Brand Protection: The Expanding CSO Portfolio

Security finds itself increasingly entrenched in the battle against corporate brand infection and counterfeiting

Pizza isn't typically a topic of conversation in company meetings at Caterpillar, the world's largest maker of construction and mining equipment, diesel and natural gas engines, and industrial gas turbines. But a recent unfortunate incident involving Domino's Pizza had a special team tasked with protecting Caterpillar's brand integrity taking notes and buzzing about how quickly a simple video can suddenly drag a massive corporate name through the mud.

Which also demonstrates how the role of security leadership, already subject to a high-speed evolution in the past half-decade, continues to expand.

Last month, a prank video involving two Domino's employees in a North Carolina store was posted to YouTube. The video, which showed the employees engaged in several disgusting and unsanitary food preparation acts, received well over one million views and quickly left the company scrambling with a brand impression nightmare.

"Every company has a risk to its brand," said Tim Williams, director of global security at Caterpillar. "With the proliferation of social interaction tools any company's brand could be put under attack for a multitude of reasons. We all have to be very, very astute about watching for those emerging risks and be able to deal with them."

Brand protection, brand integrity, brand reputation. Whatever you call it, it comes down to the public perception of your company and the products and services it offers or manufactures. Concerns vary widely among organizations. While a fast food chain like Domino's is worried about how the public feels about their sanitation and food quality, manufacturers are concerned about supply issues, and financial institutions might be concerned their name (and logo) will be used in an email scam or phishing attack, for instance.

Like Caterpillar, many organizations are seeking ways to prevent brand infection and calling upon security and risk officials to figure out what needs to be done in order to prevent negative perception about a brand. Williams has a dedicated committee at Caterpillar working on brand issues. The aim is to assess risks of all kinds; anything from potential counterfeit parts in the supply chain, to the corporate reputation and perception that is conveyed through social networking sites.

"There are all kinds of things that could pop up at anytime that would have a serious impact on the brand," said Williams. "And it can move at light speed because once it's out there it is going to be going over the wire."

Committees like the one at Caterpillar, are often comprised of representatives from an organization's legal, marketing, security and human resource departments, according to Michael Rasmussen, president of Corporate Integrity, LLC, a Wisconsin-based consultancy that specializes in governance, risk, and compliance. Many companies are now using brand integrity issues as a way to put a positive spin on a company image, he said. More than 25 percent of the Global 100 firms include elements of security and privacy in their corporate social responsibility reports.

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