Reseller Questions (Part 5): What Can Happen to your Brand when Resellers Work with Affiliates?

Jennie Scholick Sep 23, 2014

Our post on GoPro and Greentoe began to discuss the potential impact of affiliate marketing on partner bidding. Today’s blog is going to look at an apparel brand, Converse, and the ways that affiliates of its partner retailers can play a role in partner bidding. Again, everything in this post is going to be entirely “legal” as far as a search engine is concerned; our question is whether this kind of marketing might be harmful for a brand and, if so, what the brand can do about it.

For the most part, throughout this series, the partner bidding we have looked at has been by retailers with whom a brand has a contractual relationship. Today, we’re going to look at partner bidding by affiliates--but not affiliates of the brand, affiliates of a retailer that sells the brand's product. In other words, there are two degrees of separation between the brand and the advertiser: the brand sells to a reseller who in turn works with affiliates. Those affiliates may then bid on the brand’s terms in order to sell the product through the reseller’s website. Sound complicated? We’ll walk you through it below, using “Converse” as an example.

Case Study: Converse

A search on Bing for “converse” produced the following SERP:


Converse-1

Hunter-BootsThe top search ad is for Shopping County with the encouraging ad copy that “J.M” claims, “I can’t believe I ever shopped for Converse All Stars elsewhere” (similarly, another “customer,” named W.T., also couldn’t believe she had ever shopped for Hunter rain boots elsewhere, per a search I was doing the other day in preparation for a Seattle fall!). Shopping County describes itself as a review site for online shopping sites, acting as a “personal online shopping guru” and grading sites on everything from their web design to their credibility.

Of course, the ad that Shopping County is running on the “converse” keyword doesn’t bill themselves as a review site at all, but rather as a “Converse All Stars Outlet.” A customer who clicks through the link will find themselves on the following landing page:


Shopping_County_3

While it is Converse-specific, it is neither an outlet store, nor a review site. Rather, it’s a landing page to redirect a customer through an affiliate link.

Scrolling down the page reveals a few other items of potential concern to Converse. First, this descriptionof “Our Brand:”

Shopping County 2

While the same copy can be found on a variety of sites around the web that sell Converse, the phrasing implies that Shopping County is directly related to the brand.

Second, farther down the page, Shopping County embeds a host of affiliate links which direct the customer to various retailers’ main landing pages. Many of these retailers do not sell Converse. Not only is this site offering a misleading ad, but it’s also potentially diverting a sale to a competing manufacturer.

Can Converse Do Anything?

The issue here is complicated, as Shopping County—although an affiliate—is not an affiliate of Converse. Thus, by most search engine policies and by the terms of Shopping County’s agreements with the retailers it works with, the site is operating within bounds. They do in fact advertise the company they claim to and they don’t bid on the trademarked terms of their marketing partners. Under Google’s Trademark Policy, this is definitely fair game, as they specify that as long as “The product or services [are] the primary focus of the ad's landing page” and that landing page “clearly provide[s] a way to purchase the product or services,” the site may use the trademark in the ad copy.

What Converse can potentially do is rework their agreements with resellers. They may be able to extend those agreements to cover affiliates so that this kind of affiliate bidding won't continue.

Thoughts on what Converse should do here? Let us know in the comments below or contact us directly at BrandVerity!

Topics: Affiliate Marketing

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