Friday, October 01, 2010

Online Brand Protection determined by Return on Investment?

This week I attended a conference concerning Online Brand Protection. The speakers and panelists where in-house lawyers from some of the biggest brands in the worlds including Coca-Cola, Mars and Cisco.


Image: Boaz Yiftach / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

It was fascinating to hear how some of the most valuable brands in the world protect their assets in the ever expanding digital and online spheres.

One of the main themes I distilled is that most of these brand guardians appreciated that there was, in part, a loss of brand control created by the internet revolution and that there is no way to stop all abuse.  I believe this is a shift in attitude concerning how online brand abuse is approached.

The focus for many at the conference was to identify and remedy the brand abuse that is causing damage to the company's bottom line.   In effect calculating the return on investment for taking action to remedy online brand abuse as a means of justification and prioritisation.  The speaker from MarkMonitor provided some simple equations for calculating lost sales which can be used to show what the financial benefit would be from a successful remedy.   If legal action or advice does not add value to a business why is the contract being negotiated or legal action being taken?  This is a question I always ask.  The calculation of return on investment also allows a business to match the remedy to the damage being done allowing it to take a considered and proportionate action. 

The traditional remedies for brand abuse were discussed at length but there were some interesting alternatives being thrown into the frying pan of options.  One of the most interesting approaches is being taken by GHD (the hair straightener company) who are attempting to educate consumers about brand abuse and counterfeits via their website and digital presence.  They have a counterfeit information page on their website which includes a list of websites selling fakes!

I don't know if this shift in attitude towards online brand abuse and the focus on return is being driven by austerity measures and budget cuts but innovation in technological and PR solutions rather than traditional legal solutions should be encouraged as an extra string to the bow.

One question that does spring to mind is whether it will be easier or more difficult to monitor and remedy brand abuse as we move away from traditional web pages to "Apps"?  Will a brand have to participate and use all relevant Apps to monitor abuse?

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