Brand jacking: Understanding and addressing its consequences
In today’s digital age, brand protection has become more crucial than ever, thanks to the rise of brand jacking. Brand jacking, also known as brand hijacking or brand impersonation, refers to the malicious act of exploiting established brands for deceptive purposes, posing significant risks to both brand owners and consumers.
In other words, unauthorized entities exploit well-known brands by misusing their identity, reputation, or trademarks through deceptive practices like cybersquatting, social media impersonation, and false advertising. Their main goal is to confuse consumers, gain an unfair competitive advantage, or engage in fraudulent activities, all while taking advantage of the trusted brands’ established reputation to deceive unsuspecting customers
The severity of brand jacking has prompted authorities like The United States Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to consider the need for new legislation to prosecute such occurrences. This reflects the increasing concerns over the impact of brand jacking on consumers and businesses alike.
Brand Jacking: impact on brands
Brandjacking poses a significant threat to businesses, causing damage to brand reputation and potential financial losses. To illustrate its impact, we will examine a real-life example involving King Power, a well-known internet retailer with a Thai organization that offers top fashion brands for sale.
Below is a screenshot that clearly demonstrates brandjacking through deceptive ads and a phony domain name. What’s even more concerning is that this brandjacking example was found under the official Facebook page of the brand it pretends to be.
In the screenshot, you can see a side-by-side comparison of the legitimate King Power Facebook page at the top and the phony page at the bottom. The bogus page uses the King Power name to lure unsuspecting customers. The description and domain name are telltale signs of brandjacking attempts. The prices advertised on the fake page are exorbitant, and the items appear to be luxury goods offered at too-good-to-be-true prices.
Brand jacking poses a significant financial threat to organizations, potentially resulting in millions of dollars in losses. Misusing a brand’s identity or trademark can lead customers to fraudulent websites or counterfeit products, causing a decline in legitimate sales. Moreover, the damage to a brand’s reputation can be long-lasting and require substantial investments to repair. Regaining customer trust is not only a lengthy process but also an expensive one that must be executed carefully.
The financial repercussions of brand jacking extend beyond immediate losses, affecting a brand’s equity and market position. When consumers fall victim to counterfeit products or phishing scams under a trusted brand’s name, their confidence in that brand diminishes. Negative reviews, social media backlash, and detrimental word-of-mouth can cause irreparable harm to a brand’s reputation.
Consumers may become hesitant to engage with the brand altogether, turning to competitors or alternative options. Rebuilding trust becomes an uphill battle, slowing long-term growth prospects.
The deceptive techniques
Hackers and criminals employ various methods to achieve brand jacking, exploiting vulnerabilities in the digital realm. One common technique is URL squatting, where malicious actors register domain names that closely resemble legitimate brands, causing confusion among consumers.
These deceptive URLs may contain misspellings, hyphenations, or different extensions. For instance, instead of “Google.com,” criminals will use “Google.io.” When users accidentally land on these fraudulent websites, they may unknowingly disclose sensitive information or fall victim to scams.
Additionally, criminals use social media impersonation, creating fake accounts that mimic the branding of trusted brands. By posing as legitimate representatives, they deceive followers, spread misinformation, or engage in phishing activities.
Given the potential financial losses and damage to consumer trust caused by brand jacking, robust brand protection strategies are essential. Brands need to implement comprehensive measures to safeguard their intellectual property, monitor online platforms for unauthorized use of their brand, and actively engage with consumers to address any confusion or fraudulent activities.
Collaboration between brand protection teams, cybersecurity professionals, legal experts, and OSINT analysts is vital to detect, mitigate, and prevent brand jacking incidents. By prioritizing brand protection, organizations can defend their reputation, maintain consumer trust, and preserve their market share.
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