Teamwork to Optimize Brand Development
Developing a brand is an important activity for many companies. It does not often involve rocket science, but there are important things to consider. In particular, whether the company is a one-man shop or large enough to have its own internal marketing department, brand development can often benefit from the cooperation of an interdisciplinary team. Such a team may include: (1) a marketer, who will concept a brand, then help consumers see and understand the product associated with it; and (2) a trademark attorney who will help obtain, maintain, and enforce brand exclusivity, typically through trademark registration.
One opportunity for synergy in such a team occurs in the early steps of selecting the brand or trademark. Initially, the trademark attorney can help assess the liability risk of adopting a particular brand before the company gets too committed to it. Also, the marketer and trademark attorney can work together to select the best type of mark. More specifically, the marketer may want to use a descriptive mark—one that describes the product or some feature of it—because it is easier to market. However, exclusivity for this type of mark can be difficult to obtain and enforce, and this can hamstring later initiatives. So, the trademark attorney can help the marketer assess whether exclusivity really is important for the current and future business objectives of the brand, or whether it should defer to other goals. There are certain situations where the descriptive nature of the mark is clearly more important than obtaining exclusivity. On the other hand, if exclusivity is a component of the business strategy, the trademark attorney can work with the marketer to determine whether a more distinctive type of mark—like a suggestive mark, that requires a little more imagination, thought, or perception by the consumer in order to reach a conclusion as to the nature of the goods—can be used.
Another opportunity for cooperation occurs after the brand has been selected and the company rolls out its various marketing campaigns. The marketer is often required to think outside of the box and to reinvent, refresh, or vary a brand in advertising. At the same time, the trademark attorney knows that maintaining brand exclusivity hinges on the company using the brand in a fairly consistent or uniform fashion. So, when the marketer contemplates presenting the brand differently, the marketer and the trademark attorney can collaborate in order to identify boundaries and balance the short term goals of the current marketing initiative with the long term goals of developing brand equity. Some trademark attorneys compare this balancing act to having a personal savings account: while you may make occasional withdrawals from the savings account to have some fun or conduct necessary activities, the overall goal is typically to grow the account over time.
In short, close cooperation between a marketer and a trademark attorney can help a company optimize its brand development activities to achieve the broadest or most important set of business objectives.
This post is based, in part, on an article by WIPO magazine, from the world intellectual property organization (WIPO) entitled ” IP and business: the synergy of trademarks and marketing”, June 2006. a copy of this article may be found here.