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Friday, December 27, 2013

To Brand or Not To Brand

A “Brand” is often described as the name, term or symbol that identifies a product from a specific seller. There is some confusion differentiating “Branding” from “Marketing”. Some define “Marketing” as what you do, and “Branding” as what you are. A “Brand” may be applied to a product, service or even an entire company and generally has value in the marketplace. I have had the opportunity to develop, trademark and protect “brands” during my career and believe it is important to enter this area well advised.

It was Shakesphear who wrote: “…he that filches from me my good name robs me of that which not enriches him and makes me poor indeed.” This statement can be applied to a Brand as well.

There are a number of cases where a Brand was not protected by its owner, and the uniqueness was lost. Who owns the brand Frigidaire, or Kleenex or even Xerox? These have become general terms for refrigerators, tissues and copiers and the original owners of the brands, who spent a lot of time effort and money developing them have lost their uniqueness as a result.  This raises the question: what is the value of protecting a brand?

If you have been following this BLOG you may have seen the piece on a Franchising Story, where a position on supporting a brand was discussed as well.

So, if you decide to “Brand” anything, here are a few tips:

Establish a name you can protect and keep fresh in most, if not all forums, where you compete, on line or in any media. Think long term to evolving media as well, even if you are not ready to use it. Use trademark, copywrite, domain name registration services and/or other protective notices everywhere.

Build credibility with views of the history of the people and issues that led to the development of the brand. Consider social media for this.

Protect your Brand. Do everything you can to stop others from using it. Consult an attorney skilled in these areas. If you can not or will not do this then one should question having a brand at all. Someone else could get it and force you out.

As you set up on line capabilities keep in mind that search software may find your site and load it up with spam. Plan ahead for this.

What are you doing in this area?

Steve Koenig, SCORE Counselor


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