Amazon helps Taco vs Burrito throw bad actors off their game

"I'm so impressed with all the brand protection tools Amazon provides. We couldn't have scaled our business to millions of dollars in sales without Amazon and their brand protection programs."

Leslie Pierson
President, Hot Taco Inc

Getting in the game

When Leslie Pierson's seven-year-old son Alex mentioned he wanted to create a card game and fund it on Kickstarter, she wasn't sure what to think.

On the one hand, the idea didn't come out of the blue. Leslie’s family consists of card game enthusiasts who can happily spend all weekend playing and rating games. Leslie is also an entrepreneur with experience making and selling products, and Alex was often by her side as she worked on new products and funded them on Kickstarter.

Alex had a name for his game, Taco vs Burrito, and to his mother’s surprise, he was not fazed by her explanation of what it would take to make this a reality. So, with coaching from Leslie, he got started on creating a plan and building a prototype.

Alex persisted, tweaking and testing the game every weekend, taking notes, and making improvements until, six months later, Leslie and Alex were confident enough to actually Kickstart their product.

Rolling the dice

"Once the game took shape," Leslie recalls, "we didn't want to play anything else. We were surprised by how it was always different, and how much strategy was involved."

While Leslie and Alex were extremely happy with what they'd come up with, their expectations going into the Kickstarter weren't particularly high. "We were mindful that this was a game created by a seven-year-old," Leslie explains. "And we were very up front about that."

Nevertheless, they had the foresight to start the trademark registration process to protect their brand before they launched.

To Leslie's shock, their Kickstarter campaign was a massive hit. "We started with family and friends, but a lot of other people backed us," she says.

The initial product run sold out instantly, and they had to go back to the printer to make more. The business just kept on growing and evolving from there.

Playing their cards right

From the very beginning, Leslie was very clear that they'd only sell Taco vs Burrito on Amazon.

In part, this decision was down to practicality. "My son owns this business, and we didn't want to build it into something that would become unmanageable for him," Leslie explains. "Amazon eliminates a lot of hassles and it's a profitable place to sell, so it was an easy choice."

Leslie had heard about Amazon Brand Registry - a free program that helps brands protect their intellectual property and manage the accuracy of their listings -- through her prior experiences selling on Amazon. Since Leslie and Alex had a pending trademark for Taco vs Burrito, they were able to join Brand Registry right away. Brand Registry also made them eligible for more than 20 brand building programs, including Amazon Launchpad.

Launchpad is a program that helps entrepreneurs launch and boost the sales of unique, innovative, or sustainable products. It offers premium benefits like customer engagement tools, merchandising, and strategic support to help grow online sales and make it easier for customers to discover the brand.

"I'd done Launchpad with my other company, GoodHangups, and loved the program. So, when we started out with Taco vs Burrito, I applied to join," Leslie explains.

What appealed most to Leslie about the program were the extra benefits: "You get access to exclusive marketing opportunities and discounts. And, once you reach a certain sales threshold, you are assigned an account manager."
Seattle, WA
Amazon Brand Registry

Project Zero


Foul play

Following their success, poor-quality copies of the game began popping up on online retailers' websites and even at a brick-and-mortar toy store near Leslie and Alex's home.

The physical store, Leslie says, "had bought the stock from a site that's usually pretty reputable… but the quality was terrible. It had old instructions, the print was blurry, and the cards had some sort of dust-like residue."

After this experience at the neighborhood toy store, Leslie started to be on the lookout for possible counterfeits on Amazon as well. Luckily, because they were enrolled in Brand Registry, Leslie could easily use the Report a Violation tool to track down infringing listings and report them to Amazon for removal.

"With Report a Violation, we can upload our images, search by the image, and find things we wouldn't have found otherwise," Leslie says. "It's super, super easy to use… and you can also monitor worldwide Amazon stores to make sure nobody's selling counterfeits."

Building the brand

But the benefits of Brand Registry, Leslie says, don't stop at counterfeit prevention. Enrolling in Brand Registry unlocks access to a wide range of exclusive brand building programs, such as A+ Content and Brand Analytics, which Leslie believes were critical to Taco vs Burrito’s success.

With A+ Content, Leslie was able to use rich text and images on the Amazon detail page to showcase her brand and help drive traffic and conversion. "A+ Content makes a huge difference on a listing. It doubles your conversion rate instantly," she says.

Leslie used Brand Analytics, which helps her make informed and strategic decisions with aggregated search terms, demographics, and more. The insights she gets from it enable her to focus her resources in the areas where they're likely to be most effective.

"I could talk about Brand Analytics all day… the data you can get is so good," she enthuses. "You can see how you perform compared to the rest of the market based on search terms, so you can optimize your listings and ad spend. I'm thrilled with it."

Doubling down on counterfeit prevention

After experiencing success with Brand Registry, Leslie decided to up her game with two of Amazon’s other advanced anti-counterfeiting programs: Transparency and Project Zero, both of which require a Brand Registry enrollment.

Transparency proactively protects brands and their customers from counterfeits by using secure, unique codes to identify individual units and prevents the sale and shipment of counterfeits on Amazon. As a brand, you can print and attach labels with unique codes to products you've enrolled in Transparency or design them into the product's packaging. Customers can verify their products are authentic no matter where they purchase them by scanning the codes with the Transparency or Amazon Shopping app.

Transparency also provides the valuable data with the program's Returns Analytics feature. "Returns Analytics," she says, "gives us information on why customers are returning our products, by distributor, unit, and batch number, so we can pinpoint supply chain defects. This information in turn helps us continuously improve."

Project Zero, on the other hand, offers experienced Report a Violation tool users anti-counterfeit protection that allows them to take down infringing listings themselves immediately. These reports, in turn, help strengthen the Amazon’s automated protections for the brand.

Other marketplace tools are always reactive. I feel like Amazon has a proactive approach. With Transparency, the codes make it impossible for counterfeits to reach your customers and ruin their experience. Project Zero is also great because, as soon as you see a counterfeit listing, you can take it down.
Leslie PiersonHot Taco Inc

A winning hand

With sales projected to exceed targets by the end of 2022 — Leslie says things are going very well for Taco vs. Burrito.

But while the brand wouldn't be where it is today without Alex's ingenuity and Leslie's business acumen and work ethic, Leslie also credits Amazon for helping her and Alex achieve their goals.

"I can't imagine running a business without all the tools that Amazon provides. We literally couldn’t do this without Amazon" she says. "We would need to hire more people just to manage the basics of protecting our brand. The tools make it so easy -- we look at them once a week, and, in a matter of minutes, we know where we're at."

Leslie encourages every brand to try Amazon's brand protection programs.

"The biggest benefit of Amazon’s brand protection programs is that the customer has confidence they're getting an authentic product. The overwhelmingly positive reviews we receive show that our customers are pretty fanatical about the game and happy with the experience they had buying it.”

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