Australian Brands under threat

The Internet has become essential to the global economy in a very short period of time. Australian brands of all sizes, across all industries are fast recognising that online activity opens a whole world of business opportunities. It is more efficient, faster and cheaper, in addition to providing an exciting venue for connecting with customers.

Top Australian brands have made the successful transition from the High Street to online and are prospering, along with many smaller brands you may never have heard of. Consider Qantas, Woolworths, Commonwealth Bank, QBE Insurance, 1300 Flowers and Telstra. These innovative brands are leading the way when it comes to embracing the Internet’s boundless and borderless opportunities. Ecommerce sales in Australia grew to AUD $33 Billion in 2012 and are projected to grow to over $40 Billion in 2015.

Compared to the UK and the US, Australia has proven to be an online retail oasis. With a population of over 22 million, a staggering  19.5 million plus are online spending on average $190 per annum via online retail alone. Many international brands are now targeting Australian online consumers; as a result Australian brands need to be proactive in their approach to online activity before someone else starts eating from their plates

However, while Australian brands are taking advantage of the opportunities online, are they protecting themselves against the threats that have also emerged? In many cases, the answer is no.

In contrast with Western Europe or the US, Australian businesses are largely unaware of the threats that cause significant harm, reputational issues and loss of revenue in the online sphere. In many companies, marketing directors and risk managers do not see the value in conducting any online monitoring. Whilst on average 60% of US companies monitor their brands online on a daily basis, , NetNames  estimates that less than 10 per cent manage to do so in Australia. It is no wonder Australian brands have caught the attention of brand and intellectual property abusers.

After so many years focusing on the US and Western European markets, Australia is now becoming a perfect hunting ground for foreign and domestic infringers. Australia boasts a prospering economy, a thriving online retail sector and strong brands with limited online monitoring or protective mechanisms in place.  Without the strategies, tools or expertise to prevent online attacks, all the hard work that goes into getting an Australian brand thriving online can be ruined in a matter of minutes.

There is a general lack of understanding of the threats Australian brands are exposed to on the internet. Threats can vary from industry to industry, and brand to brand. They include online brand infringements (such as cybersquatting, counterfeiting), reputation damaging content (through social media), poor online brand compliance, and online fraud (with the latest threat being fraudulent or harmful mobile apps). A single brand can be subject to one or all of these attacks at any time. Moreover, as the complexity of online brand abuse grows, the challenge to identify them in a timely manner becomes an increasingly difficult task.

The channels available for brand abusers to damage online reputations is growing quicker than most business can keep up: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, instagram, over 2,000 other social media sites, hundreds of thousands of blogs, email, online advertising, ecommerce, and the list goes on.

Currently, the majority of businesses are ill equipped to identify and counteract brand abuse. Emboldened by brands’ lack of monitoring and protection, brand abusers are becoming more pervasive and sophisticated in their techniques and attacks.

An easy, yet effective solution that businesses can implement today into their business in order to get visibility of their brand on the internet is online brand monitoring. Monitoring tools allow brands to find any potentially damaging content or activity that could cause damage to their brand and reputation.

The old adage "Trust takes years to build, seconds to break, and years to repair" has never been truer when it comes to online reputations. It is time that we started taking this seriously and begin to manage our brands from the threats on the net.