Synergistic use of online brand protection and MAP Monitoring services helps create a more level playing field for authorized sellers.
Many companies focus their brand protection efforts specifically on removing counterfeits, unauthorized resellers, and intellectual property violations. Much less attention is paid to putting a MAP policy in place. This is often due to misconceptions around how it can help with unauthorized resellers and counterfeit products.
If brands set up their MAP policy correctly, it can provide an added level of protection to their overall online brand protection strategy.
What Does a MAP Policy Encompass?
MAP (Minimum Advertised Price), UMAP (Unilateral Minimum Advertised Price) or UPP (Unilateral Price Policy) state that a brand has put into place a minimum online price structure for specific products, of which they expect their resellers to adhere to.
The intent of this policy is threefold:
- Establish pricing expectations for all online resellers. This creates a more level playing field for all, preventing the “race to the bottom” mindset on pricing.
- Ensure consumer confidence in pricing. MAP policies can also make it easier to identify counterfeit products with “too-good-to-be-true” prices.
- Maintain the brand’s perceived value.
Depending on the brand, the policy may encompass all current SKU’s. It may also cover only a small portion of their total product portfolio. The SKU’s covered by this policy may also change from one quarter to the next. They can also remain static the entire year, depending on the type of product the brand sells.
Within this policy, there can also be times of year set aside for “MAP Holidays.” In such cases, resellers are not required to follow these minimum online advertised prices. Instead, they’re allowed to advertise below the usual MAP for that product without facing consequences.
Having a Unilateral Policy
Important language to include in your brand’s MAP policy is the word “Unilateral.” Brands can include this in their MAP policy as a UMAP or UPP. This allows the brand more flexibility in their pricing policy. Plus, it doesn’t require that the brand have the reseller’s consent in order to institute.
When looking to address both authorized and unauthorized resellers through a MAP policy, having a Unilateral advertised pricing policy is the best way to achieve this.
This Harvard Business Review article is a great resource to provide some further information around this. (Brands are advised to work closely with their legal team when drafting any policies or agreements such as UMAP.)
Note that not all countries allow for MAP policies, nor allow enforcement of them. Most of our clients focus their MAP enforcement in the United States and Canada. Australia, the EU and the UK are just some of the locations which restrict these types of policies.
Creating a Level Playing Field for ALL Resellers
When putting a policy like this into place, brands will want to ensure that they are acting on it for all resellers. The key here is that MAP enforces against Online Advertised prices, so a retailer with an In Store Discount that falls below MAP is not violating the brand’s policy.
Retailers would only be violating the policy if they were advertising and making available that same below MAP discount online.
The online advertised price is the key piece for MAP. This is where price-matching becomes a concern with unauthorized resellers who are not following the expected MAP policy and creating price wars.
How can Brand Protection help with MAP Violators?
Online brand protection can be an important step to identify unauthorized resellers in order to address MAP violations they are making.
Before we get too far ahead of ourselves, you might be asking, “What exactly is Online brand protection?” If you’ve conducted any online research on brand protection, you will find that companies define it in many different ways.
Online brand protection helps brands to identify and remove unauthorized resellers, counterfeit products, intellectual property infringements and seller policy violations from online, third-party marketplaces.
Using the above definition, a brand protection service can help brand’s enforce their MAP policy violations through unauthorized seller identification and removal.
Identification will typically start with reaching out to resellers to determine if the products they are selling are authentic. You’ll also determine what part of the supply chain they were procured from.
Seller Authentication and Removals
Brand protection will also work to authenticate the reseller’s true identification, along with providing contact information for that seller. Although the INFORM Consumers Act was put into place in 2023, what’s listed on the marketplace is still not always true and accurate.
Brand protection services will also help with unauthorized reseller removals through various marketplace enforcements and additional removal tactics.
Focusing the brand protection enforcement on those resellers which are most disruptive to the brand―through a high number of listings, low pricing and poor consumer reviews―can help prevent below MAP price-matching from occurring.
In addition, identifying the most common supply chain leaks to unauthorized resellers can benefit brands by determining changes that may need to be put into place at the distribution or DTC levels.
Along with distributors supplying sellers with the brand’s UMAP policy for visibility, a brand protection company can help brands with additional measures to put in place at the distributor level to help limit disruptive resellers.
A Tandem Approach can help to Maintain Healthy Margins
Below are some of the most important ways in which running online brand protection in tandem with MAP monitoring can help brands better address MAP violations:
- Low-Price Competition. Removing unauthorized resellers from marketplaces helps mitigate low-price competition.
- Contacting Unauthorized Resellers. Providing contact information for MAP violation notices.
- Supply Chain Leak Identification. Determining supply chain sources for unauthorized resellers provides the ability to enforce shipping suspensions at appropriate violation stages.
If there is an option for removing the unauthorized resellers from marketplaces, especially those which are being disruptive to the pricing policy, a brand protection company can help with this process.
Identifying the resellers, as well as their supply chain sources, will be just as helpful in the MAP monitoring phase to address violations through. Many unauthorized resellers will come into compliance with a brand’s expectations once they are made aware of them.
Additionally, the information gathered on the invoices provided by resellers will allow brands to enforce MAP violations at the distributor level when resellers move into a shipping suspension phase.
As the information provided on marketplaces can vary from the information a reseller provides to a distributor, being able to determine the seller’s supplier is imperative in enforcing shipping suspensions.
A Tandem Strategy for the Win
As unauthorized resellers come into compliance with MAP policies, authorized sellers are less likely to feel the pressure to violate the policy in order to be competitive online. All of this translates into better margins on the brand’s products (which we all love). Plus, it also helps to maintain the product’s position in the market.
Product position/consumer conception is something I don’t think we―as an industry highly focused on marketplace sales―talk about enough. Brands such as Apple, Bose and Viking are not only highly sought after, but achieve this with consistent undiscounted pricing.
These are brands that you expect to purchase at MSRP specifically because you don’t see a large variance on their prices online. They are in control of their consumer perception and drive product desire in part through their well-controlled pricing strategies.
MAP policies are most effectively enforced through a tandem strategy which includes online brand protection and a unilateral pricing policy. By combining these services, brands can maintain healthier margins, protect their online image, and create a more fair marketplace for their authorized sellers.
VantageBP helps brands stop unauthorized resellers, counterfeit products, and price violations on online marketplaces. Request a free reseller report and choose a plan that suits your budget and needs.