Effective Marketing: Monitoring Your Marketing Materials to Avoid Fraud
Do you promote client testimonials on your Web site, overnight delivery in banner ads, or other companies' trademarks in newsletters? These techniques aren't illegal, but the way they're used could get you into legal trouble. Thus, you must take a closer look at your marketing materials, or you may get burned.
Today's hot buttons in Internet marketing law include copyright usage, privacy rights, trademark usage and order fulfillment. According to marketing legalese expert Douglas Wood, the rise in Internet fraud and unethical marketing strategies is creating more aggressive legal action to protect consumers. Companies are also more vigorously protecting their brands online. More than ever, responsible Internet marketers need to make sure they're following the law.
Here are some Internet marketing guidelines Wood recommends to keep your marketing tactics away from getting in conflict with the law.
Online information isn't free to use. And crediting the original source doesn't necessarily prevent a charge of copyright infringement. While short quotes are permitted, it's best to ask for approval and any data-use requirements. Fortunately, many organizations are thrilled to be referenced and will gladly give permission.
Client testimonials and photos aren't fair game, either. People have a right to privacy, and their names and images cannot be used for advertising purposes without their written consent. For instance, an event planner cannot use a photo taken at a certain event that shows the client or those who attended the said event. Get written approval before you do so.
If you're a company's authorized reseller or affiliate, you will likely use their trademarks in your marketing campaigns and advertising materials. However, you should avoid using trademarks in a way that may dilute the integrity of the symbol or mark. For example, Kleenex is a brand of tissue, not a synonym for tissue.
Competitors who use a trademark owner's marks and confuse consumers are at risk of trademark infringement and possibly a lawsuit. If you clearly compare your product to a competitor's, that's legal – provided the comparison is with basis and truthful. However, redirecting your competitor's consumers to your site without clarifying that you're not the trademark owner is a big mistake.
Re-evaluate these techniques, if you're using any of them. Also, consider reviewing the marketing tactics of your partners and competitors to ensure your company is protected from their possibly fraudulent efforts, as well.
Competition is okay, but it should not be done at the expense of your own reputation. While fraudulent strategies might not be unmasked immediately and may never be unmasked at all, depending on people's awareness of the law, it is your duty as a responsible entrepreneur and marketer to keep your business on the right side of the fence.