Information Technology

Addressing the cyber threat environment through brand protection

By Charlie Abrahams, senior VP, MarkMonitor
Information Technology
Published: 4 April 2017

The rise of social media has opened up many windows of opportunities for brands. It gives them more creative ways to launch new products, run marketing campaigns and engage with their customers on a personal level, but it also leaves them vulnerable to online infringement.
 
All of the social media platforms that brands are using are also available to members of the public, and some of these individuals will be operating with malicious intent. If brands are to protect themselves from potential reputational damage, they need to have a well thought out brand protection strategy in place. This will ensure they’re capable of coping with numerous different threat scenarios.
 
What kind of threats are brands faced with?
One of the most common instances of infringement takes the form of brand hijacking or ‘brandjacking’. Here, fraudsters use misappropriated copyrighted logos and slogans in an attempt to benefit from a legitimate company’s brand equity, or deliberately damage it through confusion and deceit.  In order to reverse the damage caused, you need to identify the effect of brandjackers on your social media accounts and your brand.
 
Scammers and impersonators can also set up fake pages or profiles with the unauthorized use of copyrighted materials and/or trademarks to give off an aura of legitimacy. In a digital twist on an age-old problem, counterfeiters promote e-commerce sites by selling fake goods through spoofed social media accounts. By posting links on their fake profiles or fake pages featuring your brand’s logo and legitimate product photos, they may mislead consumers into purchasing counterfeit wares. Whether a high-priced fashion accessory or an everyday necessity such as batteries, no product is off limits and no brand is exempt from counterfeiters.
 
Why is a brand protection strategy so important?
A brand protection strategy essentially means that you’re covered and ready to counter any of these infringement acts should they ever happen. Without a strategy, businesses are likely to either make snap decisions that might harm the brand, or spend precious time considering the multiple options available, by which time the damage has been done.
 
Despite this, many companies underestimate the importance of including a brand protection element within their social media strategy. Indeed, a recent survey found over half of brands don’t have a strategy in place to manage social media complaints[1].
 
How can brands protect themselves?
The best thing that any company can do is to make their accounts ‘official’. Many social media platforms have tools to help to verify your legitimacy, and customers will be able to identify this by searching for the blue ticks next to your account name. For other platforms that don’t offer a way to show that your pages are bona fide, make sure your company’s main website includes information about and links to your presence on social media.
 
It’s also important to continuously monitor for impersonation and misuse of brands and trademarks. This is simple to do on social media – it only takes a minute to find a logo and apply it as a profile picture, for example – and so you need to actively watch for signs that impersonators are tampering with your brand and trying to lead consumers astray.
 
If the case is more serious, you might need to take further appropriate action. You can either try contacting the individual and explaining how his or her activity is in violation of your brand guidelines, or you can report the activity to the relevant social media site.
 
As more brands continue to rely more heavily on social media for their operational efforts, they need to think carefully about the online protection measures they have in place. With a brand protection strategy, they can rest assured that the likelihood of falling prey to a cyber threat is dramatically reduced.