For brands that struggle with crooks selling counterfeits of their products online, Amazon has just unveiled a new program to help. It’s called Project Zero (named to reflect Amazon’s goal of driving counterfeits down to zero), and it represents the company’s biggest program to tackle this problem since the Amazon Brand Registry.
We’ll discuss the positives and negatives of Project Zero below. But it’s also worth keeping in mind that signing up for this program—like signing up for the brand registry itself—is not a panacea for all of the damage unauthorized sellers can cause your brand on Amazon (or anywhere else online). So, if you do decide to apply for acceptance into Amazon’s Project Zero, remember that this should be only one part of a comprehensive online brand protection strategy.
Amazon Project Zero: The Good News
As Amazon explains in its blog post announcing Project Zero, the new program takes a three-pronged approach to stopping ridding the marketplace of fake versions of brands’ products:
- Amazon will apply its own proprietary AI to continuously scan the marketplace and will proactively pull down suspected counterfeit listings.
- Brands in the program will have the ability to remove suspected counterfeit listings themselves, immediately, without having to first report them to Amazon.
- Through a new product serialization service, brands that add serial numbers to their products will have those codes scanned by Amazon, so the marketplace can detect and stop a counterfeit purchase before it reaches the customer.
- Interested brands must have registered their trademarks with the government. And they must enroll their brand(s) in Amazon’s Brand Registry. Brands that have not yet done so, can get started at brandservices.amazon.com.
Want to learn more about Amazon’s Brand Registry?
Visit our Online Guide to the Amazon Brand Registry.
Amazon Project Zero: The Not-So-Good News
Based on the details we just discussed, this certainly seems like a worthwhile program for any brand that has real troubles fighting off counterfeiters. But Amazon Project Zero also has a few potential drawbacks, or at least inconveniences, that are worth taking into account.
- For now, the program is invitation-only, and Amazon acknowledges that there is a waiting list for applications. So, if you want to join Project Zero, you’ll have to apply and wait.
- Although the program is free, at least for US brands, the product serialization component is not. Brands that want Amazon to scan their products’ serial numbers, so the marketplace can use that data to watch for counterfeit sales, will have to pay Amazon about $.01 to $.05 per unit.
- As we’ve pointed out here on the TrackStreet blog before, all of the programs Amazon introduces to reduce misleading or false content on its marketplace are designed to help Amazon, not specifically to help brands. This program is no exception.
What does this mean for your company, in practical terms? In this case, as with Amazon Brand Registry, the program has value because Amazon’s own interests align with the interests of your own brand: Both you and Amazon want to stop crooks from selling fake versions of your products that will upset customers.
But remember, Amazon worries about this because of the harm it might cause to Amazon’s own brand—increasing distrust among shoppers at the marketplace.
For your company, though, the danger is different. If they don’t know the product they bought is a fake, customers will attribute the frustration and dissatisfaction they experience to your brand.
Part of a Broader Brand Protection Strategy
This is why we believe that, yes, programs like Amazon Project Zero are definitely worth looking into. And if your company has the time and in-house resources, it might be worth signing up for and managing. (Remember, part of this program involves your company monitoring Amazon and pulling down suspected listings yourselves.)
But you need to remember that counterfeiters represent just one type of danger that every brand is facing today on Amazon, on other marketplaces, and across the web. Those other risks include:
- Unauthorized 3rd-party sellers listing your inventory without your permission.
- Retailers (both members of your Authorized Dealer Program, and rogue sellers) advertising your products online for prices below your MAP levels, which can lead to online price erosion across your resale channel and, eventually, damage to your brand.
- Problems in your distribution channel (wholesalers selling to unauthorized retailers, poor service from your shipping partners, etc.) leading to customer disappointment, bad word-of-mouth, and negative customer reviews posted online.
Instead of trying to cobble together an infrastructure to safeguard your brand by signing up piecemeal for several programs like Amazon Project Zero, enlist the help of a comprehensive brand protection solution—and let the experts behind that solution manage it all for you.