As our fashion and luxury sites study exposes, brands massively neglect the signature of their images (copyright). It is a sign that, for brands, their pictures no longer have value nor bring significant information after being put online. It is a mistake and here is why.
Why should brands monitor their images ?
Quick read :
- # 1 to detect product leaks and stop the leaker
- # 2 to prevent obsolete visuals from ruining your marketing efforts
- # 3 to detect and identify online grey market sources
- # 4 to fight counterfeiting
- # 5 to protect intellectual property
By monitoring its visual content, a brand can observe its various publication online. It can then quickly and easily identify illegal or counterfeits sales, uses of obsolete visuals (retired models for example) or negative usage that could harm its image. It can also measure the reach of a campaign, the success of one of its models, identify its distributors and their sites ...
Here are some practical cases :
Visual leaks :
Let your images denounce the leaker
Very often, luxury brands share photos of new products with key partners (printers, PR companies, etc.) before their official launch. A premature release of an image to the public can have devastating consequences. By placing invisible identifiers within images, Imatag can pinpoint the source of the leak if one does happen.
Obsolete visuals :
Don't let old images ruin your marketing efforts
By monitoring their images online, a brand can verify that the visuals used on retail sites by its distributors correspond to the new packaging of its product. The brand avoids customers frustration while enhancing distribution management.
Visuals of retired models can also be cached by search and comparison tools, sometimes longer than the product's lifecycle. By discovering them, the brand can take two kinds of actions : either send a takedown notice to the referencing site or prevent product delisting by updating the site with a link to its new visuals.
Use your product images as old stocks indicators
Luxury brands are worried that unsold stock would end up being discounted in the so-called “grey market” of unauthorised resellers, damaging the image and pricing power of its brands. Read this article about nearly €500m (£437m) of Cartier watches destroyed over the past two years to avoid them being sold at knockdown prices and this article about Burberry’s decision to burns bags, clothes and perfume worth millions.
As the presence of obsolete visuals is also a good indicator of second-hand sales or stocks sold at knockdown prices, monitoring of their images could help brands identify or anticipate risks of devaluation due to old stocks online sales.
Your copyright is also an indicator, even when the image is not yours
By searching sites whose credit metadata contained "Chanel", we noticed that 25% of the sites found using Chanel images were banned by the brand (closed) while others were still active :
In this example, the copyright “Chanel” allowed us to find an official photo produced by Chanel and to the site that used it in its article on counterfeit.
We also noticed that retailers who produce their own visual add the brand's copyright in the photo metadata for SEO purposes. So far, it is not really efficient. Indeed, Google only reads the image’s IPTC copyright field to comply with image rights, not to use it as a searchable field. IMATAG is the only image search engine to do so. Brands can thus track images of their product (even if not their own photos) by searching their credit on Imatag search engine.
Image monitoring :
Hunting metadata is faster then visual recognition
As mentioned earlier, it took us just a query of “Chanel” in our web-credited-images database to sort by decreasing occurrence the sites using Chanel copyrighted images. On the other side, if you have ever tried a reverse search on fashion bags images, you have probably noticed that, finally, they all look alike ! In the end, visual recognition generates 20% errors on average.
This is one of the reasons why, entering copyright metadata is not as useless as brands seem to think, but it is not the only one.
Why enter copyright metadata ?
In practical terms, it makes identifying sites to be monitored more efficient. Technically, hunting credit metadata is faster and more precise than performing visual recognition. Once sites containing credit/copyright have been identified, it is possible to specifically crawl them and proceed to visual identification of the images.
In commercial terms, a brand may have a strong interest in having its images referenced by search engines, such as Google Image. This would guarantee that any search of their name would result in only brand-approved images.
Retailers insert in the copyright metadata the name of the brand and the URL of their site. This practice aims to optimize SEO (search for the brand name will result in landing on their site) and also ensures that their visuals will not be taken by competitors.
From a legal point of view, obviously, reasons to enter credit and copyright are numerous, ranging from commercial right, author right, and image ownership. The voluntary suppression of this data can constitute an aggravating case in case of unauthorized usage.
Since brands websites are often used as the primary source of images for anyone looking to publish product images, it makes sense that a brand should properly credit its images.