If you’re bringing your brand online, you’re exposing it to brand hijacking. That’s the bitter truth, and you need to gear up before it eats your brand credibility, customer trust, and profit margins.

Brand impersonation has seen an increase of 360% since 2020. It’s high time to develop strategies to proactively prevent brandjacking before you start losing customer trust because of sophisticated behavior by a scammer under your name.

To prevent this, you must be aware of what brandjacking is, including its types, its impact on the bottom line, and best practices to combat brandjacking. We’ll discuss all of it here. Let’s dive right in!

What is Brandjacking?

Image describing people trying to ascend a pedestal with a logo on it

Brandjacking is the impersonation or unauthorized usage of an established company’s, brand’s, or individual’s intellectual property–identity, logo, or brand name to mislead individuals. Hijacking a brand’s persona has been here for long, but its prevalence has grown significantly with the rise of social media.

Although brandjacking causes immense reputational and financial damage, it’s a shocker that it isn’t illegal.

However, note that it often comes in some routine forms like domain and website spoofing, phishing emails, or fraudulent social media accounts, and it’s possible to prevent it by adopting some proven practices (discussed later).

Types and Forms of Brandjacking

Types of Brandjacking

Brandjacking has several types with a common purpose–portraying a false brand identity to deceive employees, customers, and stakeholders. Let’s look at the major types of brandjacking -

1. Counterfeit website and domain

Counterfeit or spoofed websites are fake websites imitating an established company’s identity. Such forgery websites have names, logos, or colors like your own brand name or elements, so people confuse them with the real brand website.

Website or domain spoofing also involves using a domain name similar to that of a real company. For instance, the counterfeit website may use .net instead of .com or a different spelling of the brand name.

With this type of brandjacking, scammers easily confuse people and get confidential details like credit card information/passwords or install malware on the user’s system to steal data.

2. Brand name impersonation

Brand name impersonation is the unauthorized usage of a well-known brand’s name, likeness, or a similar name to market a product. Individuals or companies posing as legitimate brand representatives often run this infringement.

This brandjacking type involves attempts to wrongly acquire and use customers’ sign-up information, which can greatly hurt the company’s reputation.

You must be aware and regularly review your company’s or product’s mentions online because someone may create content around your brand name or product.

Now, if a customer searches for similar products as yours, the blog may show up, and negative reviews about your brand may lead to revenue loss and customer confusion.

In addition, brandjacking goes to the extent of bidding brand keywords so that competitor ads appear on search results when customers search for your brand. This is called Google ads brandjacking.

3. Forgery of social media accounts

Social media account forgery is an act of wrongly imitating a well-known brand on social media platforms. Sometimes, such fake accounts create parody posts of a brand, destroying the brand image for customers. In fact, 19% of the social media handles related to the top 10 brands in different industries are fake.

Here are the other two types of social media account forgery:

a. Scam accounts portray as a leading company’s customer service account and brazenly ask customers for their log-in details, credit card numbers, or other confidential details. These scammers then use this data to their benefit under the name of the real brand.

b. Social media piggybacking or piggyback marketing is when scammers use popular brands’ social media posts, content, or hashtags to confuse and re-route customers to their fake page or website.

Under this kind of forgery, scammers may also interact with the brand’s intended audience while pretending to be the company itself to maximize their reach and engagement.

4. Phishing emails

Phishing emails are emails scammers send to a company’s legitimate target market regarding some account updation or an issue in their payment information, for example. In these emails, there’s a link to their fake websites created to steal customer information as soon as it's entered.

Brandjacking Impact on Your Bottom Line

Brandjacking impact on the Bottom Line

Brandjacking is extremely dangerous for your brand reputation, profit margin, and sales. Knowing how brandjacking impacts your bottom line can help you maintain your brand integrity, trust, and financial stability. Here are the details of how brandjacking impacts your bottom line:

1. Depletes profit margin

Brandjacking diverts your legitimate brand’s revenue to your scammer. For instance, if a random website starts selling products under your brand name, your customers might confuse them with your brand and make a purchase. So, you see how your potential sale amount goes to a cybercriminal. That’s how brandjacking leads to lost sales and depleting profit margins.

2. Destroys brand image

You might spoil your brand image if you fall prey to brandjacking. Scammers may disseminate misleading information, interact inappropriately with customers, or conduct unethical practices under your brand image, damaging it severely.

Suppose your customers mistakenly buy from a spoofed website and get their credit card data stolen. Those customers are then likely to consider your brand fraudulent, will never repurchase from you, and might give you negative reviews, destroying your brand image.

Such brandjacking incidents will drive you to take some legal and marketing actions, increasing legal fees and advertising costs.

You’d file a complaint regarding intellectual property rights infringement, which is complicated and time-consuming.

Brandjacking can lead to a fake website ranking higher than a legitimate one. To change that and spread awareness about potential brandjacking, you may need to put in digital marketing efforts, increasing your cost of marketing campaigns.

4. Causes loss of customer trust

Brandjacking significantly impacts a customer’s trust in a brand. Why? Because they think that those misleading posts or phishing attempts are coming from a legitimate brand. This makes the customer less interested in buying from or engaging with the brand again, leading to a loss of trust and potential revenue.

5. Reduces control over online communication

Brandjacking includes scammers communicating with your customers, which may not be in your favor. They may send messages or post content that presents the brand in a negative light or is completely different from the real product features. Your customers may get convinced that your product is not worth it, leading to a rise in confusion and loss of potential revenue.

6. Shrinks website traffic

When a cybercriminal creates a fake website with similar brand elements as yours, your website traffic is bound to shrink. Why? Because upon searching for a product in your niche, customers may land on a fake website, wrongly perceiving it as legitimate. That’s how you lose your website traffic to scammers. Also, low website traffic means lesser engagement and lost sales.

How to Protect Your Website (and Brand)?

Image depicting a Brand Vault. Signifies protection of a brand.

Brandjacking is disastrous, and eliminating it needs strategic efforts. To help you protect your own brand name, we have curated the list of best practices that can safeguard your website and brand:

1. Register your trademark

Trademarks are the words, symbols, designs, or combinations of all these elements that are related to your product or brand's identity. Registering your trademark indicates that you own it and reserve all rights to use it. So, in case you head to court with a trademark lawsuit, your trademark registration certificate is enough to prove your ownership and register a complaint against competitor's brands.

Note: If you submit your registration certificate with the US Customs and Border Protection, you can easily eliminate the import of goods that illegally use your trademark.

2. Adopt brandjacking detection tools

Brandjacking detection tools provide you with real-time spoofing metrics so you’re aware as soon as an impersonation attempt occurs. Such alerts help you prevent any scams with customers on the fake website until it is not removed. These tools also offer visibility on fraudulent websites imitating your brand by utilizing saved search parameters.

Note: Set up Google alerts for different types of brand mentions online so you know there’s a negative mention. It alerts you when your customers talk about scams related to your company.

3. Buy key domain names

There are several domain names available that are misspelled or quite similar to your current domain. If they are available to buy, scammers might utilize this opportunity for brand hijacking. To safeguard your brand and prevent its malicious usage, buy those available domain names and redirect them all to your original website. For instance, hcl.com and hcll.com.

4. Regularly monitor search results

Another best practice to prevent brandjacking is to monitor what ranks when someone searches for your business. Doing so will help you instantly spot if there is another website impersonating your brand. Upon timely spotting, you can take strict actions to bring it down, prevent traffic diversion, avoid customer confusion, and keep your brand reputation intact.

5. Check your brand reviews online

If you keep a check on your brand reviews on Google or Yelp, you can easily gauge the issues your customers are currently facing and take relevant actions to eliminate them. You can also personally interact with your customers and resolve the issue on the ground. Finding a scam report by customers can indicate brandjacking.

6. Adopt proven brandjacking prevention strategies

Almost all leading companies or your competitor's brand have faced brandjacking issues and have developed strategies to combat it. Those strategies protect their brand image and can certainly safeguard yours, too.

For instance, PayPal has reported brandjacking multiple times. To prevent it, PayPal regularly notifies its customers about ongoing scams. They also educate customers about the new and common online risks. Adopting proven strategies as your competitor's brand can help you minimize the negative impact of brandjacking, as customers will not fall prey to scammers and fake websites.

Wrapping Up: How Nametrust Can Help?

Image depicting how Nametrust can help with protecting your brand

Preventing brand hijacking must be a priority if you don’t want to shrink your website traffic, lose customers to competing brands online, or reduce sales because a scammer decided to impersonate your brand. To minimize brandjacking and reduce its negative consequences on your brand’s reputation, you must follow the above-given best practices.

However, we understand that protecting your brand online is complex and time-consuming. That’s why we, at Nametrust, do the heavy lifting so you can focus on scaling your business peacefully. From managing your domain portfolio to developing strategies to eliminate brand abuse and proactively taking action to reduce cybersquatting, we do it all.

Our edgy features like multi-user support, Security Assertion Markup Language (SAML), and Single sign-on (SSO) can help you manage and streamline your domain portfolio. You also get a separate account manager to solve all your queries. You can expect cybersquatting protection, brand abuse detection, consolidated billing, organization-level budgeting, and more with Nametrust.

Ready to take the first step towards protecting your brand? Get started with Nametrust today!

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