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Design Your Business Brand

brandAs Steve Jobs noted, design is a funny word. Some people think design means how it looks. But of course, if you dig deeper, it’s really how it works.

Designing your business brand, methodology or process is therefore about a lot more than getting a visual identity for it. So, learn to leave Visual Identity Till Much Later Don’t assume branding is synonymous with getting a visual identity.

 

Mistaking what brand means

I myself made that mistake when I first set up my business in the mid-2000s.

The words ‘brand’ and ‘branding’ were very confused in my mind because I was a new business, and a less experienced entrepreneur back then. So, I spent thousands on “branding” without getting anything more than expensive design work.

Your brand is more about the way you design your business than designs you get for your business to use.

Although, the visual element does play an important part in the long-term growth and prosperity of a business, it’s all too easy to turn to a visual brand identity, when what you actually first need is to sort out your brand strategy.

I’ve explained in other posts why you need to go to different providers of services to get your brand strategy and brand identity, and then your visual identity.

 

Clarity About Your Business Brand

Only once you’re clear on your business brand would it be appropriate to turn to a designer for a visual identity.  You could brief the designer properly, avoiding the need for them to spend hours and hours trying to understand your business, mission and values – which they, of course, need to know, in order to be able to deliver your visual identity.

A brand is much more than a logo, and branding is about a lot more than visual designs.

Just because you need some sort of visual identity to start your venture, doesn’t mean you should undergo a costly branding visual design exercise. You could just use some basic designs more affordably so as to get started testing your business concept, leaving the more comprehensive visual identity work till much later.

Once you’ve thought through and tested your positioning, name, niche, and business model, and identified a winning formula, protected your intellectual property – THAT’s when the time would be right to engage designers to create a visual identity to reflect your brand brief.

Until then, something temporary – or your existing visual identity (if you’re rebranding) will be just fine.

 

Confusion About Branding

As mentioned, I myself was confused about what branding meant when I started my business some 14 years ago.

I made the mistake of paying for expensive “branding” for my business by engaging some designers who provided “branding” services. They had a process to help work out what my brand was, which involved completing a questionnaire, having a meeting and some discussions which I don’t remember at all, nor did I really understand what they meant by their questions. I know they were also trying to understand what intellectual property meant!

They sent me some logo designs afterwards and I picked one I really liked – it had an old fashioned distinctive looking font. And that was it. My brand identity was created around that logo.  I had picked brand colours that I liked before they created the logo, so that was my brand identity work completed.

Why the Brand was Unsuitable

The website they designed for me featured many pictures of musical instruments, including violins and pianos.

At the time being new to business I was quite clueless about all things branding. So, this is the brand I got. It gave a cliché impression about what an intellectual property law firm was all about. The trouble was that I wasn’t a music lawyer, but due to all the musical instruments featured on my site, I kept getting enquiries from musicians who couldn’t afford our services.

This is a mistake I see many businesses making, because they assume branding is about getting a logo and other designs.  They hand themselves over to designers to brand their business and remain clueless about what brand really means.

I should add that the designers were lovely people, and very keen to do their best for me. The problem wasn’t with them. It was simply that I wasn’t ready for the branding process at that time and should have started with someone else who could help me understand what a brand is, and to provide guidance so I could develop my business brand strategy before visiting the design agency for the visual identity work.

How different it was for me second time around, a few years ago.

I decided it was time to rebrand and get a visual identity that was more reflective of our focus as a law firm – namely technology and online business.

This time, I did my homework on my business, mission, values, purpose, positioning and more – as well as some of the research I advocate everyone should do before launching their positioning. I then only opted for the visual identity work AFTER getting clarity on my brand strategy on my own (with the help of a marketer). Therefore, the exercise resulted in a more successful outcome.

Every single business, charity or entity has a ‘brand’ in the sense that they all have an identity rather like you or I have an identity as people.  To work out the details so that what you say, how you operate and what you promise reflect the way you want to be known as a business and brand takes time to think through.

 

Values and Beliefs 

It involves working out which values of founder are to be paramount in establishing what the brand of the business or charity represents. What its personality is, and what it wants to stand for – it needs to be something that resonates with its customers or those they serve.

Working out what you want to uniquely provide to the market, and your marketing messages to evoke a desired response in the minds of your customers through your brand promise is the first step involved to brand your business. Until your business can consistently deliver that, you will not have a brand

Wally Olins, a thought leader in brands and branding says

‘A brand is simply an organisation, or a product, or a service with a personality … Branding can encapsulate both big and important and apparently superficial and trivial issues simultaneously … Branding is not only a design and marketing tool, it should influence everybody in your company, it’s a coordinating resource because it makes the corporation’s activities coherent and above all it makes the strategy of the organisation visible and palpable for all audiences to see’. 

While design helps support the overall impression and feelings a brand wants to evoke and convey, if you don’t first work out your brand strategy for creating a successful business that meets a market need, then no amount of ‘visual identity branding’ will make your business into a successful, coherent brand. 

 

Brand Name

An important point to note is that the good associations that customers have with a brand are, for the most part, transferred to the brand’s name. Just as individuals are identified by their name, so we identify a business primarily by its name.

The name plays a very significant part in the way the law protects a brand. Even if a business has many other symbols, like Coca-Cola has with its distinctive logo or bottle shape, the name is still the most critical component of its identity. This is why you need to work with a trade mark lawyer who “gets” branding for the initial first phase of your branding exercise when you’re developing your brand strategy, and identifying suitable names.

More than 70% of the value in businesses in our digital economy comprises intangible assets. These intangibles include your brand name, logo, website, brochures, and more. They’re impacted by intellectual property laws the world over. Income follows assets. If you own physical property it can generate rental or other income for you. This is well understood in relation to physical property but not so well appreciated when it comes to business assets, such as a brand name or a piece of software.  These assets underpinned with IP protection are where the value in your business will lie as you succeed and grow.

So, start your brand thinking by consulting an IP lawyer, that focuses on trademarks and has a deep understanding and interest in what brands are all about.

 

branding

Is Branding A Superficial Cosmetic Activity or A Substantive Exercise?

brandingThis is a question I used to wonder about. Deep down I believed ‘brand’ and ‘branding’ to be essentially a surface, cosmetic exercise.

As for ‘personal branding’ the activity had connotations of people learning to be false and less than real. After all, if they spent time thinking about how they wanted to come across, surely that meant they would be artificial rather than authentic?  Such people would be too focused on creating the ‘right’ impression rather than being themselves. This is what I used to think.  I doubt I’m the only person who has thought in this way about a brand.

 

Where do prejudices like this come from?

I was wondering where such prejudices about ‘branding’ came from, and whether others share them.

Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that there was a time when brand was all about image. Did the hangover of that era create this impression of brand being superficial surface stuff, I wonder?

Now that my views have changed I don’t like to admit how I thought about branding. However, I think there is a benefit to examining such prejudices to see whether they are widespread and shared by others.

 

Meaning of design

As Steve Jobs put it “Some people think design means how it looks. But of course, if you dig deeper, it’s really how it works”.

In brand creation, the link between design and branding may be one reason the activity is perceived to be about surface veneer.

I remember a few years ago many of the big law firms were all undergoing rebranding exercises. Invariably this involved shortening of their names, unveiling new logos, colours, and slogans – but for all one could tell it was just new visual designs and business as usual.  The businesses didn’t seem altered in any substantive way after their rebrands.

I could understand it more when a company like Norwich Union rebranded by changing its name and becoming AVIVA. Its old name was parochial and limiting. If the business wanted to be perceived as more international it definitely needed a name change and new identity.

Then there was BP rebranding from British Petroleum to BP, adopting the green colouring everywhere.

Yet that business seemed to lack an effective belief system to respond appropriately in the face of the oil spill disaster.

Their rebrand seemed to have been a surface exercise in design work. For all the information they put out about their values, none of these seemed to drive the business’ behaviour and response, and therefore seemed to be a surface, superficial exercise.

 

Branding books

I have read hundreds of books on branding, and now that I understand the anthropological and social basis of it I know it’s a really important tool in business if properly dealt with.

Clarifying your philosophy and how you mean to function as a business when setting up or rethinking any venture, be it a commercial undertaking or a charity, is crucial to success, provided those decisions are embedded within the business appropriately so that they determine how the business behaves and reaches decisions.

The trouble is that many people invariably assume this branding exercise involves working with designers to get a new visual identity. This is wrong thinking that needs to be debunked.

Branding is not just about the visual identity

The prominent association some people have with the brand and visual identity may explain why I and others have perceived the branding exercise to be cosmetic and surface, rather than having any deep meaning.

My own experiences of branding never allowed the amount of time and space one needs in which to think through the brand philosophy. The branding experiences were invariably spaced out over 3-4 weeks – which is insufficient time in which to make fundamental, profound decisions about your purpose and mission, values, and what brand promise you want to be known for etc.

 

A Design Brief

For a designer faced with a client that hasn’t done the work on their brand yet, the problem is how to deliver a visual brand identity. So, I totally get why the designer can’t just create a visual identity without knowing what the business is all about and wants to communicate.

The problem is that clients go to designers with no real design brief. So, designers invariably and necessarily need to ask questions and delve as deeply as it’s possible to do in the time available, in order to find out about the business, and its values.

That is the way to arrive at a brief from which to design the visual identity needs to change.

The fact that businesses have done inadequate thinking about their brand strategy before they turn to a designer is the root cause of the problem. It leaves it to the designer to tease out this information so that they can do their job.

Naming calls for different skills

It’s expecting too much of designers, who also have to come up with new names and slogans too to help their clients to embed their philosophy into the business.

The naming side of a brand is really an exercise that calls for completely different skills and shouldn’t be left to designers to deal with.

For naming and slogans, you need trade mark lawyers who could involve a copywriter or linguist to help brainstorm name ideas if necessary. Designers don’t need to be involved at this stage of the process. When you’re finding out who you are, why others should care, how you will operate and so on, you just need to work with a brand strategist that understands trade mark and other IP laws, and the marketing and other aspects of branding.

It’s only when that is all clarified that you need a designer to give visual expression to the brand.

You should choose a name once you’ve understood your target market and what resonates with that market.  You don’t choose the name because of what it will look like in a logo. That would be rather superficial in my view, when naming something, to be worrying about its visual manifestation as a logo.

 

Ideal Process

The ideal branding exercise to give a business a brand that will be its central core and soul is one where you spend many months working out your business brand, and brand strategy, including your positioning. Only once that stage is completed would you be ready to identify a name and slogan.

This is why we have created a brand strategy offering for our clients. We can then give guidance to clients on names. I have spent years studying and understand brands – having realised it’s the optimum way forward to give clients the best possible outcome for their brand work.

Not all trademark lawyers can offer such a service yet because the lawyers would first need to thoroughly understand what’s involved in a branding exercise so they can help you create a suitable name and tagline.

So, I want to emphasise that the expertise that’s needed during this first phase is NOT design related. You’re thinking through things like what marketing messages will resonate with the target customer. Is the chosen name or slogan one that the customer would respond to? Is it capable of functioning as a trade mark? Is it available? Does it reflect the positioning without actually describing the activity? Who better to work with at this stage of brand thinking than a trade mark lawyer who has undergone a solid training in brand?

Your brand is what drives your business, a set of promises and assurances that customers should think of when they see or hear your name. It is your unique identity that resonates with your target audience and differentiates you from your competitors. The name and slogan are the root of that identity.

 

When it’s Appropriate to Seek Designs

Once this first stage of the brand work is completed, and appropriate legal checks have been carried out, and trade marks registered, it would be appropriate to turn to designers to create the visual brand identity.

The exercise that began with IP first to assess which IP rights are most important to the business model, and concluded with legal protection of the brand identity, would mean the legal identity would be firmly and correctly sorted out and locked down. So, a detailed brief could be produced for designers to create the visual identity.

Given this level of detail, the designers would at the very most need a one-hour meeting with the client to get the information they need to produce the visual identity.

 

Approach to Branding

This approach to branding should be what small businesses do, because it brings down the overall costs for the client. The visual identity costs will be a fraction of the price designers now need to charge. The visual design price would therefore drop because designers no longer need to spend time learning about the business and teasing out its mission, values and so on.  Nor would they need to do work that they’re not well placed to do, such as devising new names and slogans.

As such the client is the winner. They have much greater clarity about their brand when constructing their business model and I suspect this would impact their success rate in business because they could design the business correctly and be better placed to build on solid foundations.

So, I advocate separating the legal identity and brand strategy from the visual identity. They need different advisers. Azrights supports clients with brand strategy and naming, while the visual identity is then undertaken by designers who we can introduce, or you can find yourself.

 

Brand Guidelines

Another difference in the outcome is that instead of the brand guidelines being focused purely on the visual dimension – the logo and colours, the client would get two sets of brand guideline – one focused on the brand strategy, covering issues such as communications and embedding the brand into the culture of the business, while the visual brand guidelines would focus on use of logos and colours, as they do now.

With the correct strategy, your brand will gain in value over time. This value will come from the positive reputation your business develops. For more information read my earlier blog on how to establish your brand.

brand strategy

Brand Strategy Is Essential For Success In Business 

I recently wrote an extensive piece Brand Strategy Why Every Business Needs One on my personal blog.

Brand strategy is one of the most important issues to deal with if you want to create a business that grows in brand value and delivers more leads and opportunities.

We’re developing a methodology to support our clients to create their brand strategy and it’s important to take a fresh look at what you think “brand” means when considering this piece and the videos here.

Brand, branding, intellectual property, trade mark, business design – these are all very much misunderstood as terms, or people don’t even know what they mean. Yet these are really important issues for a business to take on board whether it’s starting up, scaling or looking to exit.

In the blog post and first video, I explain what is involved in working out your brand strategy.

Don’t assume bigger businesses all have brand strategies because many of them don’t have one – particularly tech companies as they focus all their attention on the product.

Uber is an example of what happens when you don’t have a brand strategy.  While the business is a success and has even reached unicorn status, its lack of attention to brand has caused numerous problems. In the second video, I go into Uber’s case in more depth.

If you want support to craft your brand strategy so as to build brand value, and attract more leads and opportunities then do get in touch. We can help you whether you’re a start up, scale up or a business looking to plan your exit.

Internet Rules – Changes The Rules of Branding

The internet has changed the rules for many industries. In my books Legally Branded and Intellectual Property Revolution, I explained how the internet impacts the intellectual property industry.

Here is how I see it changing the branding industry, at least as regards the branding of service-based businesses.

 

Branding Industry Approach

The branding industry has traditionally left IP to be dealt with by lawyers later once the brand has already been created.

The approach is to design the brand, and then go to lawyers to protect the new brand.  Sometimes the designer even suggests names and then checks them out on Google and on company and domain sites.

The trouble with this approach is that you need to check the name properly whether you are choosing the name for the client or the client has found its own name. Many problems have arisen for businesses that failed to do this fundamental checking. By leaving it to the client to seek out legal advice, it’s potentially setting the client up for difficulties because in many cases people don’t bother to seek protection at all or if they look for help they get it from a business lawyer rather than from a trade mark expert. So the business misses out on important advice.

This approach was viable in a pre-internet world where there were fewer brands and less visibility if you were using a name that belonged to someone else.

Intangible Assets

In an internet environment where virtually all assets of a business are intangibles, it becomes foolhardy to leave IP like trade marks till later. IP plays such a central role in business that it must be the starting point when planning any project or venture.

Some of the intangible assets that businesses own, or which benefit them nowadays are things like data, processes, relationships, networks, culture etc. These may have always existed in the past but now that most assets are intangible, they have taken on greater significance.

Many of these assets don’t neatly fall within the traditional definition of intellectual property – that is, patents, designs, trade marks, copyright, and confidential information.

They are intellectual capital though and you need to understand IP even more deeply to know how best to protect and deploy this newer form of asset within your business.

I use IP here in its widest sense, to refer to all the knowledge and skills a business might use in order to succeed.

 

IP Risks and Opportunities

IP risks and opportunities impact the way you create a brand strategy and design the structure of a business. For this reason, where in the past I would describe myself as an intellectual property lawyer, now I see myself as an Intellectual Property lawyer with a difference. That’s because I integrate IP, brand, and marketing to support startups, scale ups, and those exiting their businesses to design a business that builds in value and attracts more leads and opportunities.

I’ve spent years studying brands and marketing closely. I’ve read hundreds of books, attended dozens of courses, been through a couple of branding exercises and am so interested in the topic that I am a constant student in this area of business.

 

Future trends

I foresee that in future we will see more and more intellectual property lawyers integrating IP, brand, and marketing, to ensure their clients businesses are built for success.

In larger businesses, different departments are currently involved in issues relating to the brand– IT, marketing, PR, design, and legal.  In the future, they will be more multidisciplinary in approach. Every team will involve a trade mark lawyer who “gets” branding and therefore can advise on brand from a legal dimension as well as from a business perspective.

The legal services industry is undergoing fundamental challenges and transformations and will continue to do so in the coming years. Many lawyers will realise that they are in a wider business than their current narrow focus on pure law.

Trade mark lawyers need to focus more on the brand and become the business advisers of choice for organizations that are formulating their brand strategy. They could give so much more value than simply being asked to search names for availability.  But for them to deliver more value involves a sea change in training and education.

One significant advantage these professionals currently have is their depth of understanding of the legal aspects of the brand. As such they are better placed than people from other disciplines such as design or marketing to advise on brand. Many designers and marketers come to branding with no understanding of IP law at all.

While they are suitable for creating the visual identity, or marketing plan, they have a huge learning curve to advise on the IP aspects of branding, which are of central relevance when you’re designing a business.

The methodology I’ve developed to support my clients ensures they choose names that are in line with their positioning and by working with us they have the added benefit of very cost effective IP protection that’s thrown in as part of the work. It requires very little effort to support them on the copyright or to draft an effective trade mark application when you’re working closely with them and understand their business intimately.

Our process also focuses on designing the business correctly to ensure it attracts leads and opportunities as a starting point for working out its positioning and name.

The creation of a visual identity is postponed till much later.

In my new book, I’ll be explaining why I think it’s essential in the new world we live in to separate brand strategy and business identity, from visual identity creation. The two disciplines really should be kept separate.

The word brand and branding is much misused and misunderstood.

The shift that has happened in society due to the internet is being felt in every area of life, and it’s important that businesses understand why their first port of call when looking to brand their business should not be a designer.

Last week I explained in my blog Why is a good name important to a company just how important names are to a company. Do read it to understand this important topic which may seem quite minor but actually plays a central part in the success of a business.

Intellectual property

Intellectual Property Rights – Frightening?

I was speaking to a designer recently who said that people find IP rights very frightening.

That intrigued me. Why fear IP? Is it that you fear what you don’t understand? Is it that IP is a nuisance perhaps?

Whatever the reasons for this designer’s comment the reality is that IP is part and parcel of business. You need to be mindful of IP all the time, whether you’re starting a new project or business or growing or exiting a business.

 

It’s Possible It’s Not Your Intellectual Property

The fact that it’s possible that something you assume is yours is regarded by the legal system as not yours is a difficult concept to grasp perhaps. That’s because IP often resides within something else. At it’s simplest you may own a book but you don’t own the copyright in that book. It belongs to the author or the publisher. Similarly, you may own your website in the sense that it’s your site, but not necessarily own the copyright in its designs and functionality. What this means is that you can use it for your business but if you try to licence valuable parts of the design or functionality to others in order to generate a new income stream you would be prevented from doing so because you don’t own the copyright and designs in it.

Questions that arise in relation to IP include:

  • What type of IP is it?
  • How should you protect it so it can be yours?
  • What should you do to turn your idea into IP that you can own?
  • Is it essential to keep your idea secret so you can own valuable IP?
  • Are you infringing on other people’s Intellectual Property?

What Is Intellectual Property?

Intellectual property (“IP”) is an umbrella term that describes a range of rights in intangible assets, such as:

        • Copyright: in various works like photographs, words, music, logos, and software.
        • Designs: rights in the shape of goods like ipads, or bottles, or in the surface design of materials such as wallpaper.
        • Trademarks: rights in packaging, names, slogans, and logos.
        • Patents: over an innovation which was previously unknown, like the bagless Dyson vacuum cleaner.

IP rights are territorial, which means you are generally protected in the countries in which you register them. For IP rights that arise automatically, such as copyright, you will have wider protection worldwide thanks to international treaties between countries.

Also, there are useful measures you can and should take in other countries to better protect your assets.

 

Owning Intellectual Property

To own intellectual property rights it’s necessary to take the right actions in relation to your ideas. That’s how you avoid discovering that your ideas become someone else’s intellectual property. It’s important when commissioning someone to carry out certain types of activity that results in new IP to have the right agreements in place.

Otherwise, you could find that:

  • your logo belongs to the designer who created it.
  • your website is not yours to do with as you like

Due to the IP default rules, it’s all too possible if you don’t know the right actions to take, to find that you pay for work to be created, but that you don’t own the rights to exploit it.

The biggest trap to avoid is finding that your idea for business software becomes the IP of those who develop it.

 

Avoid Infringement

It’s necessary to think of IP in two ways. Firstly, whether you will be infringing on someone else’s intellectual property rights. Secondly, whether someone else is infringing on your rights.

Doing searches of various kinds and registering rights is key to protecting inventions and names. As it’s necessary to protect your turf against copycats, disputes can arise all too easily, so you need help to manage and resolve them, even if that doesn’t involve a last resort of using the court process.

Typically, not owning copyright to something important in your business is undesirable. This could result in the sale of your business falling through.

To protect IP involves implementing a range of legal agreements, not just when you’re setting up a new website, or licensing your IP or selling products and services online, but also as you grow the business. It becomes even more important with growth of a business to have good agreements in place that protect your intellectual property.

Protecting a new name, software and other assets against copying of all kinds, or an invention that could be patentable are reasons to deal with IP. It’s what makes your business valuable.

So going back to the question I started with, whether IP is frightening, it’s not IP that is the problem so much as ignorance of something important in business.

We are still at the early stages of the digital economy, but the more digital our lives become the more essential it is to get a good understanding of IP and protect your business. Start by having an intellectual property assessment and advice. We provide this at Azrights.

copyright dispute

Copyright Infringement and Copyright Disputes

copyright disputeThe most common copyright dispute we see involves an image used on a website which the website owner does not own or have permission to use.

The reason this happens is that either a web designer has grabbed an image from the internet and used it in the site design, or someone within the business has done so. This mistake is invariably caused by the assumption that material on the internet is in the public domain and may be freely used.  Alternatively, people unwittingly use material that infringes on someone else’s rights because they had not realised that the copyright licence they obtained does not permit them to use the image for the purpose or in the ways they have used them.

Infringement is sometimes deliberate. For example, there may be an existing contractual arrangement in place governing copyright and the contract is terminated, breached or is otherwise in dispute.

As the copyright owner is the person that has exclusive rights to copy and distribute the image or other copyright works, infringement disputes can arise all too often.

Where someone copies or distributes copyrighted work without the authorisation of the copyright holder, they may be liable for copyright infringement. That is, unless they can establish that an exception applies or that they have a valid defence.

For example, there are exceptions to infringement in certain limited circumstances, such as. in certain situations where someone makes personal use of the work, rather than commercial use.

Copyright Ownership Disputes

When a work or product is created that the law protects through copyright, then the copyright in that work usually belongs to the person who creates it. The law refers to that person as the ‘author’.

Where a work is created by two or more people, it can be complicated to work out who owns the copyright. So, whenever a work is created jointly with others it’s important to discuss how to control that ownership so that the work can be exploited even if a dispute arises between the copyright owners.

Copyright infringement might arise if there have been many changes in ownership as it is difficult to work out who owns the copyright, and can give permission to use it.  For example, if you see an image on a website that you want to use and ask the website owner if you may use it, then even if they give you permission, you could be infringing copyright unless they have permission to give someone else permission to use the image.

Note that where work is commissioned from another business or freelancer it is sensible to clarify in writing who is to own the copyright.

The legal rules that apply in default, lead to some surprising consequences. Where a contract is not used disputes are much more likely to arise.

 

Resolving Copyright Disputes

The first step in a copyright infringement dispute might be a cease and desist letter.  If you receive such a letter get legal advice.

Copyright infringement disputes are normally resolved through negotiation between the parties. Failing an agreed settlement the dispute would be decided by the courts.

 

brand name dispute

Brand Name Dispute

brand name disputeBrand name disputes occur all too frequently because the trademark registers are increasingly cluttered and it can be difficult to find available names. You may be found using a name for one purpose, but as soon as you use it for another purpose you could actually be facing a brand name dispute.

When you use a name or other brand symbol that someone else claims to have a better title to, or if you find someone using confusingly similar branding to yours and want to challenge it, you have a dispute to deal with.

As it is not widely appreciated that it is necessary to check the trademark registers before using a name, brand name disputes are one of the most common ones we see.  For example:

  • A client secures their desired domain name, sometimes spending thousands of pounds, only to receive notice that its use infringes on someone else’s trademark rights. The rights to use of a name stem from trademarks not from domain or company name availability.
  • If a domain name is registered that is deemed to be a registration in bad faith, then you could be challenged to return the domain to its rightful owners. For example, even if you have managed to buy a domain name for the name cocacolaclothing.co.uk for your online clothing business it does not mean you are entitled to use that name to sell your line of clothing.
  • A logo is registered as a UK trademark, but an EU trademark owner believes it infringes on their word trademark and sends a cease and desist letter requiring the withdrawal of all products bearing that logo.

Sometimes someone may simply be using their own name in the business, but this may conflict with a registered trademark. For example, if your name is Paul Smith and you are a fashion designer, you would have a potential dispute to deal with if you decided to set up shop as Paul Smith, given that the trademark rights of the famous designer Paul Smith in fashion and clothing would block you.

 

Resolving the dispute

Brand name disputes usually take one of three forms:

  • Either the dispute is in relation to registered trademarks – these may involve opposition to a trademark application or a cease and desist letter threatening court proceedings.
  • Brand name disputes can also occur if someone is using a name but hasn’t registered it as a trademark. In that case, they would argue ‘passing off’ and possibly threaten court proceedings. Or if you have applied to register a trademark they may either oppose your trademark application based on their earlier rights or apply to cancel your registration if you have already registered the mark.
  • Domain name disputes – now whether or not the brand name is a registered trademark, and no matter how strong or weak your position may be, the starting point for addressing any brand name dispute is to get specialist advice so as to decide how best to respond.

You may need to change your name and will need to use someone who both understands brands and names.  It is so important to use a trademark expert who ‘gets’ branding rather than simply asking a brand agency to help you. Leaving the legal dimension till after the choice has been made could expose you to a further dispute, or leave you with a name that can’t uniquely belong to you.

adobe business

How Adobe’s Company Culture Drives Continuous Success

The fast pace of change can make it challenging to maintain a sustainable, and profitable business. So it helps to look at how others are managing to succeed. In my blog this week I look for clues at Adobe, one of the world’s top brands.

Adobe was founded almost 40 years ago and has established an internal culture that drives success. According to Glassdoor, Adobe employees rate working there at 4.4/5 on average, putting the company in their top 30 US employers, based on employee opinion.

 

What makes the Adobe culture so remarkable?

A quick review of the company website reveals that Chairman, President and CEO Shantanu Narayen is passionate about building and empowering teams to drive product innovation and to scale Adobe’s business globally.

This provides a small insight into the approach to the culture at Adobe, whilst the many leader interviews and other published articles provide us with even further information.

A recent Forbes article explains how Adobe has put the employee at the center of their global well-being program, which is regarded to be a large part of defining the culture at the company. Other staff perks include paid family vacations, health care, and onsite yoga facilities. Their approach to working flexibility is also a major perk, with home working, adjustable working schedules and no restrictions on vacation days, as they are at the discretion of the employee’s manager.

Adobe’s encouragement of employee development is unique with a learning fund of up to $10,000 per year for degrees and certain certifications. That is some serious financial commitment to help their employees to continually develop their skills and knowledge.

You can find out more on my blog about how Adobe creates a culture of creativity and loyalty.

 

What we can learn from Adobe

Small businesses can do a lot when designing their businesses and creating the business brand to ensure they build a brand based around a strong company culture. What we can learn from Adobe if we want to establish our own business culture along positive lines is to think about what we can do as leaders of our business to

  1. Make team members feel valued and motivated by taking the time to show appreciation of good work, thanking people, giving out awards, or financial perks based on performance.
  2. Empower the team by providing the development support and freedom to them to try new ways of working, rather than having to stick to the same old ways. This could just involve giving people time off to do some research on an area of work that interests them, or familiarizing themselves with some new software, etc.
  3. Be committed to employee wellbeing. Adobe’s wellbeing program is recognized as one of the key factors in establishing an award-winning company culture. By introducing wellbeing perks, our businesses can all benefit from healthier, happier employees that are more committed to going the extra mile in their roles.

I will be focusing on more brands in my upcoming blogs to share some of the tried and tested approaches of successful companies so as to help small businesses to grow their own brand.  Be sure to check out my blogs over on the Azrights.com website.

business development

Business Development: What Business Are You Really In?

business developmentIf you prefer to listen/watch a video instead of reading then click here to go to my Youtube channel.

Asking yourself the question ‘what business am I really in’ is well worth doing periodically – the answer might just help you to discover hidden opportunities or an angle for business development that you otherwise wouldn’t have considered.

Take cinemas as an example.

When I was a child I remember outings to the cinema would often start off with a visit to the shops to buy nibbles and sweets. We’d then walk over to the cinema, buy our tickets and go into the auditorium to watch the film while munching away on the foods we’d bought.

Fast forward to today when a visit to the cinema is a different experience.

 

Transformation

What’s happened? Well somewhere along the line cinemas began to look at their business in a different way. They asked themselves this question of what business they are really in, and instead of defining it as the film viewing business, they realised they’re as much in the food and beverage business, as they are in the film business.

When they regarded themselves as being purely about film watching, that was pretty much all you got when you went to the cinema. Perhaps a lady with a tray around her shoulders would sell an ice cream during the interval but that was about it.

Now that cinemas have understood that they’re also in the hospitality industry, every cinema invariably serves up an array of food and drinks for customers to purchase before they go into the cinema. It’s no longer necessary to visit other shops to buy foods before a trip to the cinema.

Indeed, some cinemas, such as the Screen on the Green in Islington, or Kino-Teatr in St Leonards on Sea at Hastings have gone even further. They’ve transformed the experience inside the cinema too. There is a bar area as you enter the auditorium, and instead of the traditional rows of uncomfortable seats, you get roomy armchair type seating and even a little table or holders on the armchairs for your drinks. The experience is more like a bar restaurant.

By enhancing the customer experience inside the cinema, and carefully choosing the food and beverages to serve up, these cinemas have created revenue streams that did not previously exist, and in fact, far exceed the amount they receive from ticket sales.

 

The Railroads

The classic example that is given when people are talking about this topic of what business are you really in is the railroads. When Ford invented the car, the railroads saw themselves as being in the railway business. So, they didn’t respond or react. Had they perceived themselves as being in the transportation business they might have dealt with the competition that cars presented in different ways. Perhaps they may have purchased some or all the cars Ford had produced and become a major player in the emerging automotive industry.

Clearly, it makes sense to ask yourself the question ‘what business am I really in’. This is the way to ensure you adapt to the changing world and stay relevant to what customers are really wanting when they buy your products and services.

The businesses that best understand the customer and create solutions that the customer wants to buy are the ones that ultimately win.

Failing to understand the customer’s needs and wants in order to respond appropriately might sometimes mean a business is acting like the frog that gets boiled to death when it’s sitting in a pan of cold water that’s gradually heated up. That same frog would have leaped out if you had put it into a pan of boiling water.

In part two of this piece, I’m going to look at what could happen if you fail to pay attention to this question and act like a frog sitting in a pan of water that’s gradually heating up.

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