Google Lawsuit Issues: What Is Brand Siphoning And How Does It Affect Mary Kay Cosmetics?
My company’s co-founder, Tina Rawlins, and I, have a great deal of experience cleaning up the mess Google creates by allowing third parties to advertise on our clients’ trademarks. Today I am going to discuss Brand Siphoning, which is a form of Traffic Diversion, as outlined in our Brand Command methodology.
What is Brand Siphoning?
Angie McCloskey at MediaPost’s Performance Insider touched on this issue last month: “I am surprised time and time again when I search in Google and see that there are many large brands and advertisers who allow — and, more important, pay — their affiliates to leverage their brand name through paid search tactics.
They are unknowingly allowing this to happen, or are doing this because it is a no-risk media proposition to drive new customers on a performance model by their affiliates. Several years ago this may not have been a big deal, because paid search was not a mainstream “shopping” channel for consumers, but today, the majority of consumers use paid search as their preferred channel to begin their online shopping experiences.”
Biznology Blogger, Mike Moran, chimes in on Angie’s statement: “Certainly Angie has a point. If you’ve spent years building your brand, why would you want to cut affiliate marketers in on the sale when your customers already search for branded keywords?”
Angie and Mike make excellent points. In the context of search engine marketing, affiliate programs should only be utilzed by companys in two scenarios:
1. Affiliate programs are ideal for new or unknown brands. Good luck finding a lot of successful affiliates wanting to promote you, though.
2. Affiliate programs may be an option for popular brands if their search engine marketing only appears on non-branded (non-trademarked) keyword searches, and their messaging is tightly controlled by the brand to ensure consistency (the opposite of confusion), compliance, and ethics.
Aside from affiliate marketers, there may be additional groups of Brand Siphoners to look out for as a brand marketing practitioner:
1. Independent Representatives (direct selling companies like Avon and Herbalife)
The goal of these Brand Siphoners is to harvest the low-hanging fruit for effortless profit. Everytime I share research with the leadership of a new corporate client, the light bulbs turn on causing an array of responses from anger to astonishment. The depth of Brand Siphoning runs deep into branded keyword variations (trademarked phrases) presenting all types of confusion and misinformation.
It is the responsibility of the brand’s leadership to take back their brand back and engage consumers directly, before it suffers from Brand Erosion.
Another thing to point out here is Brand Dilution. The lesser the perceived quality of the brand marketing extension, vis a vis ”partners” and third parties, the more probable it is that the brand image deteriorates. When evaluating brand marketing extensions, the perceived quality of the brand tends to be examined.
A great example of how this dilutes and degrades a brand’s quality is the screenshot below displaying the results of a branded search for Mary Kay Cosmetics.
It is important for me to point out that Mary Kay’s leadership does not utilize Google’s current trademark policy which would block the use of the Mary Kay trademark by unauthorized parties in the titles and copy of paid search ads.
By Mary Kay allowing independent representatives to advertise on the search engines for branded keywords (trademarks) they are creating a vacuum of confusion and competition. These independent reps feel the need to one-up the other, which leads to inconsistent messaging, deceptive claims, and shady guarantees.
The first paid ad on the screenshot sells the Mary Kay Revitalizing Mask 2 for $14.00, and the second ad sells it for $10.00. This leaves potential customers thinking, “this is confusing, am I being scammed?” Do I need to even comment on the other ads here?
When the leadership of Mary Kay digests a fresh perspective, they will take back their precious brand, engage consumers directly, and assign direct retail sales and leads to independent representatives participating in a paid lead program, easily created and managed by corporate, garnering positive ROI. This is a process our company has been very successful at executing.
By doing this, Mary Kay would accomplish four things:
1. Control Brand Messaging, dilution
2. Ensure compliance
3. Create an even playing field for independent representatives who tell prospects about Mary Kay, only to have the prospect research Mary Kay online and buy from another representative
4. Create a new profit center by selling highly targeted prospects to highly motivated independent representatives
This brings me back to the Google Lawsuit. Once Mary Kay has implemeted Google’s current trademark policy, they will only have to deal with A) Monitoring their trademarks to send out Cease & Desist letters to unauthorized advertisers, B) Monitor their trademarks to catch Google allowing Ads using a Mary Kay trademark (a weekly occurrence), and, C) Continue paying ridiculous pay-per-click fees–that is, until Google loses a trademark infringement lawsuit.
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