YouTube and Its Dangers to Your Brand

by Christian Stegmaier
Our retail and hospitality clients spend millions of dollars each year promoting their respective brands. Whether it is through advertising or internal programs that emphasize superior customer service at every point of contact, these corporations allocate tremendous time and resource to create distinctions for themselves in a marketplace filled with competition.

The internet is a huge vehicle for brand development. A big fixture of today’s internet is YouTube, the video sharing site owned by Google. I am not a big YouTube user; however, from time to time, I will look at it. Within recent times, I was looking for advertisements a retailer had recently run, which I thought had done a lot to improve its branding message. I searched on the name of the retailer and found the advertisements. The retailer’s marketing department had actually placed the ads on YouTube, which improved their visual and sound quality. I also found some entries, however, which obviously had not been placed on YouTube by the company. Of particular interest was a video created by associates in a storeroom of a location telling viewers “what it was really like” to work for the company. The remarks were less than complementary and were in total contravention with the company’s branding message. Viewers of this video could conceivably develop negative attitudes about the company after viewing this video. This is not good.

Branding is in the details. Developing, delivering, and preserving a branding message is a game of inches. One small misstep can negate all of the effort expended to build the brand up for those consumers who come into contact with a negative message or experience. If associates or others are using your company as a platform for an unflattering YouTube video, the company can take steps to protect its image and proprietary rights. See to file a complaint with Google for violation of copyrights. Also, the company can report the video to YouTube for review by clicking the “Flag as Inappropriate” link under the video and then follow up with the site’s administrators. Additional steps, such a cease and desist letter from counsel or even the commencement of litigation, are mechanisms the company can use to protect itself, especially in cases where the video is truly negative to the brand image.

We know from the notoriety of last year’s “Obama Girl” and her progeny that the media will pick up on what they believe to be interesting/compelling YouTube videos. Folks that make these videos are seemingly always on CNN or Fox News to talk about them. We also know that people are capable of saying and doing just about anything when its comes to the pursuit of their 15 minutes of fame. Outrageousness seems to have no boundaries in today’s internet age. The last thing your company needs to be is a punch line for a clever video televised on YouTube for all the world to see. Take steps to have someone in your organizations routinely patrol sites like YouTube and ensure your branding message isn’t being injured by associates or third parties.

About Christian Stegmaier
Senior Shareholder

Christian Stegmaier is a shareholder and chair of the Retail & Hospitality Practice Group at Collins & Lacy in Columbia. He is also active in the firm’s professional liability and appellate practices. Stegmaier welcomes your questions at (803) 255-0454 or