In 2018, Dolce & Gabbana ran a series of video ads across their social media accounts that presented racist stereotypes of Chinese women. Public outcry followed. The issue was compounded when, in the wake of the outcry, the Dolce & Gabbana co-founder, Steffano Gabbana, began sending unrepentant and offensive Instagram messages. (Gabbana later claimed his account had been hacked.)
As a consequence of this PR disaster, Dolce & Gabbana was forced to cancel a multimillion-dollar runway event in Shanghai that was supposed to be the brand’s launchpad into the world’s most critical luxury goods market. The brand was also boycotted and products pulled from Chinese stores. The total cost of this brand damage ran into the millions of dollars, to say nothing of potential revenue lost. Even a year on from the incident, Dolce & Gabbana hadn’t recovered its Chinese market share, nor its former roster of Chinese brand ambassadors.
The Dolce & Gabbana incident is an example of how important it is to protect brand reputation – not only from account hijacking, but from all manner of threat vectors. Brand value alone contributes 19% of enterprise value, on average. A single bad actor can do serious financial or even legal damage to a company.
This is a wake-up call not just for big brands like Dolce & Gabbana. Small and medium-sized enterprises should be on the lookout as well as they are more vulnerable to social media-based attacks and other emerging digital threats.
The common feature of all the digital dangers to brand reputation is social media. The 2019 Consumer Social Media Survey reported that 74% of customers follow the brands they like on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. In 2020, social media presence is brand reputation. Because of this, it is more important than ever for companies to secure their social media presence, as a critical business asset.
According to our internal surveys, 74% of leaders think that brand reputation risk is heightened by the use of social media. These leaders are right. The good news is that companies can use technology to implement brand reputation management and protection, by leveraging the right tools to perform two key functions: securing known assets, and locating and dealing with unknown assets.
Step 1: Take Full Control of Your Known Assets
Brand reputation management and security starts with properly securing the digital assets that are in your control. Incidents like the Dolce & Gabbana one occur when companies lack the power to detect and deal with threats. Enterprises gain control of their assets when they:
- Establish their digital footprint, and gain a full understanding of all the ways in which they are digitally represented online.
- Centralize their view of their assets in one place.
- Determine what personnel also need protecting, and implement strategies to digitally guard executives and other possible targets.
- Apply acceptable use policies around what post and message content is and isn’t acceptable and/or risky.
- Centralize access controls.
This is a lot. It can only be achieved by recruiting tools and brand reputation management software that can scale with the speed of online communications, and leveraging AI to detect possible digital risks.
Organizations need to gather and register all of their social media accounts and digital communication channels within a centralized, unified platform that integrates seamlessly with brand reputation management software systems.. When all of your known assets are grouped and handled in one central place, you eliminate blind spots. You gain visibility into what is happening across your social media platforms, and you can proactively detect potentially troublesome content.
With a powerful central platform, you can create and implement rules and regulations that cover usage, language and best practices. You can secure all your social media accounts and digital channels from suspicious emails, phishing attacks, malware, and ransomware. Powerful machine learning and natural language processing capabilities can detect and flag questionable emails and conversations.
Step 2: Find and Deal With Unknown Assets
It’s very easy to create a social media profile or a website. Cyber criminals know this. Online digital assets posing as real companies and brands can do serious damage. Imposters carrying out brand impersonation use fake accounts to put out fraudulent content, conduct phishing attacks on customers, launch chameleon attacks, and carry out social infiltration against employees. The real and well-meaning companies implicated in such attacks suffer the reputation blowback.
This is why the second step in protecting brand reputation involves finding and dealing with imposters. To do this, enterprises must:
- Automate detection of imposter accounts, so that they are alerted every time what looks like a fake Twitter profile or imposter URL comes into existence.
- Centralize their view of the risks in a single dashboard.
- Have the power to initiate takedowns of imposter accounts, once they have verified that they are fake.
- Prioritize risks in such a way that they deal with the worst threats first.
- Automate the record-keeping of actions taken, with a view to future audits.
Comprehensive cybersecurity solutions built with brand reputation management in mind are equipped with tools to detect impersonations, fake accounts, fraudulent content, and negative reviews from customers. Social listening and monitoring tools can scan the Internet using AI, ML, and NLP technologies to find negative mentions, posts, unauthorized use of logos, and reviews as well as potential scam messaging and branding.
Once these tools spot adversarial posts and malicious comments, the system automatically traces the source and immediately notifies the management so they can take immediate action. A number of systems can be configured to initiate the takedown process to prevent further spread and quickly contain the damage, ensuring adverse impact to brand reputation is minimal.
Protecting brand reputation is about understanding both the known and the unknown risks, and instituting technological controls that can match the speed and scale of social media. Try Safeguard Cyber today to see for yourself.
August 6, 2020
SafeGuard Cyber Team