Ahhhh strategist. We hear that word thrown around like confetti these days, the problem is, a lot of the time these people aren’t really strategists. See, you need to be taught that stuff, you can’t just read a blog online and be all like ‘heyyy, I’m a strategist now’, which is what we’ve come across a lot of lately.
So, what happens when you engage someone who calls themselves a ‘strategist‘ but really has NFI how to actually be one? Mistakes. And sometimes, big ones. Luckily for our clients, we know our stuff (and the right people for specific jobs, because #connected), so we ask all the right questions to avoid a shit show. But to give you an idea of some of the mistakes we’ve encountered, we’ve reeled in a ripper; Fi from Girl Friday IP. She’s an IP lawyer who specialises in branding and boy does she know her stuff. I could tell you more, but we’ll let her take it away.
Fi, over to you!
Scenario: You’ve engaged a brand strategist to come up with a name that will make all your business dreams come true. It’s a name you’ve fallen head over heels with and it’s full steam ahead. Pretty business cards, website, social media content – heck you’re even thinking of getting a tattoo of it.
But before firing up the ink gun, has your brand strategist asked the most important question: can you actually use the name?
No? Danger Will Robinson.
Here are some things to think about to get you on your way to branding heaven rather than hell.
Do your homework
At the risk of sounding like a broken IP record: Do your homework. Whether you’re engaging a branding strategist to help you come up with a name for your product or business, or you are toying around with a few names yourself, puh-lease do some homework. You know what’s handy for homework these days? Google. A basic Google search might give you an idea of some names you might like but also ones to steer clear of. For example, Google ‘Nike’ and you might find that your hopes for new shoe brand called Nike is just that, a pipedream. Step up your homework efforts and conduct a trade mark search. A trade mark search will identify any existing pending or registered trade marks that are the same or similar to what you may want to use. And this is the $64k question folks: it’s not just about whether you can register your own trade mark, it’s all about whether you can use it. If there’s existing trade marks in the system, your use of the same or similar name might step on someone’s IP toes.
I have a business name – I’m good
Congratulations a business name means you’re in business – as in, you’re legally allowed to conduct business. But it doesn’t provide you with any registered rights or ownership of a name. Same goes for a company name – this simply provides a company with a legal identity. And as for domain names, this is a way for people to find you on the internet. The take home here is these are all administrative tools to allow you to conduct a business. If you want to own a name, a trade mark registration is your best bet. And again, before you go registering business, company and domain names, ensure that you or your brand strategist do some homework to see what names are already in use. Also, don’t get too focussed on your brand being the same as your business or company name. There’s no reason for them to be exactly the same. For example, Proctor and Gamble (P&G) is one of the biggest companies on the planet and they own a huge range of brands such as Gilette and Pantene. The brands that they put on the shelves don’t reflect the company name.
Avoid the obvious
What makes a great brand might not make a great trade mark. If you’re considering names, avoid the obvious, descriptive or popular options. Names that are descriptive of the products or services you’re offering might make life easier to your potential customers to know what you’re about. But if your brand is made up of descriptive words or terms that are common to your industry, you may find you’ll have a hard time with trade mark registration. Why? Well consider this, if you’re brand is ‘Fresh Fruit and Veg’, how will you stop all the other folks out there using the same expression to describe their own fresh fruit and veg? More to the point, how will your brand stand out from the crowd? Be creative and inventive with your brands, it will help distinguish your brand from everyone else and also make life easier for you to obtain trade mark registration. The more inventive you are with your brand name, be prepared that you’ll need to have a hard-working branding and marketing strategy behind it to educate your customers. Just look at Apple?, they didn’t become one of the most valuable brands in the world overnight. Apple? doesn’t describe anything about phones or computers, you only know the brand because but they’ve put in serious elbow grease to building the brand and educating consumers.
Let’s get social
As part of your branding homework, you should also check if the social media handles you want are available to use as well. If the handles are consistent across the different channels, this is great in terms of a brand strategy. It makes life easy for your customers and potential audience to find you, without having to remember a combination of underscores, dashes, fullstops and every other punctuation under the sun. If you can’t get the same handle across the board don’t stress and don’t focus solely on this. Your brand is more than just your logo or your Instagram handle.
Lastly, if you’re going through a branding exercise, be prepared to be ruthless with any names. Don’t get overly emotionally or financially invested in a name unless you’re sure that you can actually use the name and it aligns with your branding and business strategy. Sure, it’s easier than ever to start a business. But to kickstart your business in the right way, well in the immortal words of Eminem, you only get one shot. This is where it pays to get your branding strategy right from the beginning. It’s the foundation of any business. When developing your brand, be sure to ask the hard questions and not just the fluffy ones.
Happy branding kids.
Want to know more about Fi? You should definitely check out her website and socials. Especially her Instagram account where she posts the coolest things coming out relating to brands, IP and copyright!
Instagram – @girlfridayip
Facebook – @girlfridayip
Linkedin – girl-friday-ip
Website – girlfridayip.com
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