4 Key Emerging Threats for Brands in 2021 and How to Tackle Them

  • Brand Protection
4 Key Emerging Threats for Brands in 2021 and How to Tackle Them

Businesses battled on many fronts in 2020, withstanding immense internal and external pressures while safeguarding consumers and brand value.

New threats emerged throughout the year, and many of these are likely to prevail in 2021 and beyond.

This piece details the key emerging threats for brands to look out for in 2021 and sets out how to tackle them, with insights taken from a recent INSYNC roundtable discussion involving leading brands and industry experts.

1. Businesses face increasing budgetary and resource pressures

Roundtable participants noted that they are expecting budget cuts in 2021, with the impact likely to be particularly felt by luxury and retail brands.

There has also been a substantial loss of legally qualified personnel from Brand Protection teams, as they have been needed to fulfil other legal work given the rise in disputes and contract changes.

Businesses will therefore have to ‘do more with less’ and make efficient use of available resources. Making the right decision about where to invest limited resources is key – many businesses are looking to online monitoring and enforcement over the traditional offline model.

Above all else, Brand Protection teams should focus on engaging with key decision makers in the wider business to make the case for the importance of Brand Protection, it’s application beyond the legal function, and the need for increased budget.

2. Shifting from offline to online

Offline investigations and test purchases have become increasingly difficult with the restrictions placed on offices. This issue is compounded by law enforcement and investigators not being available due to lockdowns and other regional restrictions.

In order for law enforcement to be involved, there are threshold limits to seize products and make an impact. Participants also noted that when raids are possible, they are ineffective without verifiable intelligence.

Bad actors have been quick to capitalize on the opportunity posed by consumers moving online. This has meant businesses have had to reconsider their Brand Protection strategy and shift focus from offline to online. Online monitoring and cleaning of key digital channels is now more critical than ever to safeguard legitimate sales.

On a strategic level, brands should a greater focus on their key e-commerce channels and set out clear goals (e.g. keeping Amazon free of fakes). Teams should also consider selective targeting on key channels based upon the selling content, as opposed to just going for the big sellers.

Brands should also look to prevent bad actors from using display adverts and services such as Adwords to divert consumers to their fake websites. Advanced keyword and image matching technology is critical to achieving this.

3. Online infringers are changing behavior

Participants agreed that there are now far more parties involved in brand misuse. Bad actors are now part of complex operations but often appear as isolated units, making enforcement more difficult.

It is critical, therefore, that brands are able to connect the dots between marketplaces, social media, e-commerce websites and other channels. Corsearch’s network intelligence technology allows teams to uncover hidden online and offline connections between infringements to provide full visibility of the scale and complexity of the networks that undermine brands and harm consumers.

Bad actors are also becoming smarter at avoiding detection by Brand Protection teams while still remaining visible to consumers, using encrypted services such as WhatsApp and Telegram.

This is where the services of online investigators become extremely useful – they can embed themselves within groups on messaging apps to gather intelligence on the activity of bad actors, feeding this back to Brand Protection teams to take action.

4. Platforms aren’t playing their part

Participants stated that their teams are tracking any changes to legislation that pertains to platforms so that approved sellers – and not counterfeit sellers – are shown to users.

Some platforms have been slow to keep up with increasing volumes of infringement throughout the course of the pandemic, with delayed response times and terms of use not being strictly enforced.

However, there is still hope that platforms will take more proactive steps to protect consumers. Brands will have a key role to play and will need to be more open to sharing specific intelligence with platforms and other parties so that joint action can be taken and policies can be revised.

Participants also agreed that educational campaigns about counterfeiting issues and other forms of brand misuse, designed for consumers and business partners, are important and can be effective.

See further roundtable insights from INSYNC

The INSYNC Virtual Summit: January 2021 brought together expert speakers and 100s of brands to meet, share and collaborate in an exclusive online event. Attendees learnt first-hand from Brand Protection experts in other leading brands and gained actionable insights to help drive real change in the fight against infringers.

See the key takeaways, recording of the panel session, and further roundtable insights at the link below.