Thursday, October 1, 2009

Brandjacking

Brandjacking is the act of someone hijacking a brand, when a person (or body of people) are able to pass off to others that they are your brand by use of your name and trademark. But it also happens online:

Cyber-squatting
Also know as domain squatting, when a URL is obtained with the aim of pretending to be a brand:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cybersquatting

PPC abuse
Although Google is doing nothing illegal by letting people purchase existing brand trade marks (see my previous post on the ongoing LV vs. Google battle) some people are passing off fakes as reputable products in their pay-per-click adverts.

Domain kiting
This is the rather complex process where someone registers a domain name the instant its current ownership expires. As it is now possible to use an 'Add Grace Period' for domain registrations (where within a period of 5 days the domain can be dropped and a full refund recieved), registrars don't even need to purchase domains to use them now.
Now, this wouldn't be too much of a problem, but:
1. Google takes a few days to recognise that the page has changed and re-index it correctly
2. The fraudulent registrar instantly put up a new site with lots of adverts (e.g. Google Ad Sense)
3. This now happens on a grand scale

Brandjacking now happens in a lot of different market sectors including the ones my company has been working in:

Travel:
Only last week Nucelus released a study which has found that in the last year 80% of the surveyed travel businesses suffered brand hijacking. These incidents have increased from 67% in 2008.

Financial Services:
MarkMonitor in its Spring 2009 report found that:

Brand abuse is increasing, but more important than the sheer volume is the increased sophistication and the opportunistic nature of brandjackers

And its not just domains and marketing efforts that are subject to brandjacking. Earlier this year on Twitter, an account called @exxonmobilcorp was set up and someone named Janet who claimed to work for Exxon answered questions about ExxonMobil.
This turned out not to be any employee of the company.

So, what are you doing to avoid being brandjacked?

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