Maintaining Brand Integrity: Highlights from My Presentation at AM Days

sam.engel Apr 16, 2015

Since we’re still fresh off of a wonderful few days in San Francisco at AM Days, I wanted to take the opportunity to share the slides and recap the presentation I delivered at the event. I thought this could be a useful reference—whether you were able to attend the talk or not. For those of you that couldn’t be there, I’ve provided a synopsis of my points below (along with my slides). You can also feel free to connect with me over LinkedIn or send BrandVerity a note!

It’s Hard for Affiliate Managers to Prioritize their Brand

One of the common issues that came up at AM Days was the distance between Affiliate Managers and other marketers—even within the same organization. Affiliate marketing tends to be treated as an outsider, which means that it’s often separated from high level marketing strategies such as brand positioning. The affiliate channel is generally thought of as more tactical, and separate from the organization’s broad marketing goals.

The result of this division is that affiliate managers prioritize revenue over brand perception. After all, when you’re already under scrutiny it’s hard to justify your position if the revenue metrics aren’t great. The danger of this approach is that it reinforces the division between affiliate marketing and other channels, which makes it easy to write off the affiliate channel as “shady” since it’s so unknown. Ultimately, this is reflected in news stories that cast aspersions on industry credibility such as VentureBeat’s article on “The Big, Ugly, Affiliate Marketing Scam”.

Regulations Are Looking Like Guidelines on Building a Good Brand

Affiliate managers tend to look at regulations from government organizations like the FTC, CFPB, and others as obstacles. As a fellow marketer, I totally understand that. But I think it would also help to step back from the letter of the law and tune into the broader message that these regulators are sending.

The general principles they’re advocating (that marketing should be clear and conspicuous, that consumers should understand what they’re signing up for, and that they shouldn’t receive unexpected calls or texts) sound a lot like what it takes to build a brand that people really like. If we look at some examples and try to put ourselves in the customer’s shoes, are we giving them experiences they really want? Hey, we’re all consumers in our lives outside of work, so we should have some perspective here.

A Process for Vetting Affiliates Will Strengthen Your Brand

There are ways to start managing your brand in the affiliate channel without turning compliance into your full time job. The first step is to avoid auto-approval of affiliates if at all possible—in general, you’re asking for trouble if you auto-approve. It’s also worth asking yourself some harder questions during the vetting process. Try to build a good case in your head of how this affiliate will bring traffic to their site, how they’ll direct that traffic to your site, and then what those visitors will do on your site.

Of course, it doesn’t end once you hit “approve.” But an ongoing process doesn’t need to take up all of your time, either. Quarterly check-ins or audits of your top-producing affiliates could be a good starting point, depending on your business. If you happen to be in a more highly regulated industry, you may need a weekly process that’s more geared towards regulatory issues (or you might want to check out our Content Monitoring tool). Whatever process you decide on, though, the key is to be consistent with it! If you aren’t consistent with your affiliates about your expectations, what reason do they have to follow them?

Questions? Comments? Feedback?

Should the affiliate channel be more aligned with brand strategy? I’d love to know what you think of my points here, or the presentation in general. I’d also be happy to discuss it with you if you have questions. Feel free to message me (here’s my LinkedIn profile), comment below, or send BrandVerity a note!

Topics: affiliate marketing, Marketing Compliance

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