Bad Education

By Stuart Fuller


In a survey back in May 2014, NetNames reported that 60% of firms have no formal brand protection strategy in place.  With Social Media networks adding fuel to the growing problem of cybercrime and counterfeiting on an hourly basis, surely there should be a more concerted effort from brand holders to be part of the solution rather than the problem when we are talking about a problem that drains hundreds of billions of dollars from global economies.

There are a number of reasons why a brand holder may decide not to have a formal strategy to combat the issue of brand and reputational damage.  They may genuinely not realise they have a problem, although ignorance is no real defence in such cases.  Five minutes spent looking at social media networks or online marketplace websites can reveal a lot.  They may simply choose not to do anything even though they are aware of the problems.  This ostrich approach will simply lead to longer term problems as cyber criminals will realise they are an easy target.  They may not have a budget to launch counter-measures against the cyber criminals who infringe on their brand and launch nefarious actions against customers, weighing up that the cost of acting far outweighs the cost of not.  In that same report, 78% of consumers said that they would shun a brand if they found a bogus website.  In some ways this is the ultimate proof of guilt by association, albeit one that the brand holder may have little knowledge or control over.

However, by taking some very simple steps every brand can not only protect their revenues, reputation and ultimately their customers but also help in the war against cyber criminals.  Action does not mean cost, although it does require a brand holder to stand up and admit they have an online issue.  A growing number of brands are starting a programme of education for their customers, looking to turn one of their greatest assets, the consumer, into advocates who will go that extra mile for them in the war against counterfeiters and cyber criminals.

Global brands including Canon, Ugg, J Barbour and Apple have adopted brand protection strategies that focus on education as a primary step.  By stepping forward and highlighting not only the problems that counterfeits could cause but also the true costs to their business, these brands are putting their customers first.  Most also offer  an opportunity for customers to turn detective and report websites that appear to be selling counterfeit items, which by doing so sees them become more invested in the brand - a win/win situation for the company.

There is no reason why any brand can't create a very simple guide to spotting a genuine product and giving some relatively basic advice about some of the dangers that exist online.  Counterfeit drugs are probably the most damaging counterfeited item both in terms of financial loss and safety to consumers, with a reported Black Market value of $200 billion annually.  The manufacturers of counterfeit medicines do not care about the effects of the ingredients they use, nor do they lose any sleep over the fact in most cases the drugs are completely ineffective.  If the drug companies could provide a simple online guide to things to check for on their packaging or the look of the authentic products then not only will lives be potentially saved but also their reputation and revenues will not suffer.