Trust No One

The online world can be a rough place. Apart from the loathsome pop-ups and evil spam most consumers are familiar with, there’s mouse-trapping and page-jacking and spawning. Oh my.

These nefarious activities (and many more) are described in shocking detail in Brian Murray’s excellent new book Defending The Brand. As an expert in online security, Murray is all too familiar with the ugly things that happen on the Internet. Even more importantly though, he offers up solutions to these problems.

Rather than just offer a general discussion of online illegalities, Defending The Brand focuses on how companies and their brands are at risk. In a section aptly dubbed “Digital Brand Abuse,” we read about such things as porn and cybersquatting. Many companies who think naked pictures are just another part of free speech on the Net may be surprised to find their brands are turning up alongside smutty content.

No respectable business wants to be associated with online sleaze. As Murray wisely counsels, we must be ever vigilant. Simply relying on a consumer’s good sense to realize Brand A has nothing to do with Porn Site X is foolhardy, to say the least. Your average consumer may have good intentions; the online demimonde is far less scrupulous.

The answer is surveillance. If companies wish to protect and nurture their valued brands, they must keep an eagle eye on in the Web. Of course, merely identifying wrongdoers is only the first step. Lawyers must be unleashed.

One may come away from Defending The Brand with the belief an online presence is almost too risky. The costs of monitoring and prosecution can be high. But again, Murray counsels the reader not to get carried away. It may be satisfying to send harsh letters and threaten lawsuits, but often the best way to win is by beating them at their own game.

Take online piracy. For some time, we’ve endured the sniveling of the music industry as it belligerently threatens legal action and intimidates teenage file swappers. Similar whining was heard from the TV and movie industries when the VHS tape was invented, yet they now rely on video as a crucial revenue stream. Apparently ignorant of history and devoid of common sense, music moguls have succeeded at little more than generating headlines.

Rather than engaging in a futile attempt to suppress technology, the music business should try to work with consumers. Murray writes, “The most sustainable solutions include the creation of favorable alternatives to piracy by making legitimate distribution channels more convenient.” Bingo! Imagine how much more money the music industry would have made by now had it spent some of its legal budget supporting and developing pay-per-song download sites like iTunes.

Overall, Defending The Brand is an extremely useful book that should be on the shelf of every marketing manager. All the good that comes with an online presence can quickly evaporate when marketers get complacent or blasi. By understanding the tricks of the trade Murray so ably describes, companies will learn to stay alert.

And it’s never too late to litigate.

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