As humans continue to advance, every new piece of technology comes with both beneficial and detrimental implications. Nowhere is this more true than with the internet and all it provides.
The web has propelled communications and changed the way we do everything in business, from virtual phone numbers to automated advertising. However, the age of information technology has also hastened the need for improved brand safety.
What is Brand Safety?
Brand safety represents the cumulative efforts of an organization to protect its intellectual property (IP). This includes areas such as logos, trademarks, websites, and social media accounts.
Brand safety and protection cover more than just IP. They deal with protection against fraud for both the business and the consumer. Protection measures are put in place to defend against damage to a business’s reputation and bottom line.
Why is Brand Safety Important?
Unfortunately, long gone are the days when physical effort is required to commit fraud. Today, scammers can easily procure and copy images, logos, and other visual cues from any online business or eCommerce site.
Modern technology also makes it easy for fraudsters to build genuine-looking imposter websites to dupe consumers. Not to mention the increasingly available AI-powered solutions like bots that can falsely increase things like site traffic, clicks, and social media interactions.
News travels on the web at light speed. This means that those who are scammed will be quick to take their experiences to social media and other online channels. Businesses like yours can’t afford to be associated with such negative coverage.
Equally as important, every single act of fraud represents a loss of revenue; as your advertising budget is drained by paying for fraudulent clicks or by losing a potential sale to a scam look-a-like.
Every business with an online presence needs to take brand protection seriously. Any failure to do so is likened to the signing away of the reputation of your business to what is a waiver form, metaphorically speaking.
Threats to Your Brand
Businesses large and small may feel overwhelmed by the seemingly endless threats to their brands. Here we will cover the main ones to be aware of.
Ad Placement and Context
You want your ads to match up with the pages they are being featured on. This means any content must align with your brand identity and ethos. And, ideally, there should be some crossover between the product being advertised and the on-page content.
These days, many businesses are using partner marketing and programmatic advertising. This means you are likely to have less control over where your ads end up.
Frequently, these ads can end up the victim of what’s known as “malgorithms.” In these cases, unfortunate pairings are likely to hurt your brand image and decrease your click rates.
For example, take a look at this ad placement from the Chicago Tribune.
Ads on Extremist Sites
While the context of on-page content is crucial, so is the context of the actual website. With many businesses opting for third-party marketing solutions, ads can end up in places made of the stuff of nightmares. These include extremist institutions like far right, far left, racist, sexist, or other types of fundamentalist movements.
They may have decent traffic, but these organizations do not align with your brand or target audience!
Bots and Invalid Traffic
We live in a world of fake news driven by internet trolls and bots. Fake users disseminate false information on websites and social media. But that’s not all!
Juniper Research forecasts that the total advertising spend lost to fraud will reach $68 Billion by the end of 2022. This huge loss of revenue damages the performance of a brand’s marketing campaign and sets a business up for stagnation of growth.
When a new brand or startup is unveiled, businesses today may find the most relevant domain names to already be registered by using a domain name generator.
Domain squatters have gotten ahead of you and are looking to profit. They may either be holding out for a big payday or using the domain to swindle unknowing online consumers.
A subset of domain squatting is known as typosquatting and it is exactly as it sounds. This type of squatting is perhaps even more of a threat to your brand safety. These malicious actors are hoping that your audience will arrive on their fake websites.
These false sites will appear real to many consumers and can be used as part of a phishing campaign or simply to garner funds from fake transactions.
Business Email Compromise
Today, email is highly evolved. You can even send a voicemail with email tools. But that doesn’t mean your email accounts are safe from malicious hackers.
Business email compromise (BEC) represents the hostile takeover of one or more of your authentic email accounts. These scammers will use your stolen email accounts to send fake invoices to customers or clients such as suppliers or distributors.
A BEC is a huge threat to the trust customers associate with your brand.
Social Media Account Takeovers
Email isn’t the only type of account to monitor. Your social media accounts can be taken over and used to share scams with your followers. These actions can cause long-term damage that can be difficult to repair or remediate and will undoubtedly affect your TikTok, Facebook, and Instagram growth.
Fake or real damage via social proof is something every business should avoid at all costs.
How to Secure and Protect Your Brand
Your business will need to follow the best practices to mitigate risk and protect your brand.
Define Brand Safety
Every business needs to define what brand safety means for them. You must decide what are your top priorities. Do you want to prevent poor ad placement, invalid clicks, or fraudulent transactions? What is more important, your reputation or protecting revenue?
Ideally, you will be able to cover everything but maintain an emphasis on what’s most important for your business. Your priorities should be discussed with all stakeholder events including investor meetings.
Work with Transparent Solutions
When attempting to protect your business, a lack of transparency just makes things more difficult. Look for vendors and marketing partners that offer complete transparency on where your ads end up and how performance or clicks are tallied. And only work with partners that have a Business Verified SSL Certificate at a minimum.
Go Premium If You Can Afford it
Programmatic advertising is the popular cost-effective way to expand a brand’s reach. However, these services are often responsible for the aforementioned malgorithms. It will cost you but opt for premium inventory if it’s in the budget.
Even better (and maybe more costly), you can build a marketing campaign around direct deals with publishers. This ensures that your people are overseeing every single ad placement and can ensure fewer invalid clicks.
With direct deals, you can rest assured that your brand is secure and your customer perception remains high.
Register your Trademarks and Copyrights
Nothing expedites the process of building brand safety more than locking down your IP. As soon as management has approved a new brand it’s time to register with the appropriate legal entities such as the US Patent and Trademark Office.
Get your marketing teams to liaise with your legal department on all brand issues so that the registration process can go as quickly and smoothly as possible.
Purchase Top-level Domains
In addition to IP registration, your team needs to consider all potential avenues for domain names. This includes creating a task force to register any related domains. Opt for as many relevant top-level domains as possible such as .com, .biz, .co, or .org.
Pay attention to all relevant domain endings available. For example, if you provide data science in manufacturing, make sure to snap up .io and .ai. This will give you greater flexibility to combat fraudulent domain squatters and fake websites.
Have a Proactive Strategy
You will want to build a proactive brand safety strategy. This starts with getting the right team of people and necessary stakeholders on board, as well as some expense management. The right team may include analysts, marketers, content creators, and attorneys.
The next step is to give your team the right tools for the job. There are many modern solutions for protecting your brand today. These include the use of brand safety tools that track domain name registrations as well as machine learning that assesses ad placement.
With the right people and tools in place, it will take an active strategy to continually secure your brand against scammers and fraudsters who are unyielding in their creativity. Just as with any other technological updates, like switching to a call routing system, you will need to stay up to date with the latest threats and best practices for brand safety.
Implement a plan of action
Your business will also need to have a response plan for any discovered threats. This includes preparing an action plan to get websites and fake accounts taken down as quickly as possible.
A basic outline of a good response plan includes:
- Fraud identification and confirmation.
- Identifying the modus operandi of the scammer.
- Reporting it to authorities e.g. Google, Microsoft, Apple, Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
- Obtaining registrar information.
- Packaging evidence together.
- Sending a takedown request and or cease-and-desist letter.
- Being impatient and following up with your request.
Your Brand Safety is Under Constant Threat
As technology continues to evolve, we can only expect fraud to become more sophisticated. Your reputation and profits are at stake. It’s up to you to remain vigilant and proactive with a brand protection strategy.
While it may be difficult for startups to prioritize brand safety with budget priorities focused on growing the company, there are methods to get started such as creatives and landing page checks. Having an ad fraud prevention tool can also help prevent your well planned advertisements ending up in fraudulent sites. Talk with an expert today to see how you can start protecting your brand and your valuable ad budget.