Question #3: How do you go about protecting brands on Amazon?

August 6, 2020 *This Q&A Series came from a webinar with BeautyMatter in June 2020, entitled “How Prestige Beauty Brands Win on Amazon”. Kelly Kovack, CEO, BeautyMatter – Chad Annis, CEO, Market Defense – Vanessa Kuykendall, Vice President, Market Defense Kelly:  I’m going to hit another really hot topic.  We’ve all read the stories about counterfeits, expired products, unauthorized resellers. So let’s talk a little bit about protection and how you go about protecting your brand from these bad actors, because they can really wreak havoc on a brand’s reputation.  Perhaps we can approach it from both the reactive point of view and the proactive point of view, because I think we may have some businesses listening in that are in a state where they need to clean up their brand and others that may not have any issues because they’re starting with a clean slate.  Chad:  Well, the clean slate folks are at an advantage, obviously, because they don’t have to pay a company like us a little extra to go in and wipe away the dirtiness. What I would say to those folks is: “make sure that your advertising is protecting your branded keywords.  If you are not owning your own branded keywords, shame on you.”  When you start getting to $40,000 – $50,000 a month in Amazon sales, you’ll start seeing a lot of resellers come in. If your product is highly distributed, they’ll start saying, “oh, there’s some nice volume there if you have brand registry locked down.”  Brand registry is key to owning your 1P (vendor central) on Amazon. Amazon does not tell you how to lock it down. We’ve had to learn every single check box of which there’s more than 20 that you have to check. Otherwise, you end up with a crack in the armor.  So that’s the brand registry and keywords – owning your own branded keywords.   Amazon doesn’t care whether or not you’ve got 40 or 50 or 100 resellers.  The fact of the matter is they actually like the fact that the prices are broken because now their users get legit product at lower prices.  Brands obviously don’t like that.  The strategies to employ are really two-fold.
  1. You can go to Amazon itself, and if you can convince them to put you on the premium beauty platform, that will work. The problem with that is they grab an enormous amount of margin.  You are left with a clean channel, but no money and a lot of headaches because Amazon’s not a great partner to deal with on a day to day basis.
  2. Our business exists because agencies have learned to stand between Amazon and beauty brands and do the dirty work.  We do it within a very quick time frame and under the terms of service that Amazon requires. So, if you don’t know where those potholes are, there are fences around Amazon. You’re going to get out of bounds.  We know where those boundaries are and what Amazon likes and doesn’t like for you to do when you go into a cleanup. Most of it is done internally through the ticketing system. 
Most people don’t know that Amazon has a claim system inside their company that is free. You just need to know how to navigate it. And since we’ve been on Amazon since 2007, we know how to navigate it. We know how to navigate it quickly. If you’re new to it, you will just need to grab the Tylenol bottle cause it’s quite a learning experience. I think Amazon has done a fantastic job of reaching out and wooing brands to get onto premium beauty or indie beauty.  But once you’re on there, it is very hard to get anyone on the phone. And that’s a huge pain point for beauty brands. At the core, you are really dealing with a computer – Amazon’s algorithm.  The Buy Box is an algorithm that Amazon has created to cure winners and losers.  The number one metric is price.  Number two metric is revenue-per-click. Number three is your seller rating.  There’s four or five of these metrics that go in there, but these are the top three.  If you don’t know how to start at the top and move down in the ticketing system to do what you want, maybe it’s getting an ASIN reinstated. Maybe it’s getting an advertising campaign done that’s been rejected. It all starts and stops with learning the Amazon system and learning that algorithm, because you will not get a live human being most of the time.