If you’re an eCommerce brand, you need to be actively strategizing for brand protection. In order to maintain your brand’s authority and integrity across Amazon and other retailers, you should have an online brand protection strategy in place.
But what is brand protection? And what is MAP enforcement? How can you protect your business from counterfeits or unauthorized sellers? We’ll answer all of these questions in our ultimate guide to online brand protection.
What is Brand Protection?
Brand protection is the act of ensuring your brand integrity is upheld across Amazon and other marketplaces. It secures your Amazon sales, so your brand maintains control.
Brand protection includes monitoring your authorized sellers and resellers to ensure they’re abiding by your pricing and brand standards; reporting knockoffs; MAP enforcement; and removing unauthorized sellers. Additionally, brand protection keeps your brand consistent across all platforms and improves the overall customer experience. When done correctly, brand protection protects your customers from purchasing from unauthorized sellers or receiving counterfeit products.
Examples of Brand Protection
Brand protection is complex and has many components. As you protect your brand, you’ll need to monitor a variety of issues in order to see success.
Let’s dive into each of these individual components to learn more about how they could be affecting your Amazon sales.
One of the most crucial aspects of brand protection is MAP enforcement. But what is MAP enforcement? In short, it’s the minimum advertising price (MAP) set by the seller that they and any resellers or retailers must abide by. Your policy must address only advertised prices and needs to be unilateral.
You need to enforce your set MAP (minimum advertised price) across all approved resellers on Amazon, as well as any additional retailers.
We’ll dive more into the specifics of MAP enforcement in a bit, because it’s such an important part of brand protection and has its own set of criteria to abide by.
Every Amazon seller knows the importance of customer reviews for increasing your organic ranking and customer confidence. But did you know they also play an important part in protecting your brand?
If your reviews are not appropriate, relevant, or accurate to the particular listing, it could mean trouble for your brand. Make sure each review corresponds to the product detail page it appears on and that it’s relevant to the product itself (as opposed to, say, Amazon’s shipping of the item).
Remember: you can’t remove reviews for no reason (that defeats the purpose for customers!) but if a review is truly incorrect, you can dispute it with Amazon. The best solution to bad reviews is to improve your product and customer experience.
Monitoring Seller Product Descriptions
If you allow authorized resellers or retailers to sell your product, you need to ensure the product descriptions, images, and claims are correct on their product page or website. Ideally, you should have specific requirements outlined for your approved sellers to clearly follow.
Not only does this create a consistent customer experience across the entire omni-channel ecosystem, but it also ensures your brand’s integrity is upheld and no false information is marketed online.
Ensuring the brand experience is consistent across the Internet is a crucial aspect of the brand protection framework as well. A poor customer experience from an unauthorized or rogue seller can erode customer loyalty, cause a new customer to purchase elsewhere, or push customers to purchase a competing product altogether.
As a part of brand protection efforts, performing test buys can ensure customers are receiving products in original packaging as well as receiving the true product — not a knock off or counterfeit product — allowing for an exceptional customer experience. Often, we see products from unauthorized sellers simply dumped into a box without original packaging, resulting in disappointed customers and impacting brand perception.
Reporting Competing Products
Unfortunately, you might come across sellers on Amazon who have infringed on your intellectual property (IP) and are selling products that are too close to yours for comfort. If this is the case, you can work to have them removed from Amazon. These “dupes” or “knockoffs” can draw away potential customers, especially if they’re pricing themselves lower than your product.
Removing Unauthorized Sellers
Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, you might see sellers on Amazon who are selling your product — but who you haven’t authorized to sell your product. These unauthorized sellers can cannibalize your sales and may be contributing to some of the issues listed above, especially your MAP policy.
Luckily, there are steps you can take to report these unauthorized sellers and get them removed from Amazon.
What is MAP Enforcement?
As promised, we wanted to dive a little further into MAP enforcement, because it’s one of the most common facets of brand protection.
MAP enforcement is a relatively new policy in the eCommerce world, but it’s beginning to be solidified by legal parties so brands can be protected and have a clear definition to follow.
The New York City Consumer Affairs Bureaus (NYCCAB) defines an advertised price as “the price of a stock keeping unit [SKU] which a retail store has caused to be disseminated by means of promotional methods such as an in-store sign, or newspaper, circular, television or radio advertising.”
So, let’s say you sell sneakers with a MAP of $50. (Remember, MAP is the minimum advertising price, so sellers can mark up your products above that if desired, but they can’t list it for lower than $50.) Then, during Prime Day, one of your authorized resellers discounts your sneakers so that the final advertised price is $47. This is in violation of your MAP policy.
Building an Effective MAP Policy
Building an effective MAP policy is paramount to protecting your brand and upholding the policies you’ve set in place. Here are some basic tips to build an effective policy:
- Create a Reseller Program that differentiates your authorized retailers from any-and-all other (unauthorized) sellers.
- Make authorized sellers aware of the existence of your brand’s (MAP) policy and know where to view it in full (i.e. at a link, in a brand portal, etc.)
- Confirm that your MAP policy is drafted properly for use in enforcement. This means the policy is unilateral in nature and uniformly enforced with resellers.
Your MAP policy should be unilateral, non-discriminatory, and flexible. Here’s a little more insight on each of those characteristics.
Your MAP policy must be unilateral. This means that your policy just is what it is—and your sellers must abide by it. They don’t have to sign an agreement. As a seller, they must honor your MAP policy.
Along the same lines, your MAP policy must be the same for every seller and retailer you work with. There’s no preferential treatment for sellers you’ve worked with for years. Every reseller must abide by the same MAP policy.
Lastly, your MAP policy should be flexible. During certain promotional periods, like Prime Day or Cyber Weekend, you might allow for certain SKUs to be marked below your MAP to offer a greater discount to customers. Or, perhaps you allow for winter items to be discounted below MAP from March to April in order to clear inventory. Thinking through these situations allows for a firm yet flexible MAP policy.
Online Brand Protection Solutions
Now that we understand the basics of brand protection and how to create an effective MAP policy, let’s look at some eCommerce brand protection solutions that you can implement to build an effective strategy.
Solidify Marketing & eCommerce Strategy
In addition to creating a MAP policy, creating a comprehensive eCommerce marketing strategy is key to protecting your brand online. When you solidify your branding and marketing strategy, you can effectively implement those strategies across all retailers.
Develop a company-wide, extensive eCommerce strategy before signing any agreements, placing products on sites, or allowing unknown sellers to handle your products. This will eliminate many brand protection issues you might encounter.
Lastly, identify images and copy that can be used for listing your products. Be specific! Don’t let retailers alter images or descriptions without prior approval to ensure your brand is consistent across all retailers.
Build a Public Website
In order to effectively protect your brand on Amazon, if you don’t have one already, you should also build your brand identity on a public website. This allows you to protect your Amazon Brand Registry listing against fraud and shows your ownership of the products, IP, and marketing collateral.
You don’t need this to be overly complex or involved — you’re just looking to establish a brand presence that you own so you can build that authority if you need to dispute a case.
Implement Iron-Clad Deals
As stated before, your brand should outline iron-clad deals with distributors, protecting you from price-cutting or poor seller behavior. This should include your MAP policy, marketing and branding requirements, and any other pertinent information. Having a lawyer outline these contracts for you might be beneficial to ensure they’re totally locked in.
Brand Protection Services
If this is all a little overwhelming and your team doesn’t have internal bandwidth for complete brand protection, it might be time to consider working with an agency who provides brand protection services.
Monitoring your brand on Amazon and disputing these instances can take a lot of time and effort, which is why many brands choose to outsource. When you outsource to a brand protection agency like Blue Wheel, we’ll do all of the leg work to ensure your brand is protected across Amazon and all retailers, building authority and maintaining integrity.
If you’re interested in learning more, reach out to us today!