Get Your Online House in Order! DMA Keynote Panelists Give Insight on Online Brand Protection
June 22, 2007 — How can marketers protect their brands online? A keynote panel of online experts discussed this issue on Thursday morning during DM Days New York Conference & Expo at the Jacob K. Javits Center in New York City.
Lou Mastria, NextAction’s vice president and chief privacy officer, led the panel, which included Patti Freeman Evans, senior analyst, retail industry at Jupiter Research; Ben Isaacson, privacy and compliance leader, CIPP for Experian, Cheetah Mail, and the Antiphishing Working Group; Jim Nail, chief strategy and marketing officer at Cymfony; and Brian Zwit, executive director on the standards and practices team of consumer advocacy and privacy at AOL.
Why should marketers care about protecting their brands online? To begin with, Mastria pointed out that an estimated $2 billion in e-commerce sales were lost in 2006 due to security fears. However, positive security efforts have produced some good news as well. For example, Mastria cited the fact that National Geographic recently experienced an increase of 6.8 percent after it began implementing a Hacker Safe tool on its Web site.
What can marketers do to combat online threats? Freeman-Evans said that marketers should start by managing their brands for legitimate customers by making them aware of the security steps they have implemented. “We need to be much clearer with policy messaging, including return policies,” she said.
In addition, Freeman-Evans suggested that marketers display security logos such as Hacker Safe throughout their Web site, particularly on homepages, key decision-point pages, and all over the shopping cart. “That gives you credit for what you are doing.”
The Importance of Brand Protection
From Isaacson’s perspective, protecting domains should be of paramount concern to marketers. “What we’ve heard a lot about is how to do this by email. But now we see it’s important to do online as well.”
Marketers, explained Isaacson, must pay close attention to the integrity of the domain name. “Your URL is everywhere. You need to protect your URL wherever you go.” Isaacson further advised attendees to email from the same domain name that they use elsewhere. “It’s all about your domain name and how you communicate your brand online,” he said.
Isaacson also encouraged marketers to go into depth with vendors to ensure that security and technology are in place. “Look at it upfront rather than later on. Spend time with each vendor and make sure authentication and tracking are in place.”
Phishing Grows Up
Although phishing may have started out with “a few kids playing in their basement,” Mastria explained that phishers today have grown up to become much more serious and sophisticated. “Phishing scams are now run by established criminal elements who are entirely focused on ripping you away from your company.”
To illustrate the threat posed by sophisticated phishing attempts, Zwit showed an email that claimed to originate from Wells Fargo. It linked the recipient to a scam site, nearly indistinguishable from the real Wells Fargo site. The fraudulent site asked for passwords and other data that could be used to commit identity fraud. “The only way to tell the difference between the scam and the genuine sites is to look at the address at the top of the browser, which nobody does,” Zwit said.
Another dangerous trend is to direct phishing attacks at company employees, Zwit explained. Attempting to get employees’ user IDs and passwords in order to gain access to a company’s system is a particular insidious practice, especially if fraudsters manage to seize customer lists. This becomes a significant bottom-line risk, he cautioned.
Nail explained that the blogosphere is another important area affecting online brands — an avenue that can be used for both positive and negative purposes.
On the positive side, blogs can provide marketers with meaningful information about their brands. “We aggregate content from blogs and social networking sites,” said Nail. “We analyze it, and we can tell you what people are saying about your brands, and competitive brands. You need a tool like this so you have a finger on the pulse of what’s going on there.”
Although there are some malicious bloggers whose aim is to damage a brand, Nail pointed out that even extremely negative comments can be sincere attempts to get a company to improve its service. “It’s hard to see criticism, but if you can take a step back, and look at what is really constructive criticism, even if it’s in nasty language, it can help you serve customers’ needs better.”
Mastria concluded by recommending that attendees make use of resources such as the email authentication tools offered by DMA at http://www.the-dma.org/emailauthentication, and business and consumer education pieces offered by the FTC, at www.ftc.gov.
# # #
back to top