What are Watermarks and Why Are They Important?
Director of Growth Marketing
6 min read
The creation of high-quality visual content, for any organization, is a significant investment in both time and money. The entire process—from brainstorming to photoshoots to graphic design—drains valuable resources. Even when working with an agency, it can take up to one month to complete an infographic from start to finish (and cost a couple of grand).
When organizations leave their digital assets unprotected, they can face serious implications, including asset misuse, brand depreciation, and legal fines. Additionally, with the number of resources being spent to create original content, plus the repercussions of misuse, it’s shocking that some companies aren’t protecting their assets with the watermark security feature. In this post, we cover:
- Why watermarks are important,
- How to properly watermark photos, and
- Best practices for applying watermarks to your digital assets.
Once you’ve got a handle on watermarks, how they work, and why they’re so integral to your digital asset management solution, you’ll be able to safeguard those valuable assets and increase ROI.
Why are Watermarks Important?
First things first – what is a watermark? A watermark is an image, overlay, or text that's placed over a digital asset. Usually, the image will be monochromatic and transparent, to enable others to still view the asset.
It’s important to secure your assets with watermarks in order to protect content and claim ownership. Without watermarks, your valuable digital assets can be susceptible to content theft or unauthorized use. The top three benefits of watermarking include:
- Brand Consistency - Watermarking protects your assets and helps to keep your brand safe, eliminating the risk of them being misused. Watermarks can provide clarity when assets are meant to be viewed, but not shared.
- Asset Protection - Watermarks are used to protect images and visual files from being stolen and used or altered without the owner’s permission.
- Increased ROI - Watermarking increases the ROI on these valuable investments by keeping them protected and ready for use, secure distribution, updating, or repurposing.
It only makes sense that increasing ROI is a top priority for any organization spending an ever-increasing amount of time and money on visual content. Watermarking helps to achieve two goals in increasing the value of your assets: it ensures that they are only being used in approved on-brand campaigns, and it protects them from being stolen or altered, which increases the longevity of their use. Watermarking should be an important part of your overall digital asset security strategy.
How to Properly Watermark Photos
Before explaining how to properly watermark your photos, you need to know when to watermark your photos. Any photos that the company owns or visual assets that have been created should be watermarked. The best time to watermark your photos is before they are shared on a network or the internet.
Depending on your tech stack and what you’re using to watermark photos, there are different processes. Here are three examples of solutions that allow you to make watermarks on certain kinds of assets.
- Microsoft Word - Has the capabilities to add either a simple or custom watermark to a word document. Follow these simple steps to learn how.
- Adobe Acrobat - To add, replace or update a watermark to a PDF, Adobe offers step-by-step instructions.
- MediaValet - Instead of applying a watermark overlay, MediaValet protects your assets from misuse by generating watermarked renditions of all your image assets, ensuring asset originals are protected from unauthorized access via screenshots, right-clicking and saving, and web scraping.
When dealing with your valuable brand assets, it’s best to choose a solution for watermarking that is effective and user-friendly. You want the best, most secure solution for watermarking.
Some simple watermark ideas include using the company logo, a copyright statement, or a website link. Without proper protection, organizations that invest time and resources in producing original content risk their assets being used by others, potentially impacting business opportunities and revenue. While usually unintentional, the unauthorized use of assets can deteriorate your brand, spread misinformation, or even have legal implications.
Watermark Best Practices
While it’s easy to add a watermark using various online tools, not all are created equal. When you’re looking to properly watermark photos, not every online service offers the same level of watermark security. Here are two important considerations when choosing a third-party vendor to apply a watermark:
1. Prevent Web Scraping
Although it’s easy to overlay a watermark on an asset, either manually or through an online service, it often isn’t the best option to keep the asset truly secure. While the watermark is visible and may deter a portion of people from trying to claim the photo, it’s still very easy to snag an image via web scraping.
With web scraping, users “scrape” data from websites including contact information, text, images, and video. It’s typically used for a variety of business functions, including price monitoring, market research, and website migrations, but individuals can (and do) use web scraping for personal gain.
You upload a batch of new images to your photography website, using CSS and HTML coding to overlay a watermark on top of the images. Using web scraping, a visitor grabs your photos (without the watermark) and posts them as their own work on a photography marketplace.
How to Address It
The best way to protect your assets from web scraping is by creating another rendition of the asset, with the watermark embedded within. When the watermark is embedded rather than overlayed on top of the asset, web scraping is unable to separate the two, keeping your assets safe.
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2. Restrict Cropping and Editing
If your embedded watermark isn’t intrusive enough the image could be usable with simple modifications. If your watermark is very transparent, or only present in a small portion of your image, it can easily be removed via cropping or basic editing.
You share a collection of assets with franchisees of a fast-food chain, so they can build their own customized regional marketing materials. Each asset contains a watermark in the bottom right-hand corner. The franchisees then need to get their designs approved by your team before you provide the un-watermarked assets. Using a cropping tool, one of the franchisees removes the watermark and releases unapproved marketing material.
How to Address It
While you want your asset to still be easily viewable, it’s equally as important to keep them secure. The ideal watermark is 30-70% transparent and covers a significant portion of the asset.
Advanced Watermarking with DAM
While any watermark is better than no watermark at all, it’s important to consider the workarounds that allow others to capture your assets. When working with a DAM vendor, ensure that they offer advanced watermarking capabilities that can protect your assets from being accessed.
MediaValet offers a more secure approach to watermarking by creating a watermarked rendition of the asset, rather than using an overlay. This protects your assets from unauthorized access via screenshots, right-click and save, and web scraping. Learn more about MediaValet’s advanced watermarking here.