How to protect and grow an online brand
Is your brand at risk online? Would you know if it was? It is time to take brand protection seriously.
Brands are more important than ever.
They make a business' products stand out and keep customers coming back for more.
Protecting brands is key to staying ahead of the competition and copycats who seek to take advantage.
In this guide, we present a simple 5-step process to work toward best-in-class brand protection. Read on!
Step 1: Trade Mark the Brand
The first step to protect a brand is through registering it as a trade mark.
The process of trade marking enables businesses to stop other companies from trying to use identical or similar trademarks on competing goods.
This helps develop consumer affinity by increasing a product or service's: recognisability, reputation, and distinctiveness.
After registering your trademark it will be published publicly in the trade mark register. This will mean that other people seeking to register marks, if they do their research, should be aware of your mark before they attempt to register theirs - giving you the opportunity to oppose their registration if it strays too close to yours.
If registered correctly and judiciously enforced, a trade mark provides an effective barrier against copycats looking to cash in on another company's success - optimizing capital expenditure on infringement claims.
If a brand is used widely and not trade marked it can be enforced via passing off (but not as strongly, easily, or cheaply).
Step 2: Secure the Domain Names
The next step to protect a brand is to secure your domain names.
If someone else owns them, then there's no guarantee that they will stop using them unless you have the trade mark.
Even then, it is not always easy to retrieve them!
A good way to think about domains are they are online "real estate".
If this "real estate" has your name on it (i.e. the domain name) you want to make sure that people can find you there and not someone else!
Domains are relatively cheap to get hold of, but you will want to look at getting your main domains under key TLDs (top-level domains like .com, .co.uk, .org etc.) as a priority.
After that, you may look at defensive registrations, including transliterations, geographic risks (.cn, .tk, etc.), and misspellings to avoid cyber-squatting. Then, you can also look at branded TLDs which are becoming very popular (e.g .finance if you are a finance company).
When all is said and done, it can be quite a lot - so being proportionate is key.
Step 3: Secure Your Brand on Social Media
The next step is to protect your brand on social media.
To do this, you will want to register account handles on the major platforms for your key brands.
Then make sure you follow and monitor conversations through mentions of your brand in order to identify any negative comments or false claims made against your company.
Your team should be prepared to respond and squash those false claims immediately! This is known as reputation management and helps you control the perception of your brand.
A quick response will ensure that there will be no major damage done to your company's reputation or credibility with consumers.
Make sure you're also monitoring any third-party use of your company’s name, logo or trademarked items such as slogans or intellectual property such as music rights.
Remember, social media is ground zero for people engaging with each other and your brand - you want to be part of the conversation!
Step 4: Protect Your Brand on Amazon and Other Online Marketplaces
Don't forget about marketplaces like Amazon!
Along with other social media sites, these have become valuable channels for businesses to reach their customers.
What's more, online marketplaces can be where businesses make the lion's share of their revenues.
Many of the main online marketplaces require brand owners to prove ownership (via trade marks) to run official stores.
However when selling brand new merchandise online, such as clothes or electronics, companies should be aware of brand protection issues that may arise through third party sellers and infringers.
In recent years, there has been an increase in cases where individuals have bought products believing they were getting authentic brands and found out that they were actually buying counterfeits at lower prices.
This damages genuine brand owners by diverting profits away to the counterfeiters - and furthermore, by damaging brand reputation via shoddy and sometimes even dangerous goods.
Amazon, eBay, AliExpress, Etsy and Shopify all offer brand protection tools that owners need to be aware of if they are priority platforms.
Take time to claim ownership of brands on these key marketplaces to avoid losing out.
Step 5: Secure, Monitor, and Enforce your Brand
Brand protection isn't a one-off - it is an ongoing process.
The process involves: securing, monitoring, and enforcing the brand on a regular basis.
The more resources you invest into brand protection, however, the more valuable the brand becomes - and the more recognisable and reliable you are seen by your customers.
The real cost lies in letting those who would chip away at your brand get their way, and siphon off revenue and reputation from all your hard work.
Securing your brand means registering the trade marks, domains, social media handles and brand registry accounts
Monitoring means remaining vigilant in the spaces where it matters most (especially around your trade marks!)
And enforcing means moving quickly to nip any infringement or reputational damage in the bud (we can help with that!)
What you get in return is a robust and burgeoning brand that will continue to bring more clients and customers to your door.
Conclusion: Brand Protection 101
To conclude, brand protection needs to address an even larger shift online.
For brand owners, this means going where the action is to secure their best interests.
Remember though, it all starts with a trade mark - as this acts as a central pillar to any and all brand protection action.
Then, securing online real estate and maintaining your reputation for excellence there is the pathway to success.
It is those that go above and beyond that continue to stand out in the eyes of their customers and reap the reward for doing so. Good luck!
If you are looking for resounding results and best-in-class brand protection, contact our team to organise a complimentary consultation.
Disclaimer: This FAQ should not be construed as legal advice on any specific facts. The contents are intended for general informational purposes only. You are urged to consult your own solicitor on any specific legal questions you may have.
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