Building and maintaining a strong brand identity is not a simple task.It was not an easy job a few decades ago, and certainly not, as we live in the digital age, it has become even more complex.Internet, social media, mobile development — consumer expectations have changed so rapidly in last ten years and so and businesses need to find new ways to adapt and…well, keep up. Today, people want to be a part of an experience. They want it all and they want it this very second.

And that right there is perhaps the biggest change to branding: its real-time now, and besides finding an emotional connection with their customers, all brands need to pay big attention to staying protected. As businesses have moved online, so have the counterfeiters and pirates, causing bigger risks for the supply chain, product integrity, as well as risks to revenue and even the overall brand’s reputation that surely took some time to earn. And good brand’s reputation — without a doubt — one of the most important things out there.

Research, commissioned by the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), has shown that over half of customers are willing to pay a premium price for a product if it comes from a company they consider to have a particularly good reputation. However, the digital age has made it a tad more difficult to keep brands and businesses safe online.

Huge efforts time and budgets are spent on securing product integrity through the supply chain however online tools can help customers destroy a brands name in just a few seconds. In an internet age, words spread like a virus, and years of hard work dedicated to growing a reputable brand can be erased by a single mistake.

 

BrandCybersquatting, hacking, domain hijacking, intellectual property theft — the list of threats for brands doesn’t end up here.And it’s no joke, as counterfeit products and pirated products online are approximately a 350 billion dollar market. And there is the relatively new phenomenon.Typically, brandjackers set up fictitious social media accounts or hack legitimate accounts to spread anti-commercial, misleading or provocative messages that are very much inconsistent with the brand’s communication strategy. These actions are directed towards one goal: damaging the brand’s reputation, and not necessarily for financial reasons. With that, there are many brands out there that have suffered financial losses as well.

Brandjackers create entire websites that look just like the original ones, but…well, aren’t. Yours truly was a very lucky coffee break away from buying a luxury watch from one website a few years back. As the was quite was really quite high I decided to ring them to see if they I could pick the watch up as they were based in Spain, apparently. It was only when they said they moved to Germany that sent the alarm bells ringing. Suffice to say after a little more digging and some very unhappy customers that I realized that the website was just a front for well, nothing!

Brandjackers find ways to attract customers, who find it more and more difficult to tell the difference between the original brand’s website and the fake one. To make it even more believable, they add various supporting channels, including social media pages, claiming to represent the original brand. Step by step, many customers end up buying products from these websites, and then the problem becomes even more serious and is one of the many reasons why keeping the brand’s identity and reputation is something that should be defended at all costs.

So how can you protect your brand from theft in this digital age?First things first: it starts with registering the brand’s trademarks. Signs, logos, imaging, letter font, numbers, slogans and even sounds ( the luxury brand Hermes has a horse sound when you ring their offices ) — everything that distinguishes your brand from competitors needs to be registered and trademarked with the competent authority in your country.

Then there’s content marketing. With so many businesses building an online presence, content marketing has become one of the most important aspects that attract consumers and turn them into action takers. And so, in order to prevent plagiarists from stealing and using your content as their own, it’s also important to copyright brand’s content, including images, written posts, and videos.

And thinking global is imperative:all successful brands don’t just focus on their home countries. On the contrary, they move into other jurisdictions and register their trademarks and patents, especially if the business is evolving and there’s a prospect of opening a foreign branch or division in the future which over time is used to protect the brand is building a really strong brand presence.

Brand 1Building a strong brand presence is where brands need to invest a lot into creating a high-level consumer experience, especially online, which makes it way harder to imitate the brand’s presence for pirates. Many brands nowadays respond to reviews, comments, and messages while always keeping calm, collected, professional and polite tone.

It’s all about making your customers know what to expect from the brand and how it communicates, and once they do — it’s easier to spot if something is wrong or unusual.Another check-point for every brand to consider is developing a set of brand’s digital guidelines. Having clear guidelines makes representing the brand easier, while consistency in communication helps customers to spot the possible identity theft quicker.

Then there are visual elements: using the brand’s logo and other visual design elements consistently — and everywhere, from physical products to social media pages — also makes the identification process easier. Brands have regular checks on the main search engines from time to time, searching for your business taglines and other relevant keywords. Not only it helps to keep an eye on the market and your competitors, but it’s also a great tool for finding out if they are copying your brand’s visual elements or identity.

Basically, if an idea or product has the potential to become the next big thing and information is leaked before the launch, huge revenues can be lost as counterfeiters and pirates will act immediately and flood the market before the actual authentic product is on the market..

And even after you’ve taken appropriate actions, it’s difficult to completely wipe off the stolen product or service from the market. There are thousands of examples of slightly redesigned logos, slogans, and designs of existing brands, and pirates actually manage to pass them off as an entirely new business.