Making the link to securing brands online

With phishing and other attacks proliferating globally, businesses are faced with a dilemma: they need web addresses that are not only concise and linked to their brand, but also trusted and secure.

Chris Davies, senior vice-president of legal, Rebrandly: ‘Cyber security has been the number one risk for boards for a decade. It’s really not a case of if you will have a security breach, it’s when.’

Back in the early 2010s, URL (uniform resource locator) shortening services, which reduce the length of web links, burgeoned. Egged on, no doubt, by Twitter’s short character limit as well as that of text messages, users were keen to reduce the length of their posts and communications.

For brands, though, things were a little bit trickier. Of course, brands wanted short URLs, too, and the ability to collect analytics and delve into statistical data about how visitors came to them, but they also wanted their links to be on brand rather than generic.

Fast forward to today and things are trickier still: with phishing and other forms of internet spoofing exploding, brands need to create branded URLs that are not only on brand, but that telegraph trust to customers.

Company details Rebrandly

Year founded: 2015

Number of employees: 30

Turnover: $10-$30 million

Why it is in the news: Rebrandly wants to raise awareness of the relationship between branding and trust.

This is what Rebrandly does: create short links that relate to brands, don’t look like spam, and, as a result, are not blacklisted. In other words, Rebrandly allows businesses to create links that people will actually click or tap on in this anxious age.

Chris Davies, senior vice-president of legal at Rebrandly, himself a white-collar crime lawyer specialist, said that security really is essential for businesses that want to engage online.

“Cyber security has been the number one risk for boards for a decade. It’s really not a case of if you will have a security breach, it’s when,” he said.

In this context, getting people to click on anything is a struggle. However, at the same time, the internet has become the primary communications channel for most businesses, both for broad marketing and direct, personal communications. In other words, links matter now more than ever, and businesses need to create ones that people will trust.

“Think about the rise of SMS communications and social media: links have never been more important,” said Davies.

To give just one example, Automobili Lamborghini is a client of Rebrandly, using its lam.bo URL in its digital marketing and social media campaigns. Clearly a business as focused on image and built around brand value as Lamborghini is not going to use a generic link shortener.

But while the Lamborghini marque may be an obvious example of a business that understands the importance of branding, the fact is that all businesses need to be brand conscious. Indeed some, such as banks, insurance companies and other financial services companies are not only equally brand conscious, they also face extra challenges, notably compliance.

“The intersection between links, privacy and security is strong,” Davies said. “If you operate in a regulated environment, for instance, you have very sensitive legal and regulatory requirements so you have to take privacy and security very seriously, and at Rebrandly we do take both very seriously. Our product was built from day one with reliability, security and safety at its core”.

Ultimately, a brand is a mark of trust: when you buy a product or service from a brand it is a known entity. Rebrandly extends this to the links it creates by bringing trusted brands to its shortened links and working to ensure they are secure and not abused.

“Having trust in your brand is important and we have strategic partnerships in place to reduce the risk. For example, there are blacklists of end destinations and we work with them,” Davies said.

Rebrandly has worked with companies in sensitive areas, including banking, government, and healthcare, demonstrating how trust is the core component of its offering.

“Having a branded link that people will click is essential – and the clickthrough rate for a branded link is much higher than for an unbranded link. 40 per cent higher is the average lift for a branded vs. generic link according to Rebrandly data,” he said.

“If we take it as a given that companies need to brand links, then companies should be making sure they have the most trusted provider. Our customers want to ensure our security posture aligns with theirs and also that they, and we, are compliant with security and data protection law globally and generally,” he said.

To this end, Rebrandly is SOC 2-compliant and recently launched its own online Trust Centre at trust.rebrandly.com.

While supporting brands is Rebrandly’s key goal, Davies said that, behind that, there is a higher goal.

“We do have a responsibility, and we do want to make the internet a safer place,” he said.