Think about how much of your potential customers' brand experience depends on the way you represent yourself online. Good chance is that you already know that everything you do, post, say, and comment counts. Probably, you also know that it is very important who you're talking to. But how about where you say it?
Today's world is merciless to even the tiniest mistake. One viral post can boost your performance to unimaginable heights in less than two days, but it can also instantly destroy your reputation. Which is why it is so important to look beyond your own content and brand positioning. The key brand safety solution is to make sure others do not harm your online image.
What is brand safety?
Forbes defines brand safety as “the strategy put into place to help ensure that online advertisements or associations do not appear on or in websites, video or articles that may conflict with the brand’s image, mission or goals”. It is pretty simple, really. It is about keeping your brand and each of its elements away from the potentially harmful sources during digital advertisement campaigns.
The concept of brand safety is particularly important to smaller companies that do not rely on specific software or a third party to track where their content is placed. While using tools like Google AdWords or Facebook ads, they still need to be extra cautious of where their content is placed. Of course, every business has its own understanding of the “good” and the “bad”, so it’s purely up to you what you would like your content to be placed next to.
What threatens your brand safety the most?
Every misplaced ad, every wrong word, every tiny mistake has only a few potential development scenarios:
- (a) it may go perfectly unnoticed;
- (b) it may go positively viral and bring you a bunch of new customers;
- (c) it may seriously undermine your brand’s reputation.
Unfortunately, in the real world (b) is the least likely development, while both (a) and (c) are not desirable. So why not to work a tiny bit harder and eliminate the possibility to be humiliated whatsoever?
We present you the most harmful sources of poor brand safety. Consider it as a list of things to look out for while working on your digital marketing plan for the next quarter.
Fake news: This one seems simple, yet many marketers still fall victim to the fake news. After all, it is too appealing to rely on the fraudulent content in order to receive the desired numbers in your CPCs and CPMs. Google and large social media websites like Facebook and LinkedIn have started the battle against the pages spreading fake-news long ago, then why mention it now? Well, once again, it’s pretty simple: the pages are still there, they are still occasionally visible to large audiences, and that means that your advertising content may potentially end up at one of those pages. And why is it bad? Because it is harmful to the brand’s reputation to be associated with the news articles that are bound to be dimmed as fake. And because algorithms are becoming stricter and stricter and the last thing you want is to be placed to the bottom of Google’s search list or get banned on Instagram for your hashtags to have next to 0 effectiveness.
“Malgorithms”: Another common issue occurs when the content of the ad and the page where it’s displayed directly or contextually contradicts one another. In some cases, the results can be humorous and a little laughter can even be beneficial for the brand in the short run. However, there are also less positive scenarios where both the website and the brand advertised on it suffer tremendous losses of their potential leads and customers due to a simple mistake in the algorithm.
Bots: The Internet is actively fighting with the “bad bots”, however, the latest data suggests that there are still more bots than humans online. Only about 20% of those actually help to improve your website’s performance. All the rest, however, directly threaten your safety. “How exactly?” you ask? First and the most direct damage you can face is the eventual monetary loss, claims Voluum. Other effects that are harmful to your brand’s online hub is the messed up analytics, damaged SEO and reputation, virus attacks, or – in extreme cases – complete account takeovers. If that doesn’t fall into the category of brand-safety issues, we don’t know what does!
Video & Influencer content: The 2018-2019 inbound and content marketing has been all about making engaging videos and cooperating with the right influencers to boost your brand awareness. Well, guess what – you need to choose platforms just about as carefully as you choose who to trust with promoting your priceless content. In fact, it is not only the content in which your ad appears – it’s everything, including the other products that may be advertised next to it, the accidental inappropriate joke, or even an offensive comment linked to the video where your ad has been displayed. In fact, as attractive as it is, Youtube will probably never be 100% brand-safe, in particular, due to the lack of control over the content that may appear side by side with the advertised videos.
What can you do to maximize the brand safety effect?
Okay, now you are aware that it is important to pay attention to where your ads may appear. So you do your research, carefully analyze and eliminate potential harmful locations while working on your Facebook or Google ads, and you’re perfectly ready to go. But what about the human factor? Sometimes there are just too many things to keep in mind before pressing that final button and sending your perfect ad into the wide unknown of online space. So, here is a piece of advice on what you could do to avoid some of the most common mistakes that undermine your brand’s safety:
Step 1: Define what brand safety really means to your brand. Consider your mission, your identity, and come up with a list of topics that would be disastrous for you to be associated with. That may include some universal examples (like extremist platforms), but also may be more niche-specific depending on your sphere.
Step 2: Research the values of your target audience. Try to find out what common interests the group of people you are targeting shares, what they are more likely to search for and what kind of content they would find repulsive. Remember about brand sensitivity and that people are more likely to turn to your competition if your brand has been in any way associated with the topics they find inappropriate.
Step 3: Find the balance between your identity (brand safety) and their expectations (brand sensitivity). It is undoubtedly important to satisfy the moods of your potential customers, but it is just as crucial to have your own position and to defend the values you pursue as a brand. The truth always lies somewhere in the middle.
Step 4: Be vigilant when dealing with digital marketing and online advertising. Most of the media campaigns today are run in a similar fashion: the advertiser selects the demographics of the target audience and lets the rest to the machine to decide. Therefore, if a certain amount of the representatives of your target audience have interest in the topics that may be harmful to your brand, the algorithms behind automated and targeted ads will consider those websites and materials ad-worthy.
Step 5: Double-check what ad ended up where. It’s better to put a bit of extra effort in the beginning than to deal with the consequences after it is too late to change something.
All of the above may seem like a lot of additional tasks to your already busy schedule, but brand safety is a goal worth going the distance for. We hope that you will find our advice helpful and effective for your brand development in the long run. But if it still seems like too much work – it is never too late to ask for help. As long as you know what all this effort is for.
Do your research and stay safe!