What are Watermarks and Why Are They Important?

The need for original, visual content is at an all-time high. In fact, relevant content has been linked to increasing purchase intent. With this trend, HubSpot found that 51% of marketers are prioritizing visuals in their content strategy.

But original content often doesn’t come cheap.

Creating content can be a significant investment - of both time and money. Brainstorming, photoshoots, graphic design, etc. all drain 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).

With the number of resources being spent to create original content, it’s surprising that some organizations aren’t protecting their assets with watermarks. When organizations leave their digital assets unprotected, they can face serious implications, including asset misuse, brand depreciation and legal fines.

In this post, we highlight the importance of watermarks and provide best practices for applying watermarks to your digital assets.

What is a Watermark?

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.




Why are Watermarks Important?

Typically, watermarks are used to protect content and to claim ownership of an asset. Without watermarks, valuable digital assets can be susceptible to content theft or unauthorized use.

Content Theft

When uploading or posting your digital content to public servers or websites, a simple right-click and save allows someone to save your asset. How, where and when they use it after that is their complete discretion.

Without proper protection, organizations that invest time and resources producing original content, risk their assets being used by others, potentially impacting business opportunities and revenue. Watermarks can deter this content theft or prevent it entirely (when done well).

Unauthorized Use and Distributions

Assets can also be at risk of misuse internally when stored in a private media library. If it’s unclear if an asset is approved, still in production or only meant for internal use, employees can use the asset in error.

While usually unintentional, the unauthorized use of assets can deteriorate your brand, spread misinformation or even have legal implications. Watermarks can provide clarity when assets are meant to be viewed, but not shared.

Watermark Best Practices

While it’s easy to add a watermark using various online services, not all offer the same level of security. Here are some considerations when evaluating a third-party vendor to apply a watermark:

Prevent Web Scraping

While 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. While it’s typically used for a variety of business functions, including price monitoring, market research and website migrations, 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 in. 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.

Restrict Cropping and Editing

Even with an embedded watermark, if it 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 localized marketing material. 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 unwatermarked 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.

MediaValet is a leader in cloud-based digital asset management that helps organizations manage, organize and share their digital assets, improving productivity and increasing ROI. See MediaValet in action today.