Featured Carousel Features February 2019

What is in a Brand

Written By: Maxwell Minch

Establishing and Protecting Your Company’s Reputation 

With the ever-growing popularity and use of social media, a company’s name or logo can instantly draw praise or be put under a spotlight. Never has it been that your company’s name is isolated only to the product(s) you sell. Rather, your company’s name and trademarks stand for much more: your brand, reputation and goodwill that consumers associate with your company with your goods and services. Building a strong brand is critical to separating yourself from your competition

The Promise with Strong Brand

A “Brand” is that promise a company makes to its customers communicating what they can expect from products and services; as well as the values and aspirations of your company derived from your company’s actions and mission statement. Your Brand is more than a name or individual trademark – it is who your company is.

A brand is not something that can be established overnight, but takes years of effort – earning the public’s trust and associated goodwill with your reputation and product(s). Factors affecting your brand include: i) the consistency and quality of your products and services compared to your competitors; ii) who or what your company supports or sponsors; iii) your company’s reputation in the community, and iv) the public’s impression of your company’s people and spokespersons.

While it is possible to run a profitable business without regard to your brand, most often, failure to establish a brand creates a ceiling on your customer base and pricing. A perfect example is “Lucky Charms” cereal versus the “Marshmallow Stars” brand. “Marshmallow Stars” is a generic brand of cereal with marshmallows, while we all know “Lucky Charms.” People are willing to pay more for “Lucky Charms” because they associate the brand with an expectation of taste and quality of the cereal. In addition, a consumer is also more likely to choose “Lucky Charms” because of their commercials, coupons and other public factors. Nonetheless, “Marshmallow Stars” as a generic brand can still be a viable product due to price considerations, overriding the extra cost of the Lucky Charms brand for some consumers. However, “Marshmallow Stars” is unlikely to have the market share, or to control its own prices in the manner of the Lucky Charms brand.

Establishing Your Brand

Whether you are a new company, or an established company looking to renew or revitalize your brand, establishing your brand requires: i) establishing legal protection of your name, logos, and content; ii) differentiating your goods and services from your competitor; iii) distributing a consistent message; and iv) maintaining the quality of your goods and message.

Establishing Protection of Your Name, Logos, and Content. A centrally important step of establishing and protecting your brand is obtaining trademark protection for your company name, product names and logos. Copyright protection of logos and information related to your company or product(s) is equally as important. These intellectual property protections provide your company with legal rights to exclude other from using same or similar names, logos and information and provide a tool to enforce your legal rights.  While some trademark and copyright protection is available by use, registration of trademarks and copyright provides additional, strong legal protection.  Such legal protection includes the geographical extension of trademarks throughout the United States by a federal registration, and rights to enforce copyright rights with attorney’s fees and statutory damages available for proper copyright registration. Thus, use of an attorney to assist you in the protection of these rights is paramount to building a strong brand.

Differentiating Your Goods and Services From Your Competitor. How you market and identify your products to your consumers defines how they perceive your products and company. If the services or product(s) you offer face competition from other products, choosing the right message can influence consumers to choose your product over a competitor’s. Knowing who your customers are plays an important role in an effective marketing strategy. Therefore, in order to build a strong brand, surveys and market research should be performed to determine consumer expectations, as well as what messaging would be attractive to them. Marketing personnel or a marketing agency can help with this.

Distributing a Consistent Message. Distributing a company’s message, vision or mission can be difficult, but there are many available avenues. Commercials and/or advertisements are a good avenue for you to convey the message about your goods to your customers. Here you can convey your support for certain organizations, beliefs or ideas, while placing your product within the stream of consciousness of your consumer. Social media is another helpful avenue. However, social media can also be a company’s worst nightmare, particularly if the expression of a company’s support for certain organizations, beliefs or ideas triggers a negative connotation. Controlling the message and sending the appropriate message are critical to your company’s brand.

Maintaining the Quality of Your Goods and Message. Not all companies sell or distribute their goods directly to the consumer. In some cases, goods and services are offered by third parties either through a storefront, website or through a franchised operation. In these instances, establishing branding terms and policies is important at conveying a consistent message since controlling the messaging is directly out of your control. In instances where a third party will be using the trademarks and conveying a message related to the products, including guidelines and rules to maintain brand integrity are important.

Following these minimal steps should help in establishing reputation and goodwill to your consumers as well as separating your business from your competitors. 

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