Google’s open season on company trademarks has started. In short, this means that anyone can now buy your brand names from Google and advertise their products to people searching for yours.
I know that all is supposed to be fair in love and war, but should this apply to marketing too?
Tesco doesn’t think so. While other companies are relishing the chance of poaching competitors’ favoured search terms, Tesco has taken the moral high-ground and is the first brand pledging not to do this.
The UK’s largest retailer, which spends £2.2 million a year on online ads, is hoping other UK brand owners will follow suit and prevent the cost of paid-search ads from rocketing.
Some might say that this isn’t entirely necessary – Tesco’s mighty search budget is a bit like a nuclear deterrent. Should any of its rivals so much as look at any of its branded terms, it will no doubt unleash search Armageddon on the offenders.
But it’s not the major players that are likely to spark off a nuclear exchange and send the cost of search advertising through the roof and its return on investment through the floor.
The smaller retailers and less well known brands are more likely to try and pinch some of the big boys’ traffic in an attempt to utilise the only level playing field they have – the internet.
But those more familiar with the practicality of bidding for search terms will point out that there is a safety mechanism inherent in Google’s pricing model.
Google charges less for adverts if the website they lead to is deemed relevant to the search term. So unless your have cloned the entire Tesco website, you’ll be paying much more than they would for their brand terms.
But some rogue companies might feel it’s still worth it, as people searching for brand names have the highest propensity to purchase and nothing tastes sweeter than stealing a customer from a competitor just at the point when they are looking to purchase.
However, there is some evidence to suggest this doomsday scenario will not happen.
When Google removed trademark restrictions in the US there was ultimately very little fall-out as many big brands made gentleman’s agreements not to compete for the same terms.
Whether this ‘honour amongst brands’ will happen in the UK is yet to be seen. It may hold between the über-brands, but at the SME level it will no doubt be dog eat dog.
The best way to protect yourself, without needing to drum up a massive search budget, will be to employ the help of affiliate programmes. These friendly sites can help you block out ad space for your trademarked words, leaving no room for your competitors’ ads.
It may mean you pay them more commission, but most companies would rather do that than lose a sale to the opposition.