In the vast and competitive world of Amazon, building and nurturing a successful brand requires relentless effort and dedication. Countless hours are invested in crafting a unique identity, establishing credibility, and attracting loyal customers.
However, amidst the immense opportunities lie the lurking threats of genuine competitors, counterfeiters, and copycats. These unscrupulous entities can undermine your hard-earned reputation, steal your sales, and tarnish your brand integrity.
Protecting your brand on Amazon is not merely an option but an absolute necessity to safeguard your success in the fiercely competitive online marketplace. Let’s delve into the crucial importance of brand protection and the proactive measures you can take to defend your brand’s integrity and preserve its profitability.
What is Amazon brand protection?
Amazon brand protection refers to the strategies and actions taken by brand owners to safeguard their brand presence and intellectual property, and prevent unauthorized use or infringement of their brand on the Amazon marketplace.
It encompasses a range of proactive measures through brand registration, advertising, promotions, pricing, content, and defenses aimed at maintaining market share and brand integrity, combating counterfeit products, and ensuring a positive customer experience.
Why does Amazon require brand protection?
Amazon has become a hotbed for online sellers to explore profitable product ideas as well as for counterfeiters looking to exploit popular brands for their own gain.
Amazon, as the largest online marketplace in the world, attracts a vast number of customers and offers a wide range of products from various brands. Unfortunately, this popularity and accessibility also make it an attractive target for counterfeiters and unauthorized sellers. Whereas, your genuine competitors can research your product or niche, source similar products, and sell them at a cheaper price.
Here are some reasons why Amazon sellers should protect their brands:
Vast customer base
Amazon’s expansive customer base makes it an attractive marketplace for competitors and counterfeiters. Fraudulent sellers employ deceptive tactics to sell counterfeit products, often undercutting legitimate brands with lower prices. These activities not only erode customers’ trust but also pose a significant threat to brand owners who strive to maintain brand integrity.
Brand owners are also wary of genuine competitors who may employ various advertising strategies, including bidding on your branded keywords to divert potential customers away from your products. This can dilute your brand’s visibility and impact sales, potentially leading customers to consider alternative options.
Low barrier to entry
Amazon’s marketplace offers relatively low barriers to entry for sellers. While this allows legitimate businesses to enter the market easily, it also makes it easier for counterfeiters and unauthorized sellers to list their products. The lack of stringent verification processes can enable others to copy your products and malicious actors to create fake accounts or exploit existing ones.
Ease of product listing
Amazon offers sellers a convenient and streamlined listing process. However, this ease of listing can be a double-edged sword when it comes to brand protection. While legitimate brand owners can quickly list their products and reach a wide customer base, it also creates an opportunity for counterfeiters and genuine competitors to exploit the system.
Malicious sellers can easily create listings for counterfeit or unauthorized products, leveraging stolen images and descriptions from legitimate brand owners. This not only deceives customers into purchasing inferior or counterfeit items but also threatens brands’ reputations and sales.
While healthy competition is expected in any marketplace, you also need to protect your brand from competitors positioned next to your listing. These competitors will try to take more space on the digital shelf through penetrative pricing, advertising, promotions, and more appealing content listings.
Counterfeiters and unauthorized sellers target popular brands on Amazon because they see an opportunity for significant profits. By selling counterfeit or unauthorized versions of branded products, they can capitalize on the reputation and demand associated with well-known brands without incurring research, development, or marketing costs.
Similarly, genuine competitors can identify your profitable niche and create similar products to undercut your profits and take your market share. While it is not entirely unethical to steal product ideas, profitable niches can quickly get saturated with tons of similar products.
Amazon’s global reach allows counterfeiters and unauthorized sellers to target customers worldwide. They can exploit the platform’s logistics infrastructure to distribute counterfeit products across borders making it even more challenging for brand owners to effectively combat infringement on an international scale.
Competitors can also use your product and content strategy to sell in other marketplace regions. For instance, if your product sells well on amazon.com, your competitor can focus on amazon.ca with the same strategy.
What should you protect your brand from?
Brand owners need to know the diverse tactics employed by cybercriminals and unscrupulous rivals to exploit genuine brands. Understanding the threats you face is crucial to developing effective brand protection strategies.
Here are some key areas to protect yourself from:
1. Advertising risks
Scammers can also attack your brand through Amazon ads, and other paid campaigns. They can use your brand keywords or product names to set up ads. This diverts traffic to counterfeit products and reduces your sales. Moreover, your ad costs may also increase due to these sellers bidding on your brand and product keywords.
2. Losing organic ranking
One critical aspect of brand protection on Amazon is safeguarding your organic ranking. Counterfeit sellers and genuine competitors can take up space on the digital shelf, negatively impacting your organic ranking. If your brand’s visibility and rankings decline, it becomes more challenging for customers to discover your products, leading to a potential loss of sales and market share.
3. Cheap products
In a competitive marketplace, there may be brands or sellers offering similar products at significantly lower prices, aiming to attract price-conscious customers. While price competition is a natural part of the marketplace, excessively low prices can devalue your brand and erode your profit margins. It is essential to position your brand based on its unique value proposition, emphasizing quality, features, customer support, and overall customer experience
Product counterfeiting is where a bad actor plagiarizes your product to generate sales for your brand. This action causes negative brand perceptions among customers due to low-quality knockoffs.
This issue is so rampant that Amazon rolled out its Counterfeit Crimes Unit (CCU) in 2020 to protect brands. The eCommerce giant believes this unit is a huge step towards reducing and eliminating knockoff versions. In fact, CCU helped sue more than 600 counterfeiting criminals, a 300% jump from the previous year. And the titan seized and knocked out 3+ million knockoffs from its systems.
5. Listing hijacking
The attacker may also steal your Amazon Standard Identification Number (ASIN) or Buy Box. Once they succeed, they’ll list their counterfeits. Cybercriminals can also list a different and cheaper item under your listing.
Amazon is working tirelessly to fight listing hijackers. In fact, the company blocked over 2.5 million allegedly suspicious accounts in 2021, stopping attackers from listing counterfeits.
6. Fake reviews
Malicious actors can bombard your product listings with fake negative reviews, damaging your sales and reputation. Alternatively, they may leave many 5-star reviews on your listing to trigger algorithmic flags, potentially harming your visibility and credibility.
7. Content copying
Competitors selling similar items may target your product data, images, and descriptions, copying them to make their own listings appear more legitimate. This can harm your traffic and sales, as customers may be misled into purchasing from the competition.
How to protect your brand on Amazon?
Protecting your brand on Amazon requires a proactive and multi-faceted defense to safeguard your reputation, sales, and customer trust. By implementing the following brand protection strategies and tactics, you can mitigate the risks posed by counterfeiters, unauthorized sellers, and other malicious actors.
1. Register a trademark for your brand
Registering a trademark can involve a significant investment, particularly for businesses just starting out. However, this crucial step protects your brand from illegitimate sellers, rivals, hijackers, and counterfeiters.
Here’s why registering a trademark is essential:
- Safeguard your brand: Registering a trademark offers legal protection for your brand under federal law. It establishes your exclusive rights to the brand name, logo, or other identifying elements associated with your products or services.
- Cement your eCommerce presence: A registered trademark strengthens your eCommerce presence and reputation. It distinguishes your brand from competitors, enhances credibility, and builds trust among customers.
If you’re new to trademark registration and unsure about the process, Amazon Intellectual Property Accelerator can help. This program connects you with reputable intellectual property law firms to guide you through the trademark registration process, ensuring a hassle-free experience.
2. Sign up for the Amazon Brand Registry
Once you have registered a trademark, you become eligible for the Amazon Brand Registry.
This exclusive program, available only to brands with registered trademarks, provides additional tools and resources to protect your brand on Amazon. This valuable program offers a range of benefits and protection layers for brand owners.
Here’s what you can expect:
- Firmer control of product pages: Being part of the Brand Registry provides increased control over your product pages. You can more effectively manage and enhance the content, ensuring accurate representation and a consistent brand experience for customers.
- Easy infringement identification: The Brand Registry simplifies the process of searching for and identifying potential brand infringement. It provides advanced tools and algorithms that help you monitor the marketplace for unauthorized use of your brand or counterfeit products.
- Listing safeguards: By enrolling in the Brand Registry, you add an extra layer of protection to your listings. This helps prevent unauthorized sellers from modifying your product details or hijacking your listings, ensuring accurate and reliable information.
- Access to brand tools: The Brand Registry unlocks various tools and features that can elevate your brand’s presence on Amazon. These include brand dashboards for monitoring and reporting. They also include the ability to create Stores to showcase your brand, Sponsored Brands for advertising campaigns, and A+ Content to enhance product listings.
To sign up for the Amazon Brand Registry, follow these steps:
- Gather crucial information: Ensure you have the necessary information on hand, including your product categories, access to Seller Central, and registration with a valid brand registrar.
- Sign up through Seller Central: Access your Seller Central account and initiate the registration process by providing the required details.
- Verification process: After signing up, you will receive a code via email. Enter this code into your Amazon Seller Central account for verification. Following that, Amazon will review your application. Within a few days to two weeks, you will receive an identifier, indicating that your Brand Registry has been approved.
The best part is that the entire process is free. By signing up for the Amazon Brand Registry, you gain essential tools and protection mechanisms to safeguard your brand’s integrity. This will maximize your presence on the platform.
3. Employ Amazon Transparency
Registered trademark owners can benefit from the Amazon Transparency program designed to combat counterfeit products and ensure genuine products’ authenticity. By employing Amazon Transparency codes, you can enhance brand protection and customer confidence.
Here’s how it works:
- Application of transparency codes: As a brand owner, you will apply unique transparency codes, consisting of a unique alphanumeric sequence, to each individual unit of your product. These codes serve as identification.
- Verification process: Before shipping products to customers, Amazon scans and verifies the transparency codes on each unit. This helps ensure that only genuine products bearing valid codes are delivered to customers.
- Enhanced counterfeit detection: Transparency codes enable Amazon to track and monitor individual units’ movement throughout the supply chain. This enhanced visibility detects and prevents counterfeit product sales and distribution.
- Customer confidence and brand protection: By employing Amazon Transparency, you provide customers with an additional layer of confidence in your product’s authenticity. It protects your brand’s reputation by reducing the risk of counterfeit items.
By leveraging Amazon Transparency, you reinforce your brand’s integrity, protect customers from counterfeit products, and maintain a trusted presence on the platform.
4. Sign up for Amazon Project Zero
To further strengthen your brand protection efforts, signing up for Amazon Project Zero can be highly beneficial. This program empowers brand owners to take direct action against counterfeit listings without relying solely on Amazon’s intervention.
Here’s what you need to know:
- Automation of IP protection: Amazon Project Zero incorporates automation and machine learning to identify and remove counterfeit listings. This streamlines the process and allows you to address counterfeit issues.
- Self-removal of counterfeit products: With Project Zero, you can remove counterfeit products yourself, without navigating complex marketplace procedures. This gives you more control over protecting your brand and ensuring only genuine products are available to customers.
- Product serialization: Amazon Project Zero also offers a product serialization service, enabling you to uniquely identify and track each unit of your products. This helps in identifying and stopping counterfeit goods delivery throughout the supply chain.
To participate in Amazon Project Zero, you must meet certain requirements, including:
- Having a government-registered trademark: You must possess a valid and government-registered trademark for the brand you wish to enroll in Project Zero.
- Being signed up for the Amazon Brand Registry: Prior registration with the Amazon Brand Registry is a prerequisite for joining Project Zero. This ensures your brand is protected and eligible for program benefits.
- Maintain a low acceptance rate of Infringement Reports: Your brand’s acceptance rate of possible infringement reports over the last six months should be at most 90%. This requirement ensures that reported issues are actively addressed.
Registering for Amazon Project Zero allows you to combat counterfeit products proactively and protect your brand’s integrity on the Amazon marketplace. Plus, the program is free to join, except for any costs associated with the product serialization service.
After wiping these tedious (but crucial) steps off your plate, you can strengthen your brand protection layer through eCommerce merchandising defenses.
5. Amazon advertising defense
Taking all legal measures may not be sufficient for competitors and malicious actors to protect your sales. Implementing Amazon advertising defenses is another proactive strategy to defend your brand on Amazon. These campaigns focus on safeguarding your advertising efforts and maintaining a strong presence in search results.
Here are some ad tactics to protect your sales:
- Bid on your brand names: To secure your brand’s visibility, bid on your own brand’s keywords. This ensures that when customers search for your brand or related terms, your products appear prominently in the search results. By bidding on your brand names, you can prevent rival items from taking your Share of Shelf and Share of Voice and diverting traffic away from your listings.
- Utilize different campaign types: Blend various campaign types to maximize brand protection efforts. Experiment with video ads, sponsored brands, Product Attribute Targeting (PAT), and sponsored product campaigns. Each campaign type has its own benefits and can help you reach a broader audience and defend your brand from competitors.
- Upselling and cross-selling: Incorporate upselling and cross-selling tactics into your campaigns. You can use remarketing ads to reach your target audience and sell them complementary products. If you sell shampoo, you can sell hair conditioner to make sure if your customer is looking for one, they get your brand. By offering related products to customers already interested in your brand, you can increase sales and strengthen your brand presence.
- Consider budget allocation: Defensive campaigns can be more expensive than traditional awareness and visibility campaigns. Since brand protection campaigns are designed to defend your brand rather than generate awareness, allocate a budget for brand defense campaigns if you see a lower share of voice. Ensure that you have the necessary budget to run these campaigns effectively.
- Create multiple ad groups: Structure your Sponsored Brands campaigns by creating multiple ad groups that target different variations of your branded keywords. For example, if your brand is “FitZone” and you offer shoes for running, cross-training, and walking, create separate ad groups for each category. This allows you to tailor your ad copy and landing pages to specific customer intents, increasing the relevance and effectiveness of your campaigns.
- Research relevant negative keywords: Conduct thorough keyword research to identify negative keywords that are commonly associated with counterfeit or unauthorized sellers. Include terms like “fake,” “replica,” “counterfeit,” “unauthorized,” and any other variations specific to your industry or brand. Regularly review and update your list of negative keywords to ensure it remains comprehensive and up to date.
- Monitor search term reports: Regularly analyze your search term reports to identify any irrelevant or unwanted search terms that triggered your ads. Add these terms as negative keywords to refine your targeting and prevent your ads from appearing in unrelated searches. For example, if you notice that your ads are showing up for search terms like “cheap FitZone shoes” or “discounted FitZone shoes,” you can add “cheap” and “discounted” as negative keywords.
- Use competitive intelligence tools: Utilize market intelligence tools that provide insights into your competitor’s advertising strategies. These tools can help you identify which competitors are bidding on your branded keywords, how frequently they appear in ad placements, and the effectiveness of their campaigns. This information allows you to make informed decisions and adjust your own advertising strategies accordingly.
- Adjust bidding strategies: If you notice aggressive bidding from competitors on your branded keywords, consider adjusting your bidding strategy. Increase your maximum bids to ensure that your ads appear in top positions, making it harder for competitors to outshine your brand. Additionally, consider implementing bid modifiers based on factors like time of day or device type to optimize your ad spend and maximize your brand’s visibility during peak periods.
6. Amazon promotions defense
Amazon Promotions, such as deals, coupons, and discounts can play a role in protecting your brand on Amazon as well. While they may not directly address the issue of counterfeit or unauthorized sellers, they can help safeguard your brand in the following ways:
- Increase buy box visibility: By offering promotions like deals or coupons, you can increase your chances of winning the Buy Box. When your product is featured in the Buy Box, it enhances the visibility and credibility of your brand. Customers are more likely to trust and choose your listing over others, including potential counterfeit or unauthorized sellers.
- Brand loyalty and trust: Providing promotions to loyal customers fosters a sense of trust and loyalty towards your brand. When customers consistently find good deals or exclusive discounts on your products, they are more likely to choose your brand over alternatives, including counterfeit or unauthorized options.
- Enhanced customer experience: By providing discounts or incentives, you create a positive association with your brand, making customers more likely to remember and choose your products in the future.
7. Branded content defense
Your unique content and brand elements can help customers differentiate between your products and counterfeit ones.
Here is what you can do:
- Clear brand messaging: Well-written and informative content helps communicate your brand’s unique value proposition and key features to customers. By providing accurate and compelling information about your products, you establish a clear brand identity and differentiate yourself from counterfeit or unauthorized sellers. This helps customers recognize and choose your genuine products over others.
- Building trust and credibility: Well-crafted content that highlights the quality, authenticity, and benefits of your products helps build trust and credibility with customers. When customers trust your brand, they are more likely to choose your products and recommend them to others. This helps protect your brand from unauthorized alternatives that may compromise its quality or authenticity.
- Educating customers about counterfeits: Educating customers on how to identify genuine products and avoid counterfeits in your content can protect your brand. By highlighting specific identifiers or features that set your products apart, you empower customers to make informed purchasing decisions and recognize potential counterfeit products, further protecting your brand from unauthorized sellers.
- Highlight Unique Selling Points (USPs): Craft compelling ad copy that emphasizes your brand’s unique selling points. Showcase features like superior quality, durability, design, or any other aspects that set your products apart from the competition. For instance, if your FitZone shoes use patented technology for enhanced comfort, highlight that in your ad copy to attract customers seeking innovative footwear.
- Enhanced search visibility: Well-optimized content using relevant keywords improves your product’s visibility in search results. When customers search for your brand or related keywords, having well-written content increases the chances of your products appearing prominently. This helps in brand protection by ensuring that customers find your authentic products easily, reducing the likelihood of inadvertently purchasing counterfeits.
- Utilizing A+ Content: A+ content allows brand owners to create visually appealing and informative content that showcases their brand story, unique selling points, and additional product details. By leveraging A+ content, you can enhance your brand’s presence, educate customers about your brand values and product authenticity, and differentiate your listings from unauthorized sellers offering inferior alternatives.
8. Pricing defenses
Pricing plays a crucial role in brand protection on Amazon. Here’s how pricing strategies can contribute to brand protection:
- Maintaining brand value perception: Setting competitive and appropriate prices for your products helps maintain the perceived value of your brand. Customers often associate higher prices with quality and authenticity, while suspiciously low prices can raise doubts about product authenticity or quality. By pricing your products in alignment with their value, you reinforce your brand’s reputation and deter customers from considering counterfeit or unauthorized alternatives.
- Creating a price barrier: Counterfeit or unauthorized sellers often rely on offering significantly lower prices to attract customers. By setting competitive pricing that is difficult for unauthorized sellers to match, you create a price barrier that makes it less attractive for customers to consider counterfeit options. This helps protect your brand by reducing the incentive for customers to opt for potentially inferior alternatives.
- Promoting value-added benefits: Pricing strategies can be used to highlight the value-added benefits of your genuine products. Instead of solely competing on price, emphasize features such as superior quality, a warranty, customer support, or additional accessories or services. By showcasing these value-added benefits, you differentiate your products from counterfeit alternatives solely focused on price, enhancing brand protection.
- Monitoring and enforcing Minimum Advertised Price (MAP) policies: Some brands implement Minimum Advertised Price (MAP) policies to maintain pricing consistency across all authorized sellers. MAP policies establish a minimum price at which authorized sellers can advertise the product. By monitoring and enforcing MAP policies, you ensure that your brand’s pricing integrity is maintained, discouraging unauthorized sellers from undercutting prices and diluting your brand’s value.
- Dynamic pricing: Utilizing dynamic pricing strategies and leveraging competitive intelligence tools can help you stay competitive and respond to market fluctuations. By monitoring the pricing strategies of competitors and adjusting your prices accordingly, you can maintain a competitive edge while ensuring that your genuine products remain reasonably priced in comparison to counterfeit or unauthorized alternatives.
Other than the merchandising defenses, there are some other smaller measures you can take to further monitor your brand against competitors and counterfeiters.
9. Use Amazon Fulfillment Network Stock Keeping Unit (FNSKU)
To add an extra layer of protection to your products, consider utilizing Amazon’s Fulfillment Network Stock Keeping Unit (FNSKU) instead of the Universal Product Code (UPC) or the manufacturer’s barcode.
Amazon’s FNSKU is a unique identifier assigned to each product, providing enhanced security and distinguishing your items from others.
Here’s why it is advantageous:
- Unique identification: Unlike the UPC, the FNSKU is specific to your merchandise and cannot be obtained from other sellers of similar products. This uniqueness prevents fraudsters from creating counterfeit listings using your product information.
- Protection against counterfeiters: By using FNSKU, you establish a clear association between your brand and your products on Amazon. This makes it harder for counterfeiters to replicate or manipulate your listings, adding an extra barrier to unauthorized sellers.
- Streamlined fulfillment process: The FNSKU is tied to Amazon’s fulfillment network, making it easier to track and manage your products throughout the fulfillment process. This ensures authentic products directly from Amazon’s fulfillment centers.
Employing the FNSKU instead of the UPC provides you with greater control and security over your brand and products. This reduces the risk of counterfeit activity and enhances customer trust in your offerings.
To use FNSKU for your products, you need to enroll in Amazon’s FBA (Fulfillment by Amazon) program.
10. Turn on Amazon Seller Central’s two-step login
Safeguarding your Seller Central account is paramount to protecting your brand and business on Amazon.
One effective security measure is to enable Amazon’s Two-Step Verification process. This feature adds an additional layer of protection to your account and makes it significantly more challenging for cybercriminals to gain unauthorized access.
Here’s how to activate it:
- Access advanced security settings: Log in to your Amazon Seller Central account and navigate to the “Settings” section. From there, locate and click on “Advanced Security Settings.”
- Enable two-step verification: Within the Advanced Security Settings, you will find the option to enable Two-Step Verification. Follow the instructions to activate this feature on your account.
- Backup phone: During the setup process, you will be prompted to add a backup phone number. This ensures that you have an alternative contact method in case you lose access to your primary phone.
Whenever you log in, the system will require you to provide the verification code sent to your registered phone number. Take a few moments to activate this feature and enjoy enhanced Amazon brand protection.
11. Monitor customer reviews
Some brands get attacked in their reviews section through poor reviews and ratings. It might be malicious actors trying to hurt your brand. Once in a while, you can go through the reviews section to search for terms like “counterfeit” and “fake”. If you catch any excessive or suspicious behavior, you can report them.
12. Insert your brand logo and name into your product
While brands include their logo and branding on the packaging, it might be useful to communicate on your product too. Brands can also change their packaging with something unique like a ribbon or sticker that protects your brand more.
How can Trellis help?
Your brand on Amazon can be well protected if you are proactive. Other than availing of the Amazon programs, you can protect your brand further by integrating the 4Ps into your eCommerce merchandising strategy.
Trellis offers a one-stop shop for merchandising tools that can help you not only grow your brand but protect against competition and counterfeiters. To learn more about how the Trellis eCommerce merchandising platform can help you build your brand, download the eCommerce merchandising manifesto.