The entertainment media industry has changed and is experiencing explosive growth. The U.S. media and entertainment market is projected to grow to $771 Billion by 2019. This represents just one-third of the global industry which is set to reach $2 Trillion this year, with growth rates of over 20%. In the U.S. adults now spend half of their waking life consuming media, squeezing an average of 12 hours, 5 minutes per day of media usage into their waking hours. People no longer distinguish between on-line and off-line media. They are eager to share their online and offline experiences on social media platforms. This is enabled by the many ways we can consume media. The worlds of movies, TV and video games have merged. Mobile devices have only accelerated the rate at which we consume media and are now the preferred method to access the internet, stream content and play a wide variety of games.
However, online threats can quickly undermine the experience for consumers. Virtual and physical threats to brand integrity overlap. Media companies typically focus their brand protection efforts on pirated digital content, but there are a range of other threats that pose just as much danger to a media brand across every form of media. Brand owners can't fully address one without the other.
Various means are used to obtain a person’s credentials and result in account takeover or theft of virtual items. These include phishing, malware, and social engineering attacks that can steal digital goods, including books and movies as well as online gaming currency. Virtual currency can be traded and converted to real-world dollars through mulitple channels. Virtual or physical, theft is theft.
Licensed products associated with a media brand include many different types of merchandise. Counterfeit versions of licensed goods are easily obtained. Cheap reproductions of popular items are readily available online. Iconic symbols associated with the media can quickly become mass produced and attached to items that permeate the market.
There are often gaps between available, authorized merchandize, and items consumers are interested in acquiring. That gap is quickly filled by counterfeiters and fans alike. Monitoring online conversations about these generates valuable business intelligence that brands can benefit from.
Since there are few, if any, barriers to entry, counterfeit or otherwise unauthorized infringing goods are easy to distribute across multiple platforms. There are tens of thousands of websites for t-shirts alone. It’s necessary to conduct global scans for these outlets in order to know how to make the right legitimate goods at the right price, and protect consumers from being misled into believing they are purchasing authentic, licensed products.
These challenges come with a large and diverse fan-base. Fan-made goods are now enabled by 3D printing. Multiple infringing items incorporating your brand’s creative assets are increasingly difficult to detect when advertised using copyrighted images of legitimate goods. These threats to brand integrity create a challenging environment for those consumers wishing to buy an authentic product to navigate. We live in a “Mashup Culture” where brand integrity is diluted by fans whose desire for the experience (of the movie, game or character) is paramount. It is more difficult than ever before to distinguish your brand in a way that makes it stand out from the crowd.
Bottom Line: it’s a delicate balancing act to protect the interests of licensees and the integrity of the brand, while not upsetting loyal customers.
Elements of a Successful Brand Protection Program
There is no cookie-cutter program. A custom strategy with a multi-pronged approach is required, one that covers:
- Visibility across the Internet: There are multiple areas where brand abuse is found. The scale is vast, so technology is required to cover all the bases and automate the scanning, collection and analysis of millions of data points. It’s impossible to monitor all areas with a manual search! Multichannel coverage, detection, and enforcement across a wide range of threat vectors including:
- Squatted Domains / Branded Websites
- Physical Goods sold on Global Marketplaces
- Traffic Diversion from Search Engine Advertising
- Social Media Profiles
- Rogue or Harmful Mobile Apps
- Phishing Emails
- International Capability: Along with visibility across internet channels you need to ensure international coverage. If you are not looking globally you don’t have visibility into all of the potential problems. A multinational, multilingual team giving global visibility puts you in a strong position.
- Education vs. Enforcement: With an enthusiastic fan base, brands must know when a softer approach works better with fans and when to go hard after obvious brand infringers. When it comes to the actions of enthusiastic fans, you need to handle the situation delicately – a misstep could result in a PR disaster. \We recommend an educational component when responding to fans that have infringed, and reduce the chance that additional enforcement action will be needed in the future. Point fans to the policies of the marketplaces they might be selling goods on. Know your options for a ‘soft approach’ that is more effective than threatening legal action.
- Industry Expertise: A comprehensive and effective program needs an experienced team with the right connections in the right places is often required. Special workflows that shift in focus between social media, marketplaces and websites, is effective.
For a complete review of this topic, please click here for a recording of the webinar where Amy and I discuss this topic in more detail.