Three Pillars of Brand Protection

6 Minute Read Time
Written by David Howell

How to have a True Successful Global Online Brand Protection & Channel Compliance Strategy!

Over the last few years, I have been tactfully but aggressively speaking to “Brand Protection Basics” and the key strategies to fight bad faith activity online.  I understand the term brand protection today is vague, from domain names, intellectual property infringement, channel compliance to counterfeit activity and just about everything in between. To be clear what I am speaking to here applies to all aspects of any type of brand protection programs one may have.  Years ago I solely and creatively coined the phrase loosely as the “Three Pillars of Brand Protection”. From speaking engagements to webinars, I have been echoing this in one form or another. Let me explain in some detail: for any brand protection program to be effective one should first employ active online digital monitoring, second apply intelligent investigation/research and lastly targeted effective enforcement strategies. I stand by the fact that if any one of these areas are excluded your brand protection program will surely fall short of effective.

One must look at it from this point of view, if we implement an active digital monitoring solution to find infringements online and act upon the data as accurate for enforcement, you will at best be 20% to 30% effective in reaching the true infringer. Taking any such automated data at face value with the large amount of anonymity online today, aenforcementnts will be effectively going into a black hole. A waste of time and resources that most brands cannot afford. However, if one were to take the same data set and employ a level intelligent investigation and research one can increase their effectiveness in excess of 80%. In my professional experience that percentage is considered by most a “WIN”.

Now think if we remove active monitoring, the first pillar of the equation. How will a brand find bad faith activity affecting them? Are they only acting on what is brought to their attention by employees or even worse, their customers? This is will most defiantly not solve any brand protection issues as one can imagine, who truly knows what they are missing if one is not actively looking in the right places?

This leads us to the enforcement aspect of brand protection, the third pillar if you will. One can think this is as the most basic aspect if we don’t act on the bad faith infringements we are not going to solving the problem. As one can image, I without hesitation agree with this, however, I also cannot count how many times in my career a brand neglected, on my recommendation to act on actionable data until the further damage was already done. Fundamentally, taking the appropriate action in a timely manner is key to solving these problems.

I strongly emphasize that a brand should be proactive and not reactive to what is happening to their intellectual property online. This is a bit of an oxymoron if you think about it, as something does have to happen online to be able to react to it, being as proactively reactive as you can. Hard to comprehend at first but accurate nevertheless.

In the last few years, more and more of the brands I have worked with started to notice a surge specifically in products that are not meeting their standards; being sold as legitimate and sanctioned, online. These unauthorized sales are causing a host of issues, ranging from illegitimate warranty to market dilution with severely underpriced goods, and many times, these items are of counterfeit, seconds, expired, remanufactured and of inferior quality.

There is no doubt that this is an activity that needs to cease for a brand to stay competitive. A company cannot suffer brand dilution, price erosion or consumer confidence issues to maintain market dominance. This leads me to the second pillar of brand protection that I innovated within my last organization from conception to successful implementation.

So in recent years, I have personally taken this ability one step further and innovated a process as I will describe briefly below, the investigation and research aspect of brand protection. I wrote a detailed article last month on the process of the investigation.

Attempting to identify who is illegally offering or selling your goods, whether counterfeit or gray market, is an uphill battle at best, and outside the ability of most companies’ area of expertise; add to that a hidden or aliased bad faith seller, and the attention and labor commitment becomes unsustainable for most businesses. I strived to make this a realistic goal, and as a more advantageous option for a brand to undertake themselves.

This brings us back to the issue of the hidden, masked or aliased bad faith sellers. Based upon a range of client’s needs, I have created what I call a virtual deficiency check program that does not require an expert investigator to process; third-party marketplace sellers, Asian sellers and other assorted hidden identities to name a few, can be uncovered with a high degree of accuracy and accelerate the enforcement process. This type of due diligence allows brands to get to the individual or individuals responsible and hold them accountable, and thus begin the appropriate escalation or enforcement. I am a firm believer that the responsibility to conduct such diligence rests on the brands.

I have created a fairly detailed action list where one can start this process and how to disseminate the data. Again knowing where to search is only part of the battle, knowing how to search and what to do with the data will take some time for one to learn truly what to look for. Working close with brands with this service has created a sense of self-reliance and empowerment to research and solve such problems.

The end solution is still an aggressive enforcement strategy; I understand more than most that online enforcement can be a challenge when the “bad faith seller” hiding behind an alias or masked data.  As I have always stated “The Who, What, Where, Why, When & How” someone is either in good or bad faith using your intellectual property or selling your products is critical to any success. I am honored to have had the privilege to innovate and think outside the box to be an active part of these types of solutions for so many brands in recent years.

I would enjoy the open conversation and more importantly the opportunity to help brands and manufacturers in these areas as well as create and implement a strong global brand protection strategy to help ensure success. Please feel free to reach out to me anytime.

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