April 23, 2021

Protecting Brand Integrity and Reputation in the Affiliate Channel

In the early 2000s, affiliate marketing was a bit like the wild west. Regulation was lacking and for the most part, affiliate was solely a numbers game. In theory, more traffic equaled more sales and bigger profits. But in reality, the premium placed on record-breaking traffic is what also led to widespread bot follower fraud and fake engagement. 

Despite the industry’s explosive growth since then–affiliate spending in the United States is more than triple what it was a decade ago and is forecasted to reach $8.2 billion by 2022–some marketers have had a hard time looking past affiliate’s misunderstood youth. 

But with unprecedented growth of ecommerce, thanks in large part to the COVID-19 pandemic, steering clear of this high ROI-driving channel is likely a big mistake. 

How Has Affiliate Marketing Changed?

For starters, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is watching all digital channels like a hawk and cracking down on deceptive claims, hidden fine-print disclosures, confusing terms, and other compliance issues. These days, illegal behavior comes with serious repercussions, like $40,000-per-day fines and permanent business closures. 

Also, marketers are taking a much more nuanced approach in choosing potential affiliate partners. High traffic is not the most impressive or important metric anymore. More attention is being paid to thoroughly vetting potential affiliates to eliminate those who don’t align with a brand’s values or have a proven track record of credibility. 

In addition, fraud-prevention tools have become more widely available and can block bad traffic before it ever hits your site.

Is My Brand Integrity at Risk in the Affiliate Channel? 

Without a doubt, your brand’s reputation is one of your most valuable assets–and the integrity of your brand is a crucial part of that reputation. Not to mention, brand integrity is the gateway to converting leads into customers and customers into advocates who will shape and grow your business. 

That said, the real threat to your brand integrity depends on which affiliates you’re partnering with and how carefully you’re monitoring content, compliance, and potential fraud across the channel. For example, if you’re a finance brand and one of your affiliates is promoting outdated or inaccurate rates, that could lead to hefty fines. The same is true if you end up on an affiliate site that is featuring disparaging content or content that doesn’t align with your brand’s values.  

At the very least, an inconsistent representation of your brand can create confusion and distrust not to mention the possibility of fines. Worst yet, it can seriously interfere with your ability to expand your business.

Can I Get the Benefits of Affiliate Marketing without Losing Control over My Brand’s Reputation?

Absolutely, but not without recruiting, vetting, and carefully managing a roster of quality publishers that are right for your brand. But fair warning, it is near impossible to do it well manually. At PartnerCentric,  we’ve taken a long, hard look at the very real issues, like ad fraud and compliance headaches, that have plagued the industry in the past and found real, quantifiable solutions. The truth is, to completely protect your brand, you need around-the-clock content monitoring.  That’s exactly what you get with our proprietary software tools that we call Control Suite.

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