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Brand Abuse White Paper

Online Brand Abuse in Australia: Is your brand under threat?

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Online Reputational Risk Monitoring

Companies are quickly realizing the greatest potential risk to brands and reputation is ‘online’. Issues can turn viral in hours. Web IP’s Online Reputational Risk Monitoring platform quickly identifies potential brand damaging content before it gets out of control. Using state of the art technology, we can pin point key threats and work with brands to swiftly address them.

Rapid Response Services

Once brand damaging content has been identified, Web IP’s rapid response service can be mobilised to quickly and efficiently address issues and protect against further damage. Our proven action plans and protocols will give your business the best chance of addressing an online incident and controlling the exposure.

Domain Name Portfolio Management

Web IP’s corporate domain name management services mitigate against the risk of domain names expiring or third parties registering your domain names. Your dedicated account manager will work with you to ensure that you have the best domain name strategy for your business and industry.

Amazon recently unveiled a new video streaming hardware, Fire TV that lets consumers watch Amazon’s extensive video library as well as play a wide array of games on their television sets. Amazon’s new service unfortunately shares a name with a porn streaming site named Fyre TV, which also owns the domain firetv.com.

Although both companies are essentially doing the same thing, video streaming – one is probably a little more risqué then some Amazon customers would be used to. As they say, no press is bad press.

Back in 2009 the Denver Nuggets, a successful NBA team/franchise, went on an all-out assault to challenge a 3rd parties right to register the domain name, denvernuggets.com.

They were ultimately successful in this challenge’ However, despite this fight to win their namesake domain name, they rather unfortunately forgot to renew it… letting it lapse and go offline.

For the period that it expired, it pointed to an expired domain parked page including ads for Denver Nuggets tickets. The NBA also never transferred the domain name to the registrar it uses to manage its domain names.

This unfortunately seems to be a case of poor domain name management. The likely scenario is that no one in the organisation took responsibility for transferring the domain name into their consolidated account.

The best way to avoid this situation is to get your domain name management organisation involved at some point in the process, tasking them with the job of consolidating the domain name into your account.

About Web IP

Web IP manage and protect the domain name rights of some of the largest brands in Australia and can assist with domain name acquistions, recoveries or emergencies.

The big day has finally come… months of planning, internal / external meetings, collaborative working groups;  not to mention the countless hours designing your brand, fiddling with your message, creating your new website and collateral that represents the evolution, and next chapter of your marque (not to mention career).

The ensuing stages of the product launch are pretty straight forward:

1. Publish and launch your website
2. Media Release / PR Announcement
3. Distribute the EMD
4. Product launch party / event
5. Send your customers and prospects your new and shiny collateral
6. Green light the Radio/Print or Television commercials
7. Green light the online spend
8. Go Go Go
9. Apply for the Australian Business Awards for Marketing Excellence
10. Job promotion

It is normally somewhere around point eight that your boss pops out to let you now he has been getting calls that people are unable to access the site.

You can access the site? So what is the problem?

The only explanation is that your IT team have done something to muck it up… The guns come out of the holster… You call your IT Manager and sternly ask him why people outside of the business can’t access the site.

He asks for a copy of the collateral… takes one look, shakes his head, and says:

“We don’t own this domain name in the .com…”

“We own the .com.au”

It is here that you realize that all of your marketing material, television, print, online advertsiment (that are all live) advertise the .com, which is infact a parked domain name with paid ads promoting funeral caskets and funeral apparel (real example used).

The next sentence that follows is generally not suitable for blogging, but needless to say it starts with an expletive and ends with an expletive.

Why does this happen?

This scenario is a particular problem for countries that primarily use their country code top level domain name (ccTLD) over the global top level domain name (gTLD) .com, for example Australia (.com.au), Canada (.ca), the United Kingdom (.co.uk), New Zealand (.co.nz) etc.

A common complaint on the internet is that it is near impossible to find a decent .com. 

Domainers and domain speculators seem to have hoarded all of the good domain names in an attempt to flip them (some say extort) for large sums of money. It is perfectly legal, albeit very frustrating for brand owners.

The latest statistics for domain name usage quoted in the Verisign Domain Brief for June 2009 states that of the 92 million COM and NET domain names, 24% of these domains have one page websites, which indicates that near 20 Million domain names could be held in speculation by domainers.

As a result of the lack of availability of .com domain names, marketeers will register their local domain name, e.g brand.com.au, but due to a lack of availability often choose not to register the associated .com.

As a product launch can be a 12 – 24 month project from conceptualisation to launch (domain names are usually registered very early in the process), it is easy to forget what top level domain names have or haven’t been registered… particularly given if the marketeer has inherited the project.

How common is this?

Very common… please read on…

What to do in an Emergency

We (Web IP) have assisted organisations in similar situations, countless times.  It occurs much more then you may think.

The key elements to resolution are that you need to act quickly, make contact with the current domain name registrant, negotiate a deal to either rent or buy the domain name and re-direct or re-delegate.

Make contact

Making contact with a domain name registrant can be as simple as going to a whois database.  A whois database holds information of the domain name registrant.  By visiting a whois site, such as www.who.is or www.whois.sc, you can find information on who the domain name registrant is, including their name, address, phone, email etc.

Sometimes the domain name registrant will hide behind a privacy wall, which means that you cannot see their details in the whois.  In this situation, visit the privacy provider and they will normally provide information on how to contact the domain name registrant.

Rent or Buy the domain name

Assuming that the domain name is not being used legitimately (you still have options here), there are two outcomes that you can achieve:

1. Buy. Purchase the domain name of the current registrant.  A few tips to note:

a. try to phone instead of email – it shows that you are serious and is much more personal than an email,

b. if you do have to email, don’t use your corporate email account (use a gmail or yahoo account) – if they see that you are a big corporate the price will go up,

c. don’t give any hint of the current situation – if they see that you are desperate, the price will go up,

d. be nice and courteous and clearly spell out your proposal (it is best to make an initial offer – it will speed up the process and will let them know that you are serious).  Also,

e. don’t low ball – they will either not respond to a low ball offer, or will take their time coming back to you.

2. Rent. If the price they are asking is too high, consider renting the domain name for the period of the campaign, or at least until you get the next batch of collateral out there with the correct domain name.  In the renting scenario you normally pay a monthly fee, with the option to extend the lease or purchase.  This can be a much cheaper option.

Re-direct vs Re-delegate

As soon as you have purchased the domain name, re-direct before you re-delegate.  If you re-delegate first you could be waiting for up to 48 hours for the website to propogate.

You will need the seller to cooperate here, but it should be pretty easy. Simply ask them to re-direct the domain name to your active website.

If you need to redirect www.yourbrand.com/abc to www.yourbrand.com.au/abc this is a little more complicated and you will need to set up hosting on the .com and run a re-direct through your .htaccess.  The seller will need to re-delegate the domain name to the new host.  Best to get your IT team involved at this point. Sub-domains (abc.yourbrand.com) are a littler easier to re-direct, but again best to involve your IT team… Just make sure that it is not a Friday afternoon…

In a renting scenario, it is important that you don’t actually use the domain name for your main site; instead just re-direct it to the active website.  You don’t want your customers familiarizing themselves with the domain name that you don’t own… You could also create an intermediate page that says “Redirecting you to brand.com.au” that quickly transitions to the active website.  This will not affect user experience if it is done properly.

In Summary

This can be a stressful situation, but if you pick it up early you can minimize damage with swift and deliberate action, as described above.

The other key message to relay here is that whenever you register a brand always try to ensure that you can register both the local domain name with the .com… even if it sometimes means having to pay a little more than you would like.

It will save a lot of pain down the track.

About Web IP

Web IP manage and protect the domain name rights of some of the largest brands in Australia and can assist with domain name acquistions, recoveries or emergencies.

Donuts is the largest organisation to participate in the new generic top level domain name (gTLD) program submitting applications for 307 applications. Companies can block exact matches of trademarks, and domains that include the exact match of the trademark along with other terms through a new program called the Donuts Protected Marks List (DPML).

The DPML listings will be available for either 5 or 10 years and pricing per domain name is around 3% – 5% of the normal registration fee (accross all donuts spaces).

New domain names spaces Donuts applied for, include:


Web IP recently sponsored the 12th Anti-Counterfeiting & Brand Protection Summit – San Francisco, 27 – 29 Jan 2014.

A cross-industry event, with over 150 participants attending, including Brand Protection leaders, Trademark Counsel, IP Counsel, Investigators, from some of the World’s leading organisations (Microsoft, Apple, Boeing etc).

These leading experts came together for three days to discuss strategies and technologies to address brand abuse and cripple counterfeit networks by implementing holistic brand protection and anti-counterfeiting strategies and partnering with law enforcement and digital agencies around the world.

Some of the critical themes and topics discussed included:

- How to develop an all-encompassing strategy in order to deal with brand attacks threatening businesses, globally

- Examining methods to reduce unlawful grey market activities with a focus on proactive remedies that businesses can take to help mitigate

- Investigating the real issues facing companies doing business in China.

- Examining how social media & viral marketing can be part of the solution to brand protection strategies.

Web IP was able to showcase our Reputational Risk Management Solutions. We provided all attending delegates with real-time monitoring results on their core brands across not just social media, but ALL online content sources. The feedback we received on our monitoring technology was terrific.

After showcasing the product to the Microsoft General Counsel, we were told that they (Microsoft) have similar technology, but nowhere near as advanced as our platform. We are also in discussions with Boeing, Shimano and several other major global brands about implementing our solution into their business.

We were very encouraged by the engagement and feedback, and the opportunities that came from this event, and look forward to participating more broadly in the brand protection community in the United Stated.

A big congratulation to Andrew Norman, Fiona Andrewartha and the Monash University team who have worked tireless to bring .monash to life.

Monash University is the first global organisation to delegate a brand-name TLD through the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN).

Web IP has participated, in a limited capacity, in the coordination of .monash as its official Registrar.  ARI Services is the official Registry Operator.

It was a big effort by the Monash University team, which included many late nights, lots of meticulous planning and extensive internal and external collaboration meetings.

We wish them all of the best with the impending launch.

DotMonash is here!

The first new domain name spaces have arrived.

Finally after two and a half years we will see 8 new domain name space launch by the end of the month.

The new spaces being launched include:

New Domain Space Targeting
.kiwi Targeting organisations trading in NZ
.guru Targeting organisations who want to be positioned as experts in their field
.bike Targeting bike companies and enthusiasts
.clothing Targeting the textile Industry and retailers
.holdings Targeting holding companies
.singles Targeting Dating Service businesses
.ventures Targeting business venture arrangements
.plumbing Targeting Plumbers and Associations

What it means for Web IP clients

Obviously, a lot of these domain name spaces are very niche and will not be relevant to many of our clients business.

From our perspective .guru is the pick of this first batch as it allows an organisation to position themselves as experts in their field, and could represent a fun marketing campaign.


The Sunrise period will commence on 26 November 2013 and will close on 24 January 2014. Only clients who have participated in the Trademark Clearinghouse can participate in the sunrise period.

TMCH participants will be notified if any 3rd party attempts to register your brand during general availability.

If you haven’t registered your Trademarks in the TMCH, please contact your Account Manager.

New Domain Name Space Planning

As we will see 1000 new domain name spaces start to roll out, from now, it is important that our clients have a plan of attack.

• Do you know what new domain name spaces are being launched?

• What opportunities for your business exist?

• What risks are there for your brands?

• When and how to apply for new domain name spaces?

Web IP can conduct a strategy consult to ensure that your business is organised and prepared for the pending launches. Contact your account manager to organise.

Samsung, Korea, has been fined $353,586 after the tech giant was found guilty of paying bloggers to attack rival, HTC.

Samsung, through a division called Opentide, hired students to blog articles attacking HTC and recommending Samsung smartphones.

Employees were also used, concealing their status to post fake evaluations about HTC’s smartphones.

The Korean fair trading commissioner stated:

The deceitful behaviour has negative impacts on market order and violated the fair trade law.”

This is the first case of its kind, where a huge household name has been found guilty of concealing their genuine status while attacking a rival. This has opened up a plethora of questions about online competitive behaviour, and has companies very closely scrutinising online reviews relating to their brand and products.

Unethical competitive behaviour is a “fact online” with the anonymity social media brings. Understanding what the market is saying, and being able to decipher this behaviour is a tricky business. However, the first step is to monitor your brand online through some sort of online brand monitoring solution.

If you suspect unfair competitive behaviour online, Web IP can provide a free online health assessment on your brand. Contact us to find our how.


What’s making news this week is yet another example of employees misusing social media; however, this time it is not just any employee; the person in the middle of this social media scandal is a senior White House security advisor who was running a popular Washington twitter page that regularly insulted some of the most powerful men and women in America.


‘@natsecwonk’: was the Twitter account, ran by Jofi Joseph a director in the non-proliferation section of the National Security Staff at the White House.

Some of the attacks included:

-  Leaking of internal information about the Obama administration.
-  Bashing his President Obama and his most senior advisor.
-  Calling former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, and her family, ‘White Trash’
-  Twitter rants against former National Security Advisor Tom Donilon (his boss).
-  Twitter rants against Secretary of State John Kerry, and many others.
-  At times, Joseph even used the page to take shots at the Jewish community.

Joseph was able to get away with these Tweets for over 2 years.   This has not only caused President Obama considerable embarrassment, but some commentators have  suggested that it may have weakened his ground on policy deals where the people across the table were the targets of his employees rants.

Social Media is a wonderful tool when used for good, but when staff use it for mischievous purposes it can have embarrassing and sometimes devastating consequences.  Having basic monitoring tools and staff policies that are regularly updated can avoid a lot of trouble.

Let’s have a look at other examples where employees have caused havoc (and brand damage) across the social media airwaves.


@PriceChopper: Aggressive Response to twitter complaint

A supermarket chain Price Chopper customer service employee took to Twitter to dispute a customer complaint.  The customer made the following complaint:

“Every time I go into a @PriceChoppNY I realize why the are not @Wegmans.  Tonight – bare produce areas”

Now not only did the Price Chopper representative defend their brand, they went one step further by contacting the customer’s employer, and asked that they be disciplined.  The dispute went viral when a influential friend of the customer blogged about it.

“Price Chopper Attacks Customer’s Job Over Negative Tweet”

Lesson: Brand Monitoring is a great tool for discovering negative commentary about your brand, but when staff have not been trained to respond to negative tweets, the situation could explode into a PR nightmare.


@honda: Employees pretending to be enthusiastic fans

So Honda launches a Facebook page to promote their new Accord Crosstour design.  While many respondents were critical about the new design, one fan seemed to dig it. “interesting design, I would get this car in a heartbeat”.

Standing out as the lone fan in a crowd of critics – other fans did their research and discovered that he (the lone fan) was in fact the Manager of Product Planning at Honda.

Mainstream media picked up the story and Honda had to apologize the next day, but the damage had been done.

Lesson: Have clear employee social media guidelines, and monitor who is saying what about your brand.  Web IP have had to advise several brands that their employees are defending their brand in situations where they have attracted negative commentary.  Although it is great having loyal employees, they should not get involved in social media issues, unless authorised.


@Dominos Employees post youtube video of them playing with food

A bored team of Dominos employees decided to film themselves performing unsanitary acts with food and post it on Youtube.  The number of hits reached hundreds of thousands, and the national media picked up the story.

Dominos did not respond, and just fired the employees.  The lack of response gave consumers the impression that they did not care, but the reality was that they had no tools to track the extent of damage or where the conversations were happening.

Lessons: Have clear social media policies and also invest in real time brand monitoring to track conversations and potentially brand damaging posts.


@Ryanair responds to blogger calling him an idiot and a liar

A blogger found a glitch on the RyanAir website and blogged about it.  A Ryanair staff member found the blog and responded calling him an idiot and a liar.  This attracted a lot of online attention.  To make matters worse, the company released this statement:

“Ryanair can confirm that RyanAir staff member did engage in a blog discussion.  It is Rynair policy not to waste time and energy in corresponding with idiot bloggers and Ryanair can confirm that it won’t be happening again.  Lunatic bloggers can have the blogosphere all to themselves as our people are far too busy driving down the cost of air travel”

This was picked up by mainstream media, and undoubtedly drove down their reputation, and ultimately their bottom line.    There was obviously no social media strategy in place, and staff were allowed to write what they wanted.

Lesson: Do exactly the opposite of Ryan Air.  1. Don’t let staff rant on social media.  2.  never be rude to online critics 3. Have clear social media guidelines 4. be professional at all times, as if the critic was right in front of you.


The big take away here is that Social Media is a communication tool that needs to be controlled to the best of a brands ability.  You wouldn’t let any staff member represent the brand in media interviews, and the same policy needs to be applied in the social media realm.  Ensure that you develop robust social media policies, train staff on these policies and install brand monitoring devices to track conversation involving your brand.

Don’t be the next news story.


Online brand abuse is one of those tricky subjects that many companies struggle to tackle and some even ignore.

A complaint or a verbal (aka keyboard) attack online has the power to be read by hundreds, even thousands, of potential customers. So when you encounter online brand abuse what do you do?

This article looks at tactics to deal with online brand abuse and discusses ways to mitigate damage once it has been discovered.

The most common forms of brand abuse we see on a daily basis include:

• Online complaints on forums.
• Online complaints through official social media pages
• Online complaints on personal social media pages and handles.
• Dedicated hate sites.
• Inappropriate staff behaviour online.
• Competitor bad mouthing.

Any one of these types of brand abuse have the power to irreparably damage online reputations, scare away customers and hurt the bottom line. Whether the content is merited or not, once it is online it stays there, so it is important that action is taken swiftly to control any fall out.

Monitor Your Brand Online

The first step is to identify instances of brand abuse. You can either do this by yourself, but we don’t recommend it as you will never have time, resources or ability to capture a large enough sample.

We recommend engaging a company that has dedicated brand monitoring software, ideally a company that provides you with regular alerts to flagged, potentially contentious issues. Many companies will provide brand monitoring on a weekly or monthly basis.

Not only will a good brand protection company find instances of brand abuse, they will also prioritise them based on the biggest threat to the business (based on type of threat, number of views, exposure etc).

Look for a company that offers you a free brand health assessment. They will compile a report that may uncover some surprising results.

Understand and Respond Appropriately

Before responding, take the time to understand the nature of the complaint or abuse and respond accordingly.

Many commentators say that the first step is to “apologise’, but this is not necessary always practical or reasonable. Of course there will be customer service issues that warrant an apology, but before you start admitting guilt, make an effort to understand the issue first and consider ways to solve the complainants’ problem. Most complainants would prefer solution to an apology.

It is important to ignore the abuse or vitriol diatribe when responding, and set the tone with a polite and active tone, for example:

“We understand your issue, and I (the appropriate person) am working with the area invoked to look into this for you, I will PM you within 24 hours”.

Naturally, make sure you do what you commit to, or the abuse will just get worse.

Removal of Brand Abuse

So how do we do this?

Most people don’t realise this, but when visceral brand abuse occurs on sites like Facebook or Twitter – you can apply to have the comment(s) removed.

Anti-social behaviour should not be accepted, and there are clear policy guidelines that govern acceptable and unacceptable behaviour.

There are other options such as using a lawyer (expensive, not necessarily effective) and contacting the person directly and requesting that they remove the comment.

If you are decide to contact the brand abuser, acknowledge that they have an issue, but also be firm about their violations of either your IP, legal rights, or the relevant forum policy or guidelines.

Bury It with SEO

We often see hate pages set up, and in some cases they can start to rank in Google. This is a code red for brands, as Google is a source of infinite traffic and if a website starts ranking that contains brand abuse, consumers could stay clear of your brand. Just read Dell’s nightmare on this issue.

Clever SEO tactics can bury brand abuse, such as media releases (distribute it out through a variety of Press Release Distribution services who will in turn publish and rank), blogs etc.

Once the page with brand abuse is buried, the damage is contained as no one really searches beyond page one.

We hope that found this blog useful, please share if you have and note that online reputation protection is an area that Web IP specialize in.

We would be happy to provide a complimentary online health report to any organisation interested in finding out more about the service.

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