It goes without saying that all the advertisers want their brands protected, and want to be identified alongside the content that compliments their brands. But with all the digital touchpoints to reach potential consumers, protecting the brand image has become a real challenge.
Digital marketing is now the largest segment of the advertising market. It is the most important, and sometimes the one and only communication channel with the customers for a majority of advertisers. Internet consumers are growing in numbers along with the development of new technologies, so advertisers adjusted their strategy, shifting their budgets in favour of digital channels.
Handing over your online activities to the affiliates might be a good idea; while your partners are promoting your product or service in exchange for monetary compensation, you can concentrate on the main point of your business - the product itself.
When affiliate marketing misfires
Although the blackhat affiliate marketing methods are step by step being replaced with more transparent ones, not all affiliates act fairly, so when you give them permission to represent your brand, make sure it won’t go wrong.
Basically, anyone can apply to become an affiliate. That is why, brands may have little or no control over who is promoting their goods or aligning themselves with the brand. Not only might your brand get promoted alongside inappropriate content or by intrusive marketing methods, this approach can also result in a complete absence of messaging or, in some cases, the wrong kind of messaging by affiliates. And what about fraud? The World Federation of Advertisers predicted that ad fraud will cost advertisers $50 billion by 2025, describing this practice as "second only to the drugs trade" in terms of organised crime. Needless to say, all these techniques may ruin user experience, damage your brand reputation, or even discourage you to use affiliate programmes as a part of your marketing mix. So, how do you protect your brand reputation?
1. Know your affiliates
When you create a higher entry barrier for potential partners, you increase the chances to distinguish low-quality applicants from those relevant to you. That is why, customising affiliate sign-up processes can help you get higher quality publishers. The mandatory fields are usually affiliate’s physical address, email and other contact information. This data is not enough to define whether an affiliate is suitable for promoting your offers or not, so add some more fields and request more sophisticated information, such as the description of affiliate’s website, categories of content, website traffic per month, description of promotional methods, and more. Make sure you also add a CAPTCHA field to filter low-quality applications.
As you want your brand to be well-presented, you should monitor whom you delegate your digital activities. As a rule, 10-20% of your affiliates drive 70-90% of traffic to your offers, so cleaning the house and giving preference to reliable partners isn’t a bad idea. Do the appropriate research for each of your applicants, check out their websites, ask around the affiliate community at forums, request referrals, and so on. This effort will minimise the chances that your brand will be damaged by your affiliates’ actions.
3. Affiliates as brand representatives
Along with the official employees, all your affiliates are brand representatives, like it or not. So you must treat them properly; put more efforts into their education and provide them with all the necessary materials so they know your Terms and Conditions and maintain your brand message across the channel. Let them know what you expect from them, what they are and aren’t allowed to do, what is your target audience and so on. Make sure they understand which means they can use to promote your brand, what keywords they should bid on, what type of content is prohibited, and what happens when violations take place.
4. Brand guidelines
Brand guidelines are a set of rules that outline how each element of the brand should be used. You can’t overestimate its essence when it comes to ensuring that your brand message and creatives are aligned with your audience. Instead, if you fail to create these rules, the brand may become inconsistent over time, which will lead to customers’ confusion, causing them to disengage with the brand. These guidelines should always be used by your affiliates when any element of your brand is being communicated in advertising campaigns. Here are the basic points you should include into your brand guidelines:
An overview: Talk about the brand’s history, its core values, mission statement, vision and product’s selling points, so the affiliate will better understand your positioning on the market.
Logo usage: Include all the versions and colour variations of the logo and stipulate the terms of using it to prevent mistakes occurring such as stretching, altering or condensing.
Creatives: Give your affiliates direction, providing them with the examples of images that you feel reflect your brand message and values.
Writing style: Show the examples of messages that describe your brand personality and you would like to be used.
Make sure to provide all of your affiliate with these guidelines, or make them available online and easily accessed. This information is necessary for them to accurately represent your brand.
5. Affiliate network for brand safety
Partnering with a network can take your affiliate marketing experience to the absolutely new level. This channel relies on partnership, understanding of brand ideologies and messaging, and how to connect with the audience. That is why an affiliate network team will support your efforts as well as ensure your brand safety is under control.
The benefit of such a tandem starts before you even partner with an affiliate. The network team reviews affiliates who join the network and ensures they meet basic criteria on their own. Besides, affiliate managers know their partners very well; they know which offers are most suitable for them and what traffic these affiliates drive, and, if necessary, will be keeping an eye on potentially problematic publishers. It doesn’t mean that you won’t need a dedicated team on your end. Instead, it means that you will get additional forces, that will double your strengths and prevent your ads appearing at undesirable sites and alongside undesirable content. In other words, you will have an entire army of experts and tools providing support and protection.
Crowdsource your affiliates for the information on how they promote your offers. Keep a watchful eye on new affiliates, especially when their conversion rate (CR) are unusually high, consider at least some basic fraud protection measures to keep yourself safe from fraudulent traffic. Monitor what tools your partners are using, and whether they help your brand message remain consistent or not. You must get a complete understanding of what websites and promotional strategies they use. It will give you peace of mind and transparency of the affiliates’ actions.
So if you choose affiliate marketing to boost your sales, remember, that it encourages strategic planning, communication, and efforts from all parties. Put your best into it, and not only can you make your brand well represented, but also add value to your product in the eyes of consumers.