Just because you’ve stopped starting all your emails with “Happy New Year” doesn’t mean you should stop exploring new digital marketing strategies. Now is the time to think outside the box and explore new opportunities to scale your affiliate program. One option worth considering: Trademark Plus, (TM+), an underutilized strategy that can add a lot of value to publishers and advertisers.

When you enter into a TM+ agreement with a publisher, you are 1) whitelisting them to use your brand name in copy on their site, and 2) allowing them to run paid search campaigns alongside your search team, bidding on terms that include your trademark plus additional keywords, such as “coupon,” “discount,” “promo code,” etc. With a Trademark Plus campaign, if a consumer is searching on Google for “your brand + promo,” they would be served an ad at the top of the results for your brand’s offers on your TM+ partner’s website, followed by organic results.

This example highlights Bluemercury, which shows their own brand ad, three ads from publishers with TM+ rights, followed by one organic result:

TM+ terms should be agreed upon in advance with partners, as should any other rules your team would like to set around bid caps, positions, match type and term exclusions. Rakuten Advertising Senior Manager of Client Services, Lauren Bennett, recommends limiting the number of publisher partners that you leverage for Trademark Plus campaigns so as not to generate increased competition or complications in monitoring your brand’s messaging.

Here are a few reasons why you should consider running a Trademark Plus campaign:

  • Publisher perks. Many publishers will jump at the chance to run TM+ campaigns for your brand because they see such an increase in performance. This is because in my experience with my clients, a lot of people will search for coupon codes, thus these publishers will rank above other partners’ SEO results for these queries. In exchange for TM+ rights, your brand will often get priority on the publisher’s remaining site or placement inventory in addition to set monthly placements in newsletters and category pages, as well as discounts on any other exposure you might want to book. Be sure to negotiate these perks in advance to help drive incremental exposure and volume.
  • Increased publisher sales. With their enhanced ranking in search results, you will likely see the partners you have running TM+ campaigns grow traffic and sales by utilizing these campaigns. Your partners running trademark plus campaigns will work closely with their search teams to rank highly and drive this increased performance, which has the additional advantage of keeping your competitors or rogue bidders from ranking on these trademark terms.
  • Reduced costs. You don’t have to worry about the variable costs of bidding or paying for each click that doesn’t convert since you aren’t the one bidding on these terms. Instead, you will maintain your standard commission payout for your TM+ partners where you only pay a commission when the shopper converts. Sarah Gyson, Senior Director of Client Services at Rakuten Advertising, suggests that since your brand may not be offering coupons on products, publisher sites may be seen as more relevant for these searches, allowing them to have lower costs and higher conversion rates while saving time and resources for your search team.

Your search team may express concern over increased costs per click (CPCs) by bringing in a TM+ partner, but as long as you work strategically with them on the regulations you put in place, you shouldn’t have an issue. Chelsea Perry, an Account Manager with 3+ years overseeing search campaigns at Rakuten Advertising, recommends asking your TM+ publishers to send a detailed list of keywords (as well as desired match types) that they would like to bid on. This will eliminate the need for your search team to create a suggested keyword list, and, most importantly, it will lead to a more strategic keyword strategy between you and the publisher.

Having a detailed list ahead of time allows your search team to more accurately measure the impact TM+ bidding might have on the program, both positive and negative. Additionally, you should require publishers to add your core brand name as an exact match negative to their entire Google/Bing account to ensure their ads never show and inflate CPCs for your highest revenue-driving keywords.

With this in mind, increased CPCs shouldn’t be a concern. Compliance can be, however. That’s why it is important to monitor your TM+ partners on a regular basis to ensure they are abiding by the regulations you have agreed on and to evaluate those agreements regularly. You may also notice an uptick in non-approved publishers bidding on your terms, since they see their competitors bidding. Be sure that your affiliate program’s terms and conditions are clear on who is allowed to have TM+ rights and work closely with your team to shut down any rogue bidders.

With TM+ partners, you should take a “test and learn” approach, potentially swapping out publishers and strategies as frequently as a quarterly basis. Digest the learnings from each campaign, then try different partners, bid caps and positions to find the performance sweet spot for your brand. You’ll learn that some partners perform better than others, or they offer more perks, and you want to make sure you’re doing the best by your brand.

Ready to learn more about how to get more out of your affiliate program? Contact us today.

Katie England has been with Rakuten for over 5 years, and she is currently working as a Manager, Strategic Services. In this role, she consults with current and prospective clients on how to make the most of our product suite. She is based out of Tampa, FL, though likes to spend her free time traveling (or planning her next trip). When she’s at home, you can find her hanging out with her husband and two dogs.