Thomas Cook stirs online branding debate

Thomas Cook is to crack down on companies who feed off the strength of its brand and effectively hijack sales.

Head of online operations Andrew Doe said online companies are bidding on the Thomas Cook key words to drive business to their sites even though the name is trademarked. He called on search engines to become more vigilant in removing links to offending sites.

“We suffer badly from brand abuse,” Doe admitted to Travolution. “Part of the reason is that Thomas Cook is such a widely searched-for brand. If you’re looking for Thomas Cook you’re looking for travel and a lot of competitors try to capture that traffic.

“We have to monitor that closely and take action wherever we can. We need to minimise this brand hijacking.”

Doe denied the online arena was an accepted free-for-all with the highest bidder for key words coming out on top.

“I don’t think that’s right,” he said. “Generic terms are different. People are searching for ideas and do not have a specific company in mind. It works through the bidding process and that’s fine.

“But if a customer is typing in Thomas Cook they are clearly looking for Thomas Cook and we need to make it easy for them to find us and not be directed to a competitor’s site.

“You can’t let market forces come into play otherwise we’d be spending a lot of money buying traffic who want to get to Thomas Cook anyway.”

Doe added that while Google prevent a trademarked name being used by a competitor, other search engines are not so vigilant with Thomas Cook having to make individual requests to stop the abuse.

“It’s about making sure customer find what they are looking for and ensuring that traffic is not being hijacked by anyone else,” said Doe. “It’s like having a competitor standing outside your shop in the high street and telling customers not to go in but to walk down the road to their shop.

“You wouldn’t let it happen on the high street and you can’t let it happen on the web.”

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