Protect your Brand on Amazon
Amazon’s self-proclaimed “obsession with customers” ensures that its marketplace is as convenient for the customers as possible. This enables Amazon’s ever-increasing growth. One important aspect of streamlining the process is to provide the purchaser with both relevant and trustworthy results. The trustworthiness, especially, had been undermined in the past years by a great number of sellers engaging in malpractices such as brand counterfeiting and unauthorized reselling. This is where brand protection comes into play.
How to protect your brand with brand gating
Amazon offers brand gating to manufacturers and authorized resellers to retain control over their brands and labels. Brand gating is a process in which third-party sellers wishing to sell a branded product need to apply and fulfil certain criteria set up by Amazon. This prevents counterfeiters and unauthorized resellers from continuing to sell your products. By asking Amazon to have your brand gated, you protect your brand not only from the potential loss of sales due to third parties leeching them off your share but also from the loss of brand trust thanks to sub-par counterfeits reaching your customers.
The history of brand gating goes back to 2016 when the shoe producer Birkenstock quit selling through Amazon exactly because of the rising concerns about the spread of counterfeit selling in the US marketplace. However, reselling is essential to Amazon’s success. In Q1 2019, Amazon stated that third-party selling is growing faster than first-party selling. To keep selling brands that do not approve of having their products listed directly through Amazon, the retail giant implemented controversial measures such as purchasing stock from authorised third parties to resell the products globally. This was met with contempt from Birkenstock’s CEO.
Brand gating, on the other hand, is a welcome addition to Amazon’s growing number of seller-oriented instruments fighting misuse by bad actors.
What brand gating means for third-party sellers
In order to sell brand-gated products, third-party sellers must prepare to overcome various measures Amazon put in place to prevent violations. As an authorised reseller, you can expect to:
- Be checked on your past performance
- Have to fulfil specific qualification requirements
- Pay fees
For instance, Amazon can ask you to provide recent invoices for purchases from manufacturers or letters stating their consent to reselling their branded products. The fees for each brand you want to sell can go up to thousands of dollars.
Best practice: It is not recommended to try going around the restrictions and selling the items as used or as collectables. By not adhering to the process, you risk getting your seller account terminated.
You can request selling brand-gated products at the bottom of the right bar on a product detail page.
How to get your brand gated as a manufacturer?
By following a few simple steps, you can protect your brand on Amazon:
- Register your brand as a trademark in the country where you wish to sell.
- Enrol in the Amazon brand registry.
- Contact Amazon and deliver a list of your most important and/or most counterfeited ASINs (Amazon Standard Identification Numbers) to Amazon
- Let Amazon know of resellers you authorized to sell your brand
Register your trademark
You can register a trademark through your local intellectual property office, such as the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) in the USA. Amazon requires either a text-based mark or an image-based mark with words, letters, or numbers. Note that registering trademarks typically incur fees.
Enrol in the Amazon brand registry
Now that you have your trademark registered, get started with Amazon Brand Registry. Providing Amazon with information about your brand helps them take proactive steps to identify potential infringements. Moreover, it gives you insight into your brand presence and lends you powerful tools such as image search to manually detect product listings that you did not authorize.
Contact Amazon with a list of ASINs to be gated
Joining the brand registry program is not enough to have your brand gated. To initiate the process of brand gating, write to your local seller support contact and send them all the necessary information about your brand. If you have an IP lawyer, let them do it instead, as it shows Amazon that you are not taking the protection of your brand lightly.
To speed up the process, which normally takes up to five weeks from start to finish, give Amazon a list of ASINs that are your most important assets. Amazon will ultimately brand-gate all your ASINs, but if you need to take immediate action, providing them with a priority list is a good idea. It can also help to document your previous struggle with counterfeits.
Present Amazon with a list of authorized third parties
If you are not the sole seller of your branded products on Amazon, let Amazon know of any resellers that have your permission to sell. Even though the third-party sellers need to supply written permission or invoices proving their purchase from you when they apply to sell a branded product, it is a good practice to offer these with your application to prevent any conflicts that might arise after your brand has been gated.
How to use Amazon Sponsored Ads as Brand Protection
The use of defensive campaigns for brand protection is often neglected on Amazon. It happens time and again that competitors occupy relevant ad spaces and influence users in their buying process. To drive a successful defence strategy on Amazon, you should leverage the potential of Sponsored Ads and run defensive campaigns with all three possible ad formats (Sponsored Brands, Sponsored Products and Product Display Ads). Only an all-encompassing approach can ensure the best possible protection of your brand.
Defensive approach to Sponsored Ads campaigns:
- Keyword Research: First, get an overview and research all brand-relevant keywords for your products. These search terms contain the brand, the product name and/or the product-specific number. Examples: “bose headphones”, “safari ultrasharp binoculars”, “leer toolbox STST1-71197”, etc.
- Populate the brand- & product-relevant search terms: You should place Sponsored Brands (SBs) and Sponsored Products (SPs) specifically on the product- and brand-relevant keywords so that your competition does not use advertising spaces based on your brand. At the same time, your brand presence increases in the search results.
- Target your own products: In addition, you should also use your own ASINs (Amazon Standard Identification Numbers) with Product Display Ads (PDAs) and Sponsored Products with product targeting. This is the only way to protect your product detail pages from competitors.
- Cross- & up-selling: In addition to brand protection, defensive campaigns help with cross-selling and up-selling. By placing advertisements on product detail pages, you can offer both substitute and complementary products. The probability that the value of the shopping basket will increase, grows in this way.
Why is brand protection on Amazon important?
Particularly the manufacturers of established, well-known brands need a sophisticated defence strategy for brand protection. Competitors place offensive campaigns on your brand and/or product keywords especially when customers think of your brand as a synonym for an entire product segment. For example, the search term “hoover” is generally used for a vacuum cleaner. Other vendors advertise with Sponsored Brands to draw attention to their cheaper brand on the search results page.
In addition to SBs, brands should also focus on Sponsored Products: Many users do not perceive Sponsored Products as such but classify them as the best natural result of their search query. In combination with positive reviews and a reasonable price, substitutive items from your competitors can quickly arouse buying interest and attract your potential customers.
The keyword “hair dryer babyliss” shows a competitor Sponsored Brands ad and immediately below it, the Amazon user is confronted with two competitor products. The first organic search result, a BaByliss dryer, appears only afterwards.
In order not to take any risks, you should create both SB and SP campaigns and target brand-specific search terms. This is how you prevent your customers from paying attention to other brands and buying from your competitors.
Contrary to the assumption that SBs and SPs are sufficient to protect one’s brand, the use of SPs with product targeting and PDAs is also essential.
Note: Don’t forget that competitors may not only run keyword-based campaigns but also target other ASINs.
What are the benefits of using Sponsored Products and Sponsored Brands if the customer jumps out shortly before the purchase is completed? In our example, potential buyers are made aware of a competitor’s item on the manufacturer’s product page.
Users looking for Bluetooth headphones might be swayed by the PDA on the detail page. They have diverted away from the actual product and the competitor, in this case, Stoga gets the sale. Such a purchase can have two negative consequences:
- The advertising budget is given away
- Increased sales through PDA may have a positive impact on the placement of that product in organic search results
In order to prevent such offensive campaigns by your competitors, you should place advertisements on your own ASINs. Ideally, Amazon users stay within your own product portfolio and purchase their desired product there.
Targeting your own product detail pages is particularly well suited for cross-selling and up-selling. You can advertise supplementary items to the main product as well as higher-priced, substitutive products. The shopping basket value can increase thanks to both variants.
Of course, you can also make use of offensive campaigns and target competitor ASINs and keywords. However, such measures should be carefully considered.
Strengthening and defending your own brand and position is indispensable for success on Amazon. In practice, brand protection on Amazon is usually neglected and valuable potential is wasted. If you have the unfortunate experience of finding a counterfeit of your product eating up your sales and destroying the trust customers put in your brand, you should have the items protected as soon as possible.
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