeting one offender at a time is too time-consuming, expensive and ultimately can be ineffective.  Instead, try to focus on the large network operators who are often times operated by a single person.  You can do this by working with your brand protecting manager to use tools that identify and track down these infringers.

That being said, crime is as old as time and no matter how much you try to protect yourself and your company from criminals and pranksters, they will always find a way.  The most you can do as a company is to invest in a brand protection strategist that can minimize the costs and negative effects these pranksters and criminals have on your brand.

Please do not hesitate to reach out to me – I look forward to answering questions and feedback regarding this topic and others soon to be posted. I will be covering all aspects of Brand Protection Basics – a source of advice and discussions.

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