Brand Guardians Must Be Alert to Threat of the Net

Article excerpt

Some companies are encouraging employees to be alert to online threats to brands

Collecting intelligence about anything that affects your brands should be one of the most important aspects of marketing. Brands don't exist in a vacuum. That's why, in many marketing departments, there's usually someone sitting in a corner whose ostensible job is to gather competitive intelligence on what others are up to.

But while most companies say that they take intelligence gathering seriously, they do it neither systematically nor comprehensively. And that could be really dangerous for the health of their brands.

With the unregulated free-for-all that is the internet, it's almost too easy for others to damage your brand either by mistake or deliberately. In fact, according to a recent study by cyber-intelligence experts Cyveillance, more than 98% of the average company's internet brand presence falls outside its own domain.

This is worrying, say the study's authors, as the internet is becoming such an integral part of the consumer experience, particularly in terms of information gathering before purchasing either online or offline.

While companies are busily investing millions into becoming more customer-centric through the internet, someone could be causing expensive harm to their good name if they are not vigilant enough.

There are a number of ways this can happen,according to Cyveillance. First, there is what could be called the cock-up school of misrepresentation when your supposed partners--of which there are a proliferation in the online world -- don't maintain the standards you want associated with your brand.

For example, a partner site could be difficult to navigate, sloppy or contain misleading information that undermines the desired message or brand equity. …