Back on September 15th, we posted on our blog about how private label sellers should be getting excited about Amazon’s changes to brand gating. Today, nearly two months later, private label sellers should be jumping up and down with joy. In today’s blog post, we will tell you why.
Breaking News: Amazon appears to be rolling out something called “Brand Gating” for us little guys. There’s a common misconception that Brand Gating is only for these big brands, or that one must have some special contract or relationship with Amazon to get your Brand Gated.
As of the time of writing, this simply isn’t true.
I’ve had luck getting my Amazon-selling clients’ brands gated, and I’d love to share with you what I’ve learned thus far. Of course, there are just as many–if not more–unknowns. Amazon is dynamic, but let’s get right to what we know….
WHAT IS BRAND GATING?
Brand Gating is a way to set up barriers, or walls, around your brand on Amazon in an effort to prevent third parties from hopping on your Amazon listings. Brand Gating likely originated with luxury brands not wanting third party “arbitrageurs,” understandably, to be able to list against them. Arbitrage can depress the cost of your product and negatively impact your overall brand value.
But Brand Gating, in its current form, does not discriminate!
Brand Gating prevents unauthorized third parties from listing their products “as new” on your listing…counterfeiters included! Playing “Whack-A-Mole” with counterfeiters is only fun for so long, and only if you are winning those special little tickets you can redeem for trinkets and trash at an amusement park. It’s not fun when the “moles” are egregious counterfeiters and, up until recently, that’s what a lot of sellers have been facing…a never ending, no-winning game of Whack-A-Mole.
In some cases, you’re able to get fully gated, a coveted status which keeps other sellers from listing any time of product on your listing, be it new or used. This can be pretty valuable when you consider that used products sold on your listing could generate a number of negative reviews on your listing – something we try desperately to control.
BRAND GATING VS. BRAND REGISTRY
Brand Gating is not the same as Amazon’s Brand Registry program. While Brand Registry gives you more control over the content of your listing, Brand Gating essentially sets up a perimeter around the ASINs under your brand, so that third party sellers cannot list their products “as new” against your ASINs.
While some sellers tend to underestimate the importance of Amazon’s Brand Registry program, please keep in mind that it’s a step that should be taken to appropriately protect yourself on Amazon. In addition to giving you more control over your listing content via customization, your brand must already be a part of Amazon’s Brand Registry program before you are even eligible for Brand Gating. So, it’s an important step that should not be overlooked. If you aren’t already part of Amazon’s Brand Registry program, go apply…now.
As an aside, Amazon appears to be rolling out some form of “Auto-Gating.” In other words, some lucky brand owners on Amazon are checking their listings and, to their pleasant surprise, they are seeing that their brand has already been gated!
I know that Amazon will not proactively let us know if our brands have been gated (either “Auto-Gated” or post-request). We have to proactively check to see if restrictions have been put in place.
HOW TO CHECK IF YOU HAVE BEEN AUTO-GATED
How can you check on your own to see if you have already been “Auto-Gated?” One way is to ask a fellow Amazon seller to input your ASIN into his Seller Central dashboard under “add a product.” If you are one of the lucky ones who has already been subject to the “Auto-Gating,” your friend will see a notification that states the he must get the approval of the brand owner to list against that brand and sell “as new.”
But let’s be real. Sometimes we don’t even want to share our highly coveted Amazon secrets with our closest friends. So, an even better option is to head on over to Helium 10’s sweet new Brand Gate Checker tool! It’s super quick and simple to use, and you can check to see if your Brand has won Amazon’s Brand Gating Lottery, without having to share secrets with your private label buddies. If you’re already a Helium 10 member you can use the tool right away, if not, you’ll have to create a free account first.
Keep in mind that it appears that third parties can still list against a gated brand by listing it as “used – like new.” But, the good news here is that you won’t be fighting for the Buy Box, and a rogue seller will likely move on to an easier target. And in some Amazon categories, third parties don’t even have the option of listing as anything other than “new!”
HOW TO GET BRAND GATING
So, let’s apply what we know, with a “real life” example. I want to do this to give you an idea of how to go through the branding and gating process for Amazon. These steps serve to help you in several ways:
1.) Deterrence of listing hijackers,
2.) Increase in ease of counterfeit removal, and
3.) This one is mostly speculative, but, I think the following steps all work together to help increase your chances of getting your Brand Gated.
I think we’re all over garlic presses by now. So, let’s say I import the next best thing: silicone meat claws. (I mean, it has to have silicone, right?)
The first thing I want to do is select a strong and viable trademark. While this single step is deserving of its own entire article (coming soon…I promise!), I’m going to pull a name out of the hat: WE DIG MEAT Meat Claws. Our brand, here, is WE DIG MEAT.
I’ll want to take several steps with my new brand, WE DIG MEAT. First, I want this trademark to appear on my packaging, and the product itself, if possible. It’s very important your trademark shows on your product and/or packaging. (Pro-tip: make sure you use the superscript ™ next to your trademark. You do NOT have to have a pending trademark application to do this!)
Next, I’ll file a trademark application at the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) for the trademark WE DIG MEAT. Note that I can file the trademark application prior to initial use of the trademark, or after I’ve started using the mark. (The strategy of choice in such a situation is very dependent on your unique circumstances…talk to your trademark attorney to help you best strategize.)
My next step would be to apply the brand WE DIG MEAT to Amazon’s Brand Registry program. Remember, don’t underestimate the importance of Brand Registry. You must take this step before you can apply for Brand Gating!) Please make sure you are using the trademark consistently…in your USPTO application, on your product and packaging, and on your Brand Registry request. In other words, if you use and file an application for the mark WE DIG MEAT, don’t apply WEDIGMEAT to Brand Registry…make it consistent: WE DIG MEAT.
After I’ve been approved for Amazon’s Brand Registry program, I would take steps to really “brand” the Amazon listing. I want to take advantage of the program by really customizing my Amazon listing. I would upload images that clearly show the trademark on the product, as well as the packaging for my product. I would also mention my WE DIG MEAT brand within my listing content. For example, I might state, “Be sure to look for authentic WE DIG MEAT™ meat claws and purchase only from authorized sellers,” or some variation.
THE IMPORTANCE OF BRAND REGISTRY FOR BRAND GATING
Why is taking advantage of Brand Registry so important? Not only will this step deter counterfeiters from hopping on your listings (because you have a unique and branded listing), I speculate that it’s wise to have a branded and unique Amazon listing for purposes of Brand Gating. In other words, if I were to hop onto your Amazon listing, it needs to be very clear from the outset that your ASIN is not some generic free-for-all listing that anyone who sells can jump on. (Make your branding on your Amazon listing very clear.)
Next, even if I weren’t dealing with serious counterfeit problems at this stage, I would probably go ahead and apply for Brand Gating. While I’ve been specifically requested by Amazon sources to explain the counterfeit problems of my clients seeking Brand Gating, I am hesitant to say that Brand Gating is only for sellers who are having significant counterfeit problems. In fact, I’ve helped gate a “dietary supplements” brand that had no counterfeit problems; however, keep in mind that the supplements industry in particular should be very concerned about counterfeits, and perhaps Amazon takes this into account when determining Brand Gating.
Remember, you’re probably going to want to first check to see if your brand hasn’t been subject to Amazon’s “Auto-Gating.” Again, here is the link to use the awesome Brand Gate Checker tool! You may be pleasantly surprised. At this time, we really have no idea why some brands seem to be gated without having first requested. It could be a random rollout, a beta test, or perhaps there are specific metrics that brands and/or sellers must meet, and we simply don’t know them at this point.
If your brand has been auto-gated, I would like to extend a big “Congratulations” to you!
If it has not been gated, you can wait around and see if you end up gettin’ lucky, too. Or, you can get the ball rolling sooner rather than later.
Of course, I suggest you first take the steps I outlined above with my WE DIG MEAT example above. When you are ready to apply for Brand Gating, you’ll need to show Amazon that your brand is part of Amazon’s Brand Registry program.
As I mentioned above, I still think it’s important to show Amazon that you have a strong, protectable brand. Before I submit Brand Gating requests on behalf of clients, I like to see a nice “branded” ASIN and at least a pending trademark application. This shows me that the brand owner takes his brand seriously and is already implementing steps to, in my opinion, probably increase his chances of getting the brand gated. I think it’s vital to have a strong brand presence on Amazon and show the platform that you are taking the steps necessary to proactively protect your brand, and consumers. Remember, Amazon is customer-centric. (Pro-tip: When I make any plea to Amazon, I always like to draft it in such a way that I’m drawing attention to how customers are being negatively impacted.)
If you’ve had counterfeit problems in the past, for the purpose of Brand Gating, Amazon seems to appreciate an explanation of the steps you’ve proactively taken to remove counterfeits, and what you are doing in an attempt to impede counterfeits. And of course, if you request Brand Gating, make sure you let Amazon know of any authorized sellers of your brand so that “exceptions” can be carved out of the Brand Gating.
It appears that if restrictions are going to be put in place around a brand, it takes about five weeks after requesting, sometimes longer. One commonality I am seeing in situations where my Brand Gating requests are not being honored is that the listing still looks generic. I’m speculating that in such instances, Amazon is simply hesitant to gate a listing which literally looks like anyone should be free to list against. And this is exactly why I make the argument above that it’s super important for you to take advantage of Amazon’s Brand Registry program and make your listing content unique and branded!
IT’S YOUR RESPONSIBILIY TO CHECK
After you request from Amazon to be gated, you’ll need to proactively check your ASINs to see if the restrictions have been put in place. Again, Amazon will not proactively let us know if a brand has been gated. Don’t expect to receive a form approval email like you receive after you’ve been approved for Amazon’s Brand Registry program! So, hop on over to your Helium 10 Brand Gate Checker tool, and plug in your ASIN.
Are you interested in getting your Brand Gated? If so, we would love to help you. Keep in mind, here’s what you need before you even start the Brand Gating process:
- A brand! (Obviously!)
- The brand must already be part of Amazon’s Brand Registry program.
- While not an Amazon requirement, I strongly suggest clients to have at least a pending trademark application for the brand.
- Your Amazon ASIN(s) should clearly reflect your branding effort. Customize that bad boy!
Our goal is to not only help your overall brand strength on Amazon, but also help put you in a position that increases your chances of getting your brand gated. It’s just one of the ways we can take control of our listings and kick those counterfeiters to the curb!
If you’d like a hands off approach to gating your brands, you can have a professional handle this for you over at BrandGating.com. Your first step though is to check yourself to see if you are auto-gated or not, regardless of whether you do this yourself or outsource it to a professional.
You may want to act quickly. When Amazon’s Merch program opened up, people jumped all over it. This new program was open to everybody. It was so popular in fact, that Amazon was inundated with sign up requests, and soon after, signup approvals slowed from just one day to weeks, and now months.
The same thing could happen to the brand gating program and the team that has been put in place to handle it. It appears at the moment, that the majority of sellers are unaware that brand-gating is even an option for them.
As word gets out, expect the brand gating approval times to increase, and it is quite possible that they may stop allowing brand gating without additional criteria or fees.
Don’t wait. Check your brand, and apply for brand gating today, while you still can under the relatively simple requirements that Amazon has in place now.
If we’ve learned anything about Amazon over the past few months, it is that they are on a rampage when it comes to updating their TOS and policies.
** EDIT **
This topic was started and continues in the AMAZON FBA HIGH ROLLERS group on Facebook, with over 12,000 active members. Join today! The news, and tools mentioned in this article were first leaked/posted to the FBA HIGH ROLLERS group, so be sure to join today so you get this cutting edge information before others do.