You should focus on consistently protecting your brand online as a growing company. Your brand is your most valuable asset, responsible for building emotional connections with your target audience and differentiating your business.
In a competitive digital world, countless threats exist to your brand and business identity.
As Warren Buffet once said,
“While it takes years to build a powerful reputation via your branding strategy, it only takes seconds to destroy it.”
From someone trying to steal your brand name or logo to negative reviews harming customer loyalty, being aware of your brand's risk means you’re better positioned to protect it.
Here’s your complete guide to keeping your brand safe online.
What Is Online Brand Protection?
Protecting your brand online involves establishing a set of strategies or steps you can use to defend your identity from possible threats. Essentially, it’s how you secure your “intellectual property” (IP), business reputation, and anything specific to your company.
Effective online brand protection is an ongoing and consistent part of brand management in today's competitive world. It requires constant monitoring of potential issues impacting your business, such as negative comments or someone trying to hack your website.
Most strategies for online brand protection involve a combination of:
- Security measures like malware protection and firewalls
- Brand reputation monitoring, like social listening and responding to reviews
- Legal protection like trademarks, registered trademark symbols, and copyrighting
It may also involve implementing policies for your team members to follow. For instance, you may use specific brand guidelines to ensure your identity and personality remain consistent in your marketing messages.
Who Needs Brand Protection?
Any company can benefit from protecting its brand in today’s online landscape. If you have an established brand, you should be working to keep it safe from people who might try to harm or steal it.
However, some organizations need the right defense more than others. For instance:
Brand value companies
Well-established companies with strong brands rely on their identities to differentiate themselves from the competition. If your company is based on the strength of your trademark, it’s crucial to protect it.
Innovative companies selling new and unique products need to protect their intellectual property. If you’ve created something new for your industry, the last thing you want is another business to steal your idea.
Businesses that excel in aesthetically appealing products need to think carefully about protecting their image online. When your product or service looks great, there’s a strong chance someone might try to steal your identity.
Why Is It Important to Protect Your Brand Online?
Any company with a strong brand needs the right protection. Brand abuse and misuse are rampant in today’s landscape.
Your brand is crucial to increasing sales, boosting customer loyalty, and ensuring you can thrive in a competitive environment.
Fail to defend your business brand, and you risk losing everything that makes you unique. You need distinctive positioning, logo fonts, and design to stand out online.
If you don’t implement the right brand protection strategies, you risk suffering from issues like:
If counterfeiters steal and reproduce your intellectual property, they may be able to capture some of your customers for themselves. This means you end up with fewer sales and struggle to differentiate yourself from other organizations.
Your brand influences how customers perceive and respond to your company. If another company steals elements of your identity, this can impact how customers view your business too. Lack of customer trust can cost brands $2.5 trillion annually in missing sales.
Not only does a damaged brand lose the trust and loyalty of your target audience, but it can also make it harder to preserve relationships with suppliers and partners. This could mean you end up with a damaged supply chain. The more suppliers abandon your business, the harder it’ll be to continue serving your customers.
Aside from losing money on sales, the financial side of your business will also suffer thanks to the resources you’ll need to spend rebuilding your brand reputation and fighting counterfeits. Legal costs can be very expensive for damaged brands.
Lost brand equity
The more your brand’s damaged, the harder it will be to demonstrate the value of your identity to your shareholders and investors. After multiple attacks, you may lose some of the crucial capital you need to continue growing your brand. This is particularly problematic for new and smaller businesses.
How To Protect Your Brand Online
Protecting your brand online doesn’t have to be as complicated as it seems. For the most part, much of your work will involve simply ensuring you have the right legal structures in place.
You’ll also need a consistent plan of action you can use to ensure your brand reputation isn’t suffering as you continue to grow your company. Some of the most valuable steps you can take include:
1. Take ownership of your brand name
One of the most valuable things you can do to protect your brand is to ensure you own the key elements of your identity which differentiate you from your competitors. Trademarking your name is a valuable first step, something many top businesses do.
Start by searching for your company’s name on the USPTO website to ensure it isn’t already taken, then fill out the appropriate forms to register your trademark.
2. Set up Google Alerts
Google Alerts is a powerful tool for monitoring all kinds of content relevant to your company. You can use the “brand monitoring” service to track what competitors and customers say about your brand. There’s also an option to implement alerts when someone tries to break into your domain.
Having the right alerts in place should ensure you’re the first to know when something goes wrong with your website or your brand reputation.
3. Add legal documentation to your website
Adding the right documentation to your website has a number of benefits for businesses. It can help establish your credibility and develop customer loyalty by allowing you to share information about your return strategy, shipping policy, and terms and conditions.
4. Monitor online actions & affiliations
Monitoring and watching your brand are some of the most important things you can do when you’re trying to preserve your business identity. You can set up Google alerts whenever someone mentions your company or products online.
There are also tools available for “social listening”. These solutions allow businesses to track @mentions and other references to their brand across social channels.
5. Have a strong social media presence
A healthy presence on social media is more valuable than most companies think. The better you stand out on social media, the more you’ll attract customers and traffic to your website.
However, your social presence also allows you to interact with your customers, develop credibility, and build relationships that reduce brand attacks' impact.
6. Monitor your brand & competitors
As mentioned above, protecting your brand online relies heavily on your ability to keep track of what’s being said about your business.
You’ll need to pay close attention to the reputation building around your company by searching for it on Google and social media.
It’s also worth setting up strategies to monitor the competition in your industry. This way, you’ll see whether other companies are trying to steal your brand assets or piggyback off your existing presence in the market.
7. Respond to reviews
Aside from simply paying attention to the conversation around your business, it’s also worth setting aside time to join the discussion. Responding to reviews will show you’re committed to delivering the best possible service and experiences to your audience.
Crucially, as upsetting as negative reviews can be, responding positively to this feedback is particularly important. The right response to a negative review can turn an unhappy customer into a brand advocate.
Commit To Protecting Your Brand Online
Protecting your brand online is one of the most important things you can do as a growing company. Customers connect emotionally with brands and identities, not with those organizations' products and services.
With this in mind, you should always have a strategy to ensure your reputation remains strong in your industry.
With the steps above, you can start implementing measures to defend your company from serious problems, like IP and brand asset theft or negative reviews.
Remember to pay close attention to your brand as it evolves over time, and always use legal protections when possible.