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Brandjacking and sponsored search

Posted by Michael Bloch in web marketing (Saturday September 13, 2008 )

Tried running a search on your company name lately? Check out the sponsored results, you might be the target of brandjacking.

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery they say, but in business it can cost you dearly.

Brandjacking is where a competitor leverages the recognition of your own brand (or site) name to their own advantage. For example, a couple of months back someone thought they’d be clever and bid on the keywords “Taming the Beast”, with a sponsored search ad having a title of the same name, but hawking their own web marketing wares.

It might seem like a clever thing to do, but try this with a registered trademark of a big company who has a team of attorneys on retainer and watch what happens :). As an example, run a search on Louis Vuitton on Google and count how many Adwords ads you see – it will likely be 0. LV has been the victim of counterfeiting and brandjacking so much, they have an entire legal department section dedicated to stomping on this kind of thing.

Even with smaller operations, what can occur is the site owner can become so incensed that they suggest to their subscriber list that everyone clicks on brandjacking ad every day; racking up a huge Adwords bill for the perpetrator. Of course, I wouldn’t do that myself as I’m such a nice guy… or would I?

Anyhoo, brandjacking is a huge problem as it diverts people who want specifically want to know about your company or brand or to buy your products – it’s somewhat akin to hiding in the alley next to a watch store and saying to passers-by; “pssst, wanna buy a cheap watch?”

If you find yourself the victim of a brandjacking attempt in sponsored search listings; depending upon the circumstances you can appeal to the search engine; particularly if it’s a trademark infringement – they may pull the ad and smack the advertiser on the wrist. In any of these sorts of situations though, I always find it best to kick off with an “ahem” note to the parties involved to let them know they’ve been busted – quite often they’ll stop the practice and scurry back to their holes.

Friends don’t let friends do brandjacking ;).


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