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podcast

How To Start a Podcast For Your Business

podcastPodcasting is the next marketing frontier. The shift to mobile and people’s lack of time are two reasons why podcasts are increasingly popular. We may all be too busy to sit down to read a book, but it’s easy enough to consume content during times that would otherwise go to waste. If you want to learn then listening to a podcast or an audio book during a commute, when exercising, or cooking and cleaning is a great way to make time to do so.

There are far fewer podcasts than blogs. So, there is less noise, and podcasts are a good way to communicate a message to a wider audience.

That’s why I decided to create the podcast Brand Tuned – Successful Brand, Successful Business.

 

Purpose of the Podcast

I want to support founders to create better businesses on stronger foundations, and one way to do this involves developing a powerful brand that uses distinctive brand elements. Your brand is one of the most valuable assets your business will produce if it’s a success. A brand is fundamentally comprised of intellectual property. Did you know that the name, imagery, shapes, colours, logo, music, messaging, campaigns and so on which make up a brand, are all IP?

You can add significant value to your business by ensuring these elements are distinctive.

Unfortunately, it is not well understood what the IP requirements are when it comes to creating distinctiveness. For example, people often select names that they can’t uniquely own. Even big creative agencies can make this fundamental mistake because they are not focusing enough on the legal requirements when it comes to naming a brand. Nor do people realise why this is so important to the revenues and market share that they can acquire.

That’s why an interdisciplinary approach to branding gives you the best return on your investment.

As a long standing business owner, I’ve developed my knowledge of marketing and branding to such an extent that I can combine brand protection with brand creation to teach founders how to create distinctive brands.

 

How to Get Started With A Podcast

You can take your time as you create your podcast. The way I went about it was to create 10 episodes before launching the podcast. I then launched 4 episodes, and followed that by releasing 2 episodes a week while I created content for future episodes. Like that you can ensure you have a few podcasts in case you become too busy to record an episode one week. I intend to produce a weekly episode.

I was, and still am, very much outside my comfort zone interviewing guests. As with everything in life, practice makes perfect. You have to be willing to start and then put in the effort whenever you approach a new skill. I’m sure by the time I’ve interviewed the 100th guest, if not before, I’ll be a lot more comfortable with the format, and who knows I may create powerful content.

I decided to stick to a 30-minute episode format initially, and approached some guests using a standard template which I gradually developed and improved.

My first conversation was with Daniel Priestley.  Daniel runs business accelerators for entrepreneurs, which provide a combination of training and accountability, peer to peer group networking, mentoring and access to tools and resources. His company Dent develops entrepreneurs to stand out in noisy marketplaces and scale their businesses to their full potential.

I was keen to discover how his approach to branding shaped his business because the brand is quite cult-like in the evangelism it attracts within his community. Daniel has many qualities, one of which is his great sense of humour, and generosity of spirit.

 

Guests

You can approach people over time and record sessions gradually.

My next guest is a lady who has made storytelling the centre of her business. Storytelling is hugely relevant to brands and so Susan Payton was a logical choice as a guest for the podcast. She has also trained under Donald Miller of Story Brand fame and is a certified Story Brand guide. We discussed how stories help businesses to articulate what they do in a way that customers can relate to.

James Bridgman was my third guest, someone I’d come across in BNI years ago. He is a marketer with lots of experience in branding. During our interview we discussed his approach to supporting start-up companies and why it is so important for companies to do some of the groundwork before working with an agency.

He looks at different ways a brand communicates with customers, employees, partners and joint venture partners, taking them through 3 separate phases – vision and mission, visual design, and execution. He believes that start-ups should focus on core beliefs to move forward and it is vital for them to be able to clearly articulate their values.

My next guest David B Horne was a longstanding Facebook friend. I happened to watch the video of his book launch for Add Then Multiply which is why I was keen to bring his methodology for scaling businesses to my podcast. He uses the acronym FACE, which stands for: Fund, Acquire, Consolidate, Exit to describe his approach to helping businesses grow at levels that are not normally achieved.

We also discussed the importance of IP and brand in the evaluation of a business and how after acquisition, rebranding two companies need to bring the cultures together to unify them.

Timescale

I began preparing to launch a podcast back in January. The interviews took place gradually between February and May, so it’s very easy to create a podcast when you give yourself plenty of time to prepare. You grow in confidence interview by interview.

My fifth guest was Stephen Willard who discussed his unique employee focused approach to all things brand related. Although I knew him from before, Stephen caught my attention on LinkedIn when he mentioned his company Emblaze’s approach to supporting employees to move into career flow where they are highly appreciated, earn good money, work on stimulating projects, are progressing in the company and build good relationships.

I’ve known the high-profile lawyer Ronnie Fox my next guest, for many years and decided that his professional career would provide useful lessons to others looking to develop their personal brands. Ronnie founded two law firms – Fox Williams which he left to form Fox and Partners, his current law firm.

He began specialising in employment law work and subsequently partnership work and explains his approach to niching. Ronnie’s own brand is a running fox and he keeps a bowl of Fox’s Glacier Mints in the meeting room to reinforce the branding.

As my podcast is all about developing a brand, I decided to include a few creative agencies in the show, and invited Stephen Fenton of Zeke. He focuses on brand creation and brand development for high-end home and interior clients. He has also been involved in creating virtual showrooms for clients using 3D 360-degree scans that allows visitors a virtual tour of the premises and enables the business to keep trading effectively during lockdown.

Laura Janes founder of Uniquity is another creative agency guest I invited and her focus in on building brilliant brands for financial services clients.

And last but not least is my guest Will Critchlow who I’ve known since 2005 when he had just started his business. In the early days, the business was known as Wandd. He and his co-founder rebranded it to Distilled after a year or so. They went on to build up the business to be a respected international SEO consultancy which was recently sold. So I wanted to find out how he had approached branding.

Interestingly Will didn’t consciously create a brand strategy. For him, reputation came first ahead of the brand. As the business grew and they hired additional staff they looked at what the whole organisation stood for, what was their meaning in the marketplace as that was necessary for recruitment and retention of the right people.

 

Moving Forwards

I have an interesting array of guests for future episodes and will also do some solo episodes on topics such as naming, which are important for businesses to understand.

Please keep listening and learning and let me have feedback. If you’re enjoying and benefiting, I would really appreciate a quick rating and review of the podcast. It makes such a huge difference to have reviews.

 

I encourage you to create your podcast

If your marketing involves creating content then you will understand the value of podcasting. Creating a podcast allows you to reach a brand new audience: people who might otherwise never find or consume your long-form content because they prefer the audio format.

You don’t need to be an established content creator or have a blog to become a successful podcaster. A podcast is an excellent way to build an audience from scratch and position yourself as an authority in your industry.

In addition, podcasts also provide the potential to drive traffic back to your website or store. Every podcast directory gives you a link back to your website, and since it’s your podcast, you can direct listeners to your website at the end of each show. If you decide to launch your own podcast do let me know when it’s up on iTunes and I will listen to it.

personal brand

Should You Develop Your Personal Brand?

personal brandWe usually associate brands with companies and products – particularly with big household names like Apple or Microsoft Word. But nowadays, anything can be a brand. Even as an individual, you have a personal brand. How should you deal with that?

Business branding is about creating a comprehensive message for your company and product or service, using names, logos, slogans, copy and other collateral. Branding actively creates the perception you hope consumers will have through coming into contact with your company, product or service.

Personal branding makes some people uncomfortable because it evokes an impression of falseness. If people spend time thinking about how they want to come across, surely that means they are being artificial rather than authentic? They might be too focused on creating the ‘right’ impression rather than just being themselves?

Personal branding is an aspect of the company brand

Personal branding is one small but necessary facet when it comes to constructing a solid and successful company brand. Whilst a CEO is not the poster child for the company, they are a linchpin and direct representative of the business so their personal brand should support the business while being completely authentic to themselves.

The notion that personal branding is for celebrities and major companies, actors, musicians, and athletes, and the big business characters like Steve Jobs is quite wrong. The world has changed. Nowadays we should all build our personal brands. Anyone willing to put in the time, and effort to build their niche can become a ‘thought leader’.

This will attract opportunities for the business they are associated with.

In the 21st century, being a CEO means building a brand that people believe in. That they really care about.

Establishing and promoting what you stand for

‘Personal branding’ is about establishing and then promoting what you stand for. Your personal brand is the unique combination of skills and experiences that make you YOU. Effective personal branding will differentiate you from other professionals in your field.

If you don’t take control of your personal brand you are missing out on opportunities. Founders of businesses are effectively opting to be a faceless organisation if they don’t develop their own separate brand. In a world that wants to know who is behind a brand, where people buy from people, this tendency to hide behind the business brand should be avoided.

It’s a natural tendency because many entrepreneurs are introverts at heart and want to build their businesses. So they wonder why they should focus attention on themselves.

How to tie in a personal brand with the business and whether there is a strong reason to opt for one approach rather than another are common questions many founders wonder about.

Importance of both personal and business brands

Whether the personal brand of the owner of the business is to be the main brand or just a personal brand that sits alongside the business brand doesn’t alter the fact that you need both brands to be out there.

It’s much easier to just have one brand obviously, such as Tony Robbins who is the main brand. Assuming yours is not a Tony Robbins style business, then you should look to entrepreneurs like Elon Musk to see how they use their personal brand.

Elon Musk promotes his personal brand separately to that of his business. Inevitably his brand impacts that of his business even though the business has its own separate identity and name.

The world’s top CEOs construct online brands that embody their business philosophies. Their strategies can be easily applied to any emerging brand leader.

 

Well known personal brands

Take Mark Zuckerberg as an example. He has more than 80 million followers on his Facebook page where he talks about his latest travels, diseases he’s trying to cure and his political opinions such as freedom of speech.

Branson is described on his own Facebook page as “a tie-loathing adventurer, philanthropist and troublemaker, who believes in turning ideas into reality,”

Bill Gates’ philanthropy is a trait that colours his personal branding in a very distinct way. Gates’ commitment to philanthropy is undeniably his brand’s defining trait and one that is reflected in his content, visuals, and social media strategy.

While you want to build a business, you also want your audience to connect to you. You want people to care about your story. A personal brand isn’t about making sales. It’s about connecting with people and getting them to engage with your vision. Your story becomes a part of their story, and vice versa. And when that happens, your personal brand becomes even more powerful.

Your brand isn’t something that just appears as a result of your work in your business. It’s something that you have to actively craft and maintain. That means you have to put the hours into building it.

When you have a personal brand, you become an influencer. People connect to you on an emotional level. That means your emotions can influence theirs.

Building a personal brand is all about creating emotional connections between you and your audience. Always consider the emotional impact of your message before you show it to the world.


Personal vs Business Brand promotion

A question that often comes up for founders is how to build their business and product brand alongside their personal brand if their resources are limited. Which should they prioritise?

Whether you’re building a business to exit, or a lifestyle business in which you will work till you drop, if your resources are limited focus on building your personal brand.

That’s because people buy from people. They prefer to follow people rather than logos. As I pointed out years ago in my book Legally Branded, back in 2012, people’s personal profiles generally have more followers than their business profiles.

If you decide that what you want to do is to build your business name recognition with a view to one day selling the business then it may seem at odds with this aim to focus on building your personal brand. However, that is what you would do well to do. Until you have the resources to maintain two separate profiles independently of one another, then build your personal brand as a priority. A compromise is to set up an account for your business and use it for yourself personally, by making it clear that you’re representing your business. Then you can focus your energies on building your personal brand while still supporting your business.

For example, you would use your own photo rather than your logo. And you would describe yourself, for example, in my case, as Shireen Smith of Azrights. So, you are effectively representing your business brand too.

I used this approach on Twitter for a few years and once I’d built up a following of nearly 5000 I then set up a personal account and announced to my followers that henceforth I would tweet in my personal capacity over at Shireen Smith and that the current account they were following would henceforth be the Azrights business account. I then used a logo instead of a picture of myself for the Azrights profile, and some of the followers followed me on my personal account.

I’m not aiming to create a business to exit so the separate identities I’ve created for my business and personal brand are good enough for me. I put the accent on building my personal brand now while maintaining some presence for the business name. To this day the business account on Twitter has a greater number of followers than my personal account. So, it’s a solid strategy for any platform you’re using to focus your energies in this way and then split out the identities later when you have more resources.

If you have any questions about building your business or personal brand, this is something I am well placed to assist with. Just sign up to the Brand Tuned webinar series to find out more.

 

How to Add Value To Your Business Using the Right Brand and IP Strategy

How to Add Value To Your Business Using the Right Brand and IP Strategy

How to Add Value To Your Business Using the Right Brand and IP StrategyIt is generally accepted that what makes an asset valuable, whether it is a digital or physical one, or any type of intellectual property such as a patent, trade secret, trademark, copyright or design, is based on answers to questions such as

  • How much income is it generating?
  • What is the pattern of income production?
  • How long can that continue?
  • What is the risk it will not materialise as predicted due to obsolescence, dilution, or market changes?

While there is information out there on valuation of intellectual property and business, the aim I have here is to consider how to add value to your business when you are embarking on business branding or new marketing campaigns. What does it take to create a strong IP that is more likely to endure long term?

 

Separating Branding and IP Protection

It’s important to take on board that using a silo approach does not give you the best outcome for your projects.  Getting the best return on your investment involves treating brand or campaign creation and intellectual property protection in an integrated rather than a linear way, which tends to be the norm currently.

The way to get powerful IP is to think about intellectual property right at the beginning so you can be strategic about it.  Adopting an interdisciplinary approach to brand creation adds much more value to your business.

Most people equate intellectual property with patents, and this misconception gets in their way when it comes to using an inter-disciplinary approach in the creative process.

 

Misconceptions About IP

Intellectual property is about so much more than patents, and brands are about so much more than trademarks.

IP, as it relates to branding, enables protection of many aspects of a campaign or brand. For example, some of the elements that may be protected as valuable intellectual assets include:

    • Product name
    • Logo
    • Slogan
    • Design of the product
    • Design of the packaging
    • Copy in the ad
    • Script of any commercial or video
    • Look and feel of any website
    • Distinctive sounds associated with the product or campaign
    • Music that accompanies an ad campaign
    • Content created on a web site
    • Photographs and illustrations and so on

Protectable Elements

As so many aspects of a campaign are protectable it follows that you should consider IP when you are about to create and plan a business, campaign or branding project. That is the way to ensure what is created will be ownable through trademarks, trade secrets or know-how, copyright, and designs.

Thinking about intellectual property in the middle of the creative process or at the end of the process is too late. It’s essential to consider IP strategically at the outset so you can create IP that is powerful, enduring, and more impactful and valuable.

In their book “Brand Rewired: Connecting Branding, Creativity, and Intellectual Property Strategy” the authors Anne Chasser, and Jennifer Wolfe address the gap between IP and branding.

Having conducted preliminary interviews with innovation leaders at some of the world’s biggest brands they tested their theory and discovered that forward-thinking companies are finding ways to intersect strategic thinking about IP with branding and innovation because this results in a greater long-term return on investment.

They found plenty of evidence that long-lasting intellectual property involves an interdisciplinary approach from the start.

 

How the World’s Top Brands Do Brand Creation

By understanding what it takes to create powerful and economically valuable intellectual property some of the world’s top brands get their brand and campaign creation done faster, and with fewer resources. This leads to reduced costs, and a greater likelihood of success for their projects.

When IP isn’t considered first, all too often, exorbitant amounts of money can be spent on researching, developing, creating and testing a product, a brand, or a campaign only to find out that it either can’t be used or isn’t of significantly greater value than what is already out there. Worse, it may result in a lawsuit from a third party. The result is a lot of money being spent without the ability to recapture it over a long enough period of time.

Given that considering IP first, at the beginning of the creative process, reduces costs and gives a greater return on investment the question is why agencies are not changing their methodology to incorporate IP in the early stages. I would love to know the answer to this.

 

Opportunity for Forward Thinking Service Providers

Given that the brand is potentially one of the most valuable intellectual property assets of a business, an asset that can be used as leverage in obtaining financing and an important part of the market value of the business, which affects stock prices, why would an agency not want to do its utmost to support its clients to create the most value?

It seems to me that there is a real opportunity for agencies that want to stand out to do so by incorporating IP strategically in their process. After all, one of the key characteristics that gives a brand more value is its strength as intellectual property, and an agency is generally engaged by founders and business leaders to improve their overall business performance.

At the small business end of the market, it’s not uncommon for founders and business leaders not to have a good grasp on what IP involves and entails. Many businesses will not have their own specialists on hand to help with IP strategy when it comes to brand or campaign creation. So, the agency can demonstrate leadership and appropriate concern for the client by incorporating IP into their process.

Register Here To Find out more how Brand Tuned supports founders and agencies to take IP into account strategically, reducing wasted costs, creating stronger brands, and getting a greater return on investment.

how. to design your brand

How to Design Your Brand

how. to design your brandThe silo approach to branding whereby creatives produce brand designs and names without any reference to Intellectual Property lawyers, while IP lawyers protect IP that they’ve had no part in advising upon, does not give business the best outcome either from a branding perspective or from an IP one.

The separation between the worlds of branding and IP protection is a hangover from the 20th century and has no place in the fast-paced digital world we now live in, and into which we have been catapulted more completely by the Coronavirus.

A 21st century approach to branding needs to emulate the likes of Google who understand that achieving a strong brand requires an inter-disciplinary approach. They break down the silos in their organisations to enable powerful brand creation.

The small business end of the market is not even aware of the problem that the silo approach entails. The upshot is that founders of businesses undergoing branding get poor value for money.

 

Why I Decided to Develop Expertise in Branding

As a specialist in trademarks and brands, and business owner, I was always highly interested in marketing and branding, so decided to study the subject for myself in order to help clients in a more holistic way.

I have spent many years educating myself, observing, and supporting clients, such that I’m now writing my new book – BrandTuned, How to Perfect, Protect and Promote your Brand. All the subject areas involved to ensure founders get a good outcome are brought together in my TUNED process which stands for:

Think IP First!

Understand your ideal client!

Name it right!

Establish your Brand Strategy!

Driving the brand strategy!

Once clients have been through my TUNED process, they are clear on their business vision, mission and values, and have their positioning and stories ready to establish their brand strategy. They can then achieve the best outcome from their branding, and hence, increase their chances of success in business. It’s then possible to engage the right designer to work with to achieve a stunning visual identity.

The visual dimension is hugely important and you’re much more likely to get a stand-out visual identity if you bring it into focus at the right time, which is after you’ve given your brand some deep thought.

In the 21st century branding is no longer a design-led activity, it is an IP, marketing and business led activity with the visual dimension coming in at the end, not at the beginning.

IP has to be taken on board first and throughout brand creation – it should not be left till the end of the process if you want to create a powerful brand.

 

Symbols

Symbols are how we communicate. For example, the letters T-I-G-E-R are a symbol that an English- speaking individual will understand as a word that evokes a tiger.

Our ability to visually communicate a story depends on the use of the right symbols for the right audience. This might involve the use of new symbols to replace existing ones

Semiotics is all about the person looking at a symbol – what it evokes for them. A symbol that works for one group does not work for another. For example, in Silicon Valley, the hoodie is a symbol of status (being too busy to go shopping) whereas in a different context, such as in East London, a hoodie is a sinister symbol

Air bnb’s new belo logo is a good example of a brand creating a new symbol to evoke its brand.

How to Approach Visual Identity to Get The Best Results

In her book Visual Hammer Laura Ries points out that the role of a brand is to establish a unique or dominant position in the mind of its customers. The book clearly conveys the dynamics of branding, and why it’s so important to start with the brand strategy to get a sense of your story and positioning before turning to visual identity.

The objective of positioning is to put a word or a verbal concept into consumers’ minds. For example, take Volvo. Years ago, when there was an array of cars for consumers to choose between, the company latched onto “safety” as its positioning. That became the verbal nail to use Laura Ries’ words. They then hammered the idea with dramatic television commercials featuring crash tests.

So, the task in branding is to find a way to position what we do that makes it easier for the customer to find what we uniquely provide. Positioning is a service to the customer because it gives them a shorthand way to make their choice. In the car example, by knowing that Volvo stands for safety, customers for whom safety is a key attribute, immediately have a way to identify the right car to buy.

The “position,” that is, your verbal concept, is the nail. The tool that hammers the positioning nail into consumers’ minds is the visual hammer according to Laura Ries.

Visual Hammer is one of those books that makes effective marketing sound like common sense. Its basic idea is that a strong visual will emphasise an effective positioning. However, not any visual will do. You need a “visual hammer” that hammers a verbal nail. The Marlboro cowboy. Coca-Cola’s contour bottle. Corona’s lime.

The cowboy hammers “masculinity.” The contour bottle hammers “authenticity.” The lime hammers “genuine Mexican beer.”

 

Bridging the Brand Gap

During the visual identity stage you’re reassessing whether the positioning idea you’ve arrived at, and your brand stories, are capable of being conveyed with a visual signpost. Is the concept too abstract? Does it need tweaking?

We all have two brains, one verbal and one visual, and the way to bring the two together is through the visual. The visual attracts the attention of the right side of the brain which sends a message to the left side of the brain to read or listen to the words associated with the visual.

If you, as founder of your business make it your business to understand what the challenges are you are more likely to find a designer who can help you achieve the right outcome. But stay involved all the way. Avoid letting your lack of design background exclude you from the process of bridging the gap between strategy and design.

Invariably positioning statements are expressed verbally. The trick is to find a word that can be expressed visually so that you can make an impact in people’s minds.

Not any visual will do though.  You need to be quite clear about what you need the visual to do before you engage a creative team. If you have done your own work to arrive at the best possible verbal positioning ideas, story lines, names and taglines you will have the wherewithal to fuel the visual identity work.

Be ready to adapt the strategy when working with creatives as it’s important to identify a suitable verbal basis for the visual hammer to be created. It sets you at a huge advantage and much more likely to get an effective visual hammer if you’ve thoroughly thought through your brand strategy. A designer can only work their magic if you’re clear about your brand before you engage them.

You stand a chance of creating a visual hammer that’s true to what you stand for when you’ve put the work into your brand. It can’t be achieved in a few weeks or even months. I’d suggest allowing 6 months to a year to deeply think through your brand strategy

 

Emotional appeal

The best way to drive home your positioning is with a visual that has emotional appeal, one that reinforces the verbal positioning concept.

In the noisy world we live in consumers will remember very few positioning slogans. They won’t remember your message. Emotion is the verbal glue that holds some concepts in a consumer’s mind. Visuals have an emotional power that printed words do not.

The designer’s role is to inject emotion, to draw attention to the brand, and to use colour, shapes and icons to help you to stand out among the competition and to be memorable. It’s well worth understanding what the designer is doing though because you can’t assume the designer is conveying the best images. I’d recommend reading Laura Ries’ book.

Conclusion

In conclusion, a brand is a shorthand for the customer’s expectations. What promise do they think you’re making? What do they expect when they buy from you or meet with you or hire you? That promise is what you want to communicate in your positioning, and to ensure that your brand designs communicate in a visceral way.

An icon such as the Airbnb Belo acts as a mental shorthand for the promise that you make, a visual hammer as Laura Ries puts it. Without a brand a logo is meaningless as is a visual hammer, so the two need to combine.

Having clarity about what you stand for, why you’re different and why people want your brand is the way to begin the process.

My gift to you during these challenging times is a way to reinvent and think through your brand during these challenging times so that when we emerge from the Corona Virus crisis, hopefully by mid 2021, your business can soar.

Join the BrandTuned Facebook group where I will be announcing the details of how you can start my TUNED process.

JOIN BrandTuned Facebook Group

Brand STRATEGY - CORONAVIRUS

How to Develop a Brand Strategy in the Face of this Corona Virus

Brand STRATEGY - CORONAVIRUSBusiness has changed radically since Milton Freidman wrote in Capitalism and Freedom (1962) that there is “one and only one social responsibility of business – to use its resources and engage in activities designed to increase its profits”

The changes in our digital environment – increased globalisation, new technologies, and radical socio-political shifts – mean the world of business looks nothing like it did back in the 1960s. And now the Corona Virus epidemic will undoubtedly further impact the forces that drive business.

These shifts cement the trend away from pure profit-focused business towards purpose-led organisations.

Stakeholders at all levels in businesses want to set a purpose beyond the balance sheet – one that contributes a positive impact in the wider world.

Business for Good

Businesses today are finding that doing good can also mean doing well. Apparently, companies with an established sense of purpose – one that’s measured in terms of social impact, such as community growth, rather than by reference to a bottom-line figure – outperformed the S&P 500 index by 10 times between 1996 and 2011.”

90% of executives recognize the importance of having “an aspirational reason for existing which inspires and provides a call to action for an organization as well as benefiting society.

What is your purpose? It’s an essential element of your brand to identify. It’s not easy and requires time to think through.

Once you’ve determined your purpose it’s important to make it drive every aspect of your business. It mustn’t just be a laudable statement that’s bandied around.

 

Corona Virus Crisis Impacts Everyone Differently

 While the Corona Virus crisis will undoubtedly kill some small businesses stone dead, those that survive will be looking for the best of forward thinking to help them thrive and stand out in an uncertain, fast changing, and competitive environment.

Designing your business with purpose at its core is the right starting point. Thinking through your brand deeply over the next year or so to set your brand strategy will help you to achieve a much stronger brand.

We’ve set up our BrandTuned Facebook group to support businesses during this difficult period. Our gift to you is to support you during 2020 as you grapple with questions around what to do in the face of the Covid-19 crisis or if you’re working to rebuild your business.

Brand plays centre stage in good business design, and it can take as much as 6-12 months to do all the soul searching and thinking that’s involved in creating a unique brand strategy and stories as part of your business design.

Take advantage of this opportunity to increase your understanding of how to achieve a strong brand using intellectual property and a clear brand strategy.

Contrary to popular belief, brand should not be a design led activity.

 

One of the biggest mistakes is to equate brand with a visual identity

Brand is not a logo. It’s your company ethos, and strategy. So, leave the visual identity phase of branding till much later. During 2020 just focus on rethinking your brand. You’ll have plenty of time in 2021 to get the visual identity in place in order to take advantage of the upswing in the economy that we’re likely to experience by mid-2021. The only exception is if you have products and need to change the label on them, for example because you’re selling something else or using a new name. Then you will need to progress the design sooner.

But apart from such exceptional reasons, it’s one of the biggest mistakes I see to turn to design as soon as people reinvent aspects of their business and brand.

I caught myself about to make that knee jerk reaction when I was rethinking my business last year. I was turning it from a regulated law firm to a non-regulated law firm that also supports business with their brand strategy. We are all so inclined to assume that we need new designs way before we have deeply thought through our brand strategy because we’re still in 20th century thinking mode.

So, hold back from changing your designs. In the 21st century that we are being catapulted into more rapidly by this Corona Virus, brand is no longer a design led activity. It’s an intellectual property, and business structure led activity.

As we go deeper into this crisis and emerge from it at the other end make sure you think about your brand in the right way, designing it with IP at its heart as you nail your brand strategy.

Don’t be impatient. It takes time to know how to best structure your business. If you already have a brand, it’s unlikely any of your tweaks to the business model will necessitate an immediate need for a new visual look so avoid the temptation to initiate new designs. Just carry on your business and work on it by refining your brand over the next year.

 

Purpose – Your Why

Thinking about your “why” both on a personal level and on a business level will help you to align the two when designing your business.

I’ve developed a holistic framework for structuring a business for success and developing its brand strategy which is the subject of my new book ‘BrandTuned, How To Perfect, Protect and Promote your Brand’ This will be available in 2021.

Using brand, marketing and IP thinking, the book helps you to develop a well-considered brand strategy and identity that resonates with your ideal market before you turn to visual identity at the very end of it all.

My framework is call TUNED each letter of which signifies the following statement:

 

Think IP First!

Understand your ideal client!

Name it right!

Establish your Brand Strategy!

Driving the brand strategy!

 

Get into the right mindset now by doing some introspection. Consider your values, what you stand for, and your why. What sort of culture do you want to create within your business?

 

Culture

The future when we emerge from this world crisis will be fast moving. Think about how you will create the right culture, and how you will instil that culture into a remote team now so that you have the basic tools in place to train your people as you recruit new team members in future once we fully emerge from this lock down and the economy is booming.

The world’s top brands are created in an inter-disciplinary way. The silo approach which currently prevails in branding, that treats IP and brand as separate subjects does not serve business well. It often adds to costs and does not include IP thinking at the right time.

Once you have nailed your strategy, and your visual identity designed promote the business externally and internally. Do so to convey your brand promise and purpose and to recruit and equip like-minded team members to make ‘on brand’ decisions.

We are all collectively still in shock as a result of the changes brought about to our lives since mid-March. Depending on the business you are in, you may have to identify whether there are innovations available to you. You may need to adapt and adjust your business model just to keep it afloat.

It may be that your business, like mine, was already adapted to be digital and lends itself to remote delivery. The work you need to do is to better understand your customers’ needs right now during this crisis and beyond. What adjustments could you make to your products and services, or what new offerings could you introduce to serve some of your customers?

Conclusion

I will be working with you to disrupt the traditional silo approach to branding, so you don’t miss opportunities to create ownable, distinctive IP. Among other things, I will help you to:

  • define your brand
  • identify your ideal client
  • decide on the brand promise that will motivate your ideal client to choose your business
  • to pick a name that will put you “front of mind”
  • to ensure the name and other brand elements you choose are “ownable” and distinctive
  • to establish a road map to grow your business.

JOIN BrandTuned Facebook Group
Join the BrandTuned Facebook group to continue the conversation around your IP and brand and most importantly to support you to implement your learnings.

Copy Safely

Why It’s Vital To Learn How To Copy Safely in the 21st Century

Copy SafelyEasyJet was embarrassed recently when it came to light that a video by Mr Bellow its chief operating officer copied significantly from a speech made by Taoiseach’s Leo Varadkar to mark St Patrick’s day.  The YouTube video comparing the footage of both men demonstrates just how blatant the copying was.

This brought to mind a common question I’m asked when people are creating content or writing books. How much can you borrow from another work? The EasyJet video is a prime example of what not to do if you want to avoid copyright infringement.

A basic understanding of copyright law is essential to navigating life in the 21st century. It shocks me that a senior level executive is going around without this most basic grasp of the law. I doubt millennials and later generations will get by during their lifetime without such essential skills because it’s part and parcel of digital business life today.

The Coronavirus epidemic will forever change the world. Once organisations learn to manage meetings and events virtually, it’s unlikely we will return to a world of physical meetings at the drop of a hat. It’s going to profoundly change business. In a digital world, you need a grasp of IP laws because they are the legal rules that apply to intangibles.

Entrepreneurial Ventures

More and more people are setting up service-based businesses to run their own show. Typically, people want to escape the corporate worlds in which they acquired their skills. They often see an opportunity to develop a niche and to do something differently to improve the customer experience. They want location independence, to have a decent income to feed their family, and most importantly, they want the freedom to manage their work around their lives.  Many of them are driven by a purpose and need to impact the world in their industry.

The Coronavirus epidemic catapults us into a world where all these objectives are even more within reach, as digital existence becomes the norm.

However, using your knowledge and skills in any entrepreneurial venture invariably involves consultancy, and hence the trap of a time for money existence.

Soon after starting up, it’s not uncommon for entrepreneurs to experience overwhelm. They find themselves working all hours because getting the work in requires a significant investment in time and money. Then there is the time involved to deliver your services.

So, in practice, sustaining a self-employed lifestyle often results in a drop in one’s income, and a depletion of your resources of time, and money. In practice there is more stress too.

The service-based business model carries these challenges primarily because there is so much competition in the world. There are too many providers offering almost any service. It can be difficult therefore to escape commoditisation.

How do you survive and thrive in this environment?

I’ve learnt a lot about what it takes to succeed in business in the 15 years or so that I have run my own. Many aspects of IP law, such as trade mark registration are completely commoditised with a plethora of providers, many of whom don’t have the necessary skills, but the public doesn’t realise this.

So, I can add a lot of value for entrepreneurs looking to rethink their businesses in the face of this Coronavirus.

Building a Brand

I’ve learnt that to survive in the globalised, overcrowded market today involves building both your personal and your business brand, and it all takes time. You need to be in it for the long term.

Organisations like Dent have come up with solutions to support entrepreneurs in this environment. They offer programs such as Key Person of Influence to teach their clients how to become more influential in their own industries, and how to use their core knowledge and skills more effectively. Entrepreneurs are advised to write a book, to create product type offerings that are outcome focused rather than based on time for money services.

It’s a program that I have personally attended so I know how well it equips you on many fronts. However, what it does not do is to provide you with the necessary depth of information that you need to navigate intellectual property and brand creation.  This is where my BrandTuned offering comes in to fill the gap for so many existing businesses, as well as for startups.

Branding

Branding is about so much more than visual designs. Before you get to the visual identity phase it’s essential in the 21st century that we now live in, to start any venture with intellectual property because IP impacts how you design your business. If you take decisions that are well-informed by IP your business will be far better adapted for the more digital world we’re now entering.

For example, while it may make sense to publish full details of your methodology depending on what you do, it could sometimes be foolhardy to put your best insights into a book for your competitors to freely use and learn from.

There is no copyright in ideas. If Mr Bellow of EasyJet had had this essential understanding of copyright, he could have freely copied every idea from Taoiseach’s Leo Varadkar’s talk, without exposing himself to copyright infringement accusations. In the 21st century, you need to know how to copy safely from the works that inspire you.

Knowing what to give away when publishing content and what to keep to yourself involves a grasp of intellectual property principles. For example, understanding confidentiality and trade secrecy laws is how I have developed a heightened sensitivity to the commercial value of information. IP law will, therefore, provide the necessary guidance you need on this aspect of your knowledge and skills.

And copyright laws come up at every juncture for a business as does naming. Names are a highly complex subject, except most entrepreneurs don’t realise this and therefore make a number of fundamental mistakes.

Brand Names and Trade Marks

“Productising” your skills and knowledge necessarily involves a skilled use of names. Names are how you give your products their own personality. Names are how you stand out and move buyers to purchase your outcomes-based solutions. Without a clear understanding of how trade mark laws impact your choice of names, it’s very easy to go seriously astray when naming your business or products.

One common error people tend to make, is to choose very banal names which deliver little value, or competitive advantage.

Overly descriptive names are weak because they don’t challenge, excite, or mentally stimulate us. They require little imagination. And they reveal nothing about the personality of your brand (other than exposing your lack of creativity). When you draw from a limited pool of descriptive words, you sound like everyone else, making your name blend in with that of your competitors.

It’s possible to register almost any name with the right type of logo, but what is the value in that? You can’t stop others using the same name if the name can’t be registered on its own as a word mark.

So when you don’t take on board the greatest possibility the law gives you to distinguish your offerings from others and to stand out, then it’s no wonder that despite every effort to make sales and succeed people come unstuck due to poor IP design at the start of their projects. The sort of problems that arise from lack of proper attention to IP are very varied and can include being copied in ways people can do little about.

Missing an Opportunity

Designing a business incorrectly also comes about because people don’t give their brands the depth of thinking that’s necessary to their long-term success. They jump in too quickly to have the visual identity created, so that the thinking about their values and purpose, for example, that’s involved in the branding process, doesn’t run as deep as it needs to.

It’s to fill this gap that I decided to write my book, BrandTuned, How to Perfect, Protect, and Promote your Brand. The book will be out in 2021.

In the meantime, I am providing support to help you get clarity around your IP. This will consist entirely of free sessions I will be running via the BrandTuned Facebook group although for those that want to go deeper with their IP, my digital Legally Branded 2.0 course is available to purchase.

BrandTuned Facebook group

We will be running webinars and posting links to some of these resources in the BrandTuned Facebook group, along with other essential guidance to support you to think through your brand during this difficult period we are all living through.

I’m intending to cover how to think through your personal purpose as well as your business purpose, your values, and what you want to stand for. Who is your product for? What is your brand promise? What names are you choosing? We will cover these and more in some question and answer sessions.

I recommend giving yourself 6-8 months to create your brand strategy so you can come out the other end much better placed to get the traction your brand needs as you promote your business more extensively.

In the meantime, whatever you do, don’t stop creating content. Carry on posting your unique perspective on social media because nothing will give you greater clarity than creating regular content.

brands relevant

Brands Staying Relevant at a Time of Deep Crisis

brands relevantFollowing my blog last week about what the Coronavirus situation might look like by June, I want to say a few words about how your brand can stay relevant to customers in the increasingly unstable and changeable world we are now living in.

The last thing anyone would want is for a brand to talk to them about their products and try to sell them anything at this time. So, what should you be doing?

Respond in a human way

The best brands are responding in a human way, with compassion and empathy.

During this time people are out of their normal routines. Their patterns of behaviour are changing. We’re all in distress mode, and as such are more likely to pay attention to the brands that engage with us in the right way.

The right way is to avoid being perceived to be a crisis profiteer. Instead lead with the emotional journeys of your customer, with your purpose and the power of your personal brand.

I have been thinking a lot about brand, and the correct way to approach both business branding and personal branding due to the book I’m currently writing – BrandTuned – How to Perfect, Protect and Promote your Brand.

As I’ve done this, I’ve truly understood what brand is really all about. So, I’ve been looking deeply into my motivations and values, and defining my brand purpose which is to change the way brands are created so they properly reflect the business environment of the 21st century, and can therefore succeed with their own purpose and their own aims.

.If you haven’t given your brand the deep thinking it needs, now might be a good time to do so, and I’m giving you an opportunity to join my BrandTuned Facebook group to access the free webinars and discussions I will be hosting.

Behaviour changes during times of crisis

Interestingly, it’s easier to be seen during a recession than during a boom when there is a lot of noise. Right now, there is a shock going through the economy which makes people more responsive.

When we are going about our normal routine activities and the world is certain with established traditions, we tend to make decisions in auto pilot.

Decision making is simple because we know what works, and we don’t have to think too hard about our responses. We tend to tune out most messages in order to cope in a noisy world.

It’s similar to when you’re learning a new skill, such as how to ride a bicycle. You have to concentrate hard and put in a lot of effort and work into the activity initially. However, once you master the skill, you no longer need to think about what you’re doing. Instead, your actions become automatic and routine. You’re on autopilot, and just do it.

Right now, as this virus has thrown our worlds upside down, we have fewer established routines. We are having to adapt to the changes. The new situations we find ourselves in call for different decision making to emerge.

This very instability presents a great role for your brand.

Brand Management

Brand management in this scenario of changing contexts and emerging new habits, means avoiding any actions that would be perceived to be inappropriately opportunistic.

Even companies that supply relevant health products are reluctant to mention Coronavirus, in case they are seen as profiting from the crisis. Instead, they are investing in relationships with customers, and potential customers.

Jo Wicks provides an interesting example of how a response to the crisis can widen your exposure. He has turned from body coach to the PE teacher of the nation after setting up online classes to help keep kids active while they are at home. It’s a 30-minute session for little kids right up to secondary school. Get involved, have fun. As he puts it “You don’t need a lot of room. I’m going to take care of it. This is happening. I am going to be the nation’s PE teacher.”

How business leaders are responding

What I’m seeing from the business educational leaders, is that they’re driving people to online communities where they deliver value in the form of webinars and live question and answer sessions without charge. They are providing support to help people get through this crisis, answering their questions whether on webinars or posted within the groups, or in other ways.

Consider how your brand can develop deeper consumer relationships. How can you become a trusted source of accurate information or consumer-centric advice during this period of uncertainty and anxiety? How can you play an enhanced role in people’s lives?

The key is to avoid acting in ways which would be perceived as wanting to take advantage of a crisis.

Now is a great time for seizing that opportunity because the world has shifted and people are having to change their normal behaviour.

Another behaviour to avoid is going into cost containment mode, which is a normal response during times of stress, wanting to quietly weather the storm.

What about you?

Remember you have a window of opportunity right now to earn the trust of customers by staying present, and delivering value during this period of heightened anxiety, when people are more receptive because they are out of their normal routines. Their patterns of behaviour are changing.

It’s easier to be seen right now than during a boom because there is a lot less noise. Right now there is a shock going through the economy which makes people extremely open to new ideas and concepts.

We are out of our normal routines, so we are listening rather than in auto pilot mode ignoring most messages.

This is a great time therefore, to lead with the emotional journeys of your customer, lead with your purpose and the power of your personal brand, and reinvent your product and your pricing model to adapt to an online world.

Don’t miss this opportunity to send a unifying or emotionally resonant message. Remember, consumers are deeply uncertain and ready for your unique message.

Our response at Azrights will depend on what you want, what your questions are. Do reply to [email protected] to let me know. In the meantime, join one of our Facebook groups if they resonate with you.

Join Our Facebook groups

As I’ve been thinking a lot about how to achieve our purpose of changing the way brands are created so they are designed for the 21st century, I can see two clear ways in which I can support you.

One is through a Facebook group for professional services people. My vision for this group is twofold. Firstly, to support one another with engagement on social media. Secondly, through the book I’m currently writing I have understood why it is so important for all of us to think about our personal brands and profile. This makes sound business sense. So, if you’re a professional who would welcome understanding more about personal branding, I can support you without charge. Please use this link to apply to join the group.

APPLY To JOIN-Social Media Growth Group for Professionals

The other is through a Facebook group for founders and managers looking to double down on their brand during the current slow-down. Now is a good time to work on the business and personal brands of the founders and leaders of businesses.

APPLY To JOIN-BrandTuned

Please apply to join the group that is most appropriate to you. You will be asked 3 questions before being admitted to the group. If you are not providing Professional services then you will not be admitted to that group.

corona uk

Coronavirus – What Might the Coronavirus Situation Look Like in UK by June

corona ukLike many people, I was chugging along aware of the Coronavirus, yet organising an event for the end of March, and arranging meetings in London. Then suddenly on 12th March, the news got through to me. I could see the writing on the wall that the UK could be in lockdown like Italy by the end of March. So, I canceled the event, and everything else too, including my birthday celebrations.

Will everything be back to normal by June 2020? I doubt it, judging by a leaked document referenced in the Guardian, which says the coronavirus epidemic will last until next spring

If a coronavirus mobile app for instant contact tracing that Oxford disease experts have developed is adopted then we may be able to operate more normally while waiting for a vaccination to become ready by next Spring. A similar app was used in China which has been instrumental in enabling China to get back to more normal operations. However, even if we do adopt such an app, it seems unlikely that we will be managing the situation effectively enough to see its benefits by June. In the meantime, it’s best to assume we will be set for a long period of home working and reduced social interactions.

Impact on the High Street

Many businesses will suffer deeply during this period. The high street was already under severe pressure from online sales, so it isn’t surprising to hear that Carphone Warehouse will close all its standalone stores and shed 2,900 jobs

Even if businesses dependent on physical locations step up their online activities, it’s difficult to see how shops and department stores will be able to weather the storm for a year of no tourism, and reduced footfall.  The reduction in international travel is bound to impact the high street and have a domino effect on many other businesses too, not just on those most obviously reliant on tourism like shops, hotels and airlines.

Although the Government has said that loans on favourable terms would be made available for business, this only delays rather than solves their problems. While there may be an upside for some businesses by moving online, this won’t be a solution for everyone. As was said in this BBC report, people don’t buy a new outfit to stay at home. The reality is that there will be reduced demand for many businesses.

My guess is that it’s unlikely society as we know it will emerge looking the way it now looks in a year’s time. The landscape will be very different from what it’s been before, unless the use of an app can enable a semblance of normal life to resume.

What should we do?

The bigger a business is, the less easy it will find it to change direction quickly and reinvent its entire business model. Smaller, well-managed businesses can be more nimble and able to adapt to the new environment.

I am fortunate in having spent the last 5 or 6 years turning the Azrights business into a virtual one. For example, see this blog where I discussed the business case for remote working.

Using remote working employees wasn’t plain sailing for Azrights partly due to the difficulty of finding team members who were suited to remote working and could manage themselves without being partially office based. It was also partly because remote working didn’t appeal to the younger team members we were employing at the time when we decided to go virtual. Being young they valued the social nature of work and many of them chose to leave rather than work remotely.

Managing a remote team now in the way most employers are having to do, when people had previously worked together in an office, will doubtless bring up its own challenges. One key issue is to make sure you provide plenty of opportunities for everyone to connect as a group regularly online and talk about what’s on their mind. You need to devote time to managing and motivating them.

I much prefer the arrangement we have put in place now whereby we don’t use employees, and instead rely on business owners or self-employed freelancers for our requirements. Their mindset and attitude is entrepreneurial so that avoids the need to spend time managing them.

And to crown it all, we moved into a spacious house in Hastings ten months ago, so the place is ideally suited to a home run business. My husband whose past career and business involved web development, office 365 and software development projects is a useful IT resource.

Silver lining

As with most negatives in life, there is a silver lining – some upsides to all this.

We have been conducting meetings online via Zoom for some time now, so haven’t been reliant on physical meetings that much anyway. Now we intend to use online events more because the capabilities of the technology developed by Zoom. It offers interesting solutions that make it possible to recreate live events. Who knows, we may see live events as almost archaic in a year’s time when life gets back to normal.

Zoom provides “break out rooms” so that if there are a hundred people in the meeting, you can transport groups of 5 of them to a separate area to discuss something. At the end of the allotted time, they are automatically taken back into the main meeting. When I’ve experienced this type of event it was much more efficient than break out rooms at real events. In real life, it takes up so much time for people to move from room A to room B. They need to find the right room some go off to a different room and so on.  Using the Zoom technology makes it easy to put people into groups to have discussions on what they just learnt.

It’s possible to recreate what happens at live events in terms of replacing the networking benefits too. For example, you could pair people off in twos to network for 5-10 minutes at regular intervals during your event so people meet the others. They can exchange contact details just like they do now when they exchange business cards at events. After the event they could follow up for a deeper one to one conversation.

Networking is, after all, one of the true benefits of live events, the connections you make. Potentially you could meet even more people than you could meet at a real live event due to the efficiencies of technology.

Conclusion

Now that everything is slowing down, we can focus on community building both within society and also in our businesses to help address our consumers’ changing needs and concerns.

The space opened up in our diaries due to the enforced isolation and cancellation of events and trips provides time to think about the important stuff that is so often squeezed out by day-to-day demands.

While not every business is able to adapt in a short amount of time it’s worth focusing on the adjustments you can make to create a better business and brand longer term. This might be a good time to take care of the things you have not had time for in the last few years.

I would recommend doubling down to work on your business and brand.

Perhaps you didn’t give your brand the depth of thought it needed when you went through a branding exercise, or maybe you just need to fine tune it, and rethink your vision, mission and values. Now is the time to do it. Be the business and brand that handles this crisis the right way. Be the leader in your industry. People will remember how you handled your brand communication and marketing at this time. So, focus on the long-term future of your business now.

Let me know what we at Azrights can do to better support your business and brand in this challenging climate. Just send an email to [email protected] referencing this blog.

anglian water

How Anglian Water Became the UK’s Best Place to Work

Angelini WaterIt probably won’t come as much of a surprise that Glassdoor recently announced that Google is the number 1 place to work in the UK. Google has built up a reputation for treating their employees exceptionally well, but they also have a big budget to enable them to invest in their people.

Most companies can probably relate better to the achievements of Anglian Water, who won the top award the previous year. With a considerably lower budget than the mighty Google, how did Anglian Water become the UK’s best place to work in 2019?

CEO Peter Simpson gave some insight on what they worked on to develop their culture in an interview at the time:

“We don’t just look for the required skills in our future employees, but also their experience and knowledge too. Just as importantly, we look for people whose behaviors align with our culture and who share the same values as we do as an organisation.”

By looking on their website, it is clear what values they look for in their employees:

  • Professionalism
  • Flexibility
  • Integrity
  • Support
  • Results

So, by developing these values throughout their culture, they have been able to build the type of environment that people enjoy working in.

The CEO also referred to the importance of employees being proud to deliver their work, how they feel they are providing a valuable service by providing safe, clean drinking water and other services.

An interesting factor in the development of the culture at Anglian Water is that over a quarter of their external hires come from employee referrals. Whilst the referrals are not incentivised, the happy employees are keen to get their friends and connections on board to also enjoy working for a company that looks after their employees.

 

What benefits and perks do employees receive at Anglian Water?

There are a number of benefits that help them to keep their employees happy and motivated, including 23 days holidays that increases with service, flexible working options, discounted water bills and discounted gym membership. Within the employee reviews, several mention that the opportunity of working from home and the sick pay entitlement were important to them.

 

Learning and development at Anglian Water

Peter Simpson highlighted the company’s approach to learning and development as a significant part in helping to be a good employer. They seem to have a very effective induction program, as well as offering specialist external training, if relevant to the role. Reviews on Glassdoor cited that there are excellent career pathways and progression and that there are side projects for employees to get involved in to help their development.

 

What employees say about the people at Anglian Water

The Glassdoor reviews include many comments regarding how friendly the people are. There is also glowing praise for CEO Peter Simpson, who is clearly well liked by employees. Lots of people also refer to how management care for both customers and employees.

 

Conclusion

Since topping Glassdoor’s UK’s Best Place to Work 2019, they have continued to rack up excellent employee reviews (4.5/5). Anglian Water has obviously put a lot of work into developing such a happy, friendly culture and it is no coincidence that the CEO comes across as genuine and relatable to employees. Showing employees that management cares about welfare is so crucial to employee engagement and Anglian Water do this in a number of ways.

They provide benefits that are valued by employees, as well as providing services like counselling. They also know that employees appreciate flexibility and give opportunities such as working from home to help employees manage their work life balance.

As well as these benefits and perks, what really makes Anglian Water stand out from other employers is their commitment to employee development. More companies are now investing in strong career development programs to keep employees engaged and this has clearly been working very well for Anglian Water.

hugo vs brewing

HUGO BOSS vs BOSS BREWING

hugo vs brewingHugo Boss created quite a storm with its latest trademark challenge. Apparently the designers, sent a cease-and-desist letter to a multi-award winning Welsh brewery based in Swansea, Boss Brewing,

When a big brand enforces its trademark rights against a small entity, it inevitably risks being branded a bully so situations need to be handled delicately to avoid becoming an example of how not to manage a global brand.

The general public are not aware of the intricacies of trademark law, and often find trademark cases surprising. There is incredulity that an ordinary word like BOSS can be monopolised by anyone. Many people don’t even realise that similar names could infringe on someone else’s trademark rights, so the complexities of trademark law mean that cases in the public eye are painted as unfair where there is a David and Goliath situation.

There are many examples of how trademark protection extends to similar names, and big brands that claim rights over elements of their names. For example, Book, Easy and Mc were the subject of trademark disputes by Facebook, the Easy Group, and McDonalds.

Boss Brewing case

Boss Brewing had secured a trademark registration for its logo having applied to protect its name on 23 October 2018.

 

The registration covered classes 32, 33, and 43, so the company was “protected” for drinks products it sold, and restaurant services under that name.

Generally, a logo registration primarily protects the visual element rather than the word alone, but it does provide some protection over the name where the name is ownable, and legible, as it is in Boss Brewery’s registration.

From the BBC interview it’s clear that the comedian Joe Lycett (now renamed HUGO BOSS by deed poll in a bid to mock the design company) it sounded as if the design group had objected to the use of BOSS in the name BOSS BREWING, and that did indeed seem ridiculous to me, so I decided to take a look.

However, according to a Law Gazette article, the dispute centred on Boss Brewing’s use of two beer brand names which it had not registered, namely BOSS BLACK and BOSS BOSS.

Details of Hugo Boss’s Challenge

A quick look at the design company’s trademark registrations in the EU and UK reveals a plethora of registrations covering classes 3, 18, 25, and 35. These are essentially the categories for cosmetics, handbags, clothing, and selling through an online estore. The company does have other categories covered but none for beer products.

Anyone looking to check a name before registering their mark would therefore find no existing registrations for beer products and would assume they were on safe grounds to use their chosen name and register it.

However, well-known trademarks have broader protection than other marks. This means that even if a famous brand has no trademark registrations covering a particular category of goods and services, beer in this case, it may be able to successfully challenge use of a name on the grounds that the applicant is seeking to take advantage of its reputation in using a similar name.

It’s always going to be easier for a well-known mark to object to another person’s use of a name the closer the name is to its own, and the more similar the products they’re selling are to what the famous mark is known for.

Even in clear cases where anyone would agree there is clear copying and similarity, Hugo Boss would have needed to prove its reputation in its trademark and to substantiate why the other side could be said to be taking advantage of its reputation.

However, even if Hugo Boss succeeded in demonstrating the reputation of its trademark for clothing and other goods, the question would have arisen as to whether the consumer would make a link between the two trademarks where there is no similarity of products.

As a luxury brand, that is active in several segments, it is not impossible that Hugo Boss could sell beers as well, and if the IP office accepted that, then a link can be made.

Would people automatically think of HUGO BOSS just because the word BOSS appeared in the name of a drink? Here it’s noteworthy that HUGO BOSS uses the brand names BOSS HUGO BOSS, and also BOSS BLACK as is clear from these extracts of its EU trademark registrations.

BOSS Black
(210)/(260)Application number 003405149
(270)Application language De
(220)Application date 2003-10-13
Second language En
Application reference A10561u
Trade mark office EUIPO – EUIPO
(190)Registration office EM
Receiving office number F00687234
(151)Registration date 2005-03-03
Receiving office date 2003-10-13
(141)Expiry date 2023-10-13
(550)Trade mark type Word
(551)Kind of mark Individual
(511)Nice classification 3,18,24,25,28

 

BOSS HUGO BOSS
(210)/(260)Application number 002860377
(270)Application language De
(220)Application date 2002-08-15
Second language En
Application reference A 10440 u
Trade mark office EUIPO – EUIPO

 

In essence, as the dispute was about the use of the brewery’s brand names BOSS BOSS and BOSS BLACK, their legal advisers probably realised that the company would do well to settle the dispute and rebrand, rather than put up a fight. So, we will never know how the IP office would have regarded the case.

PR disaster

The issue turned into a huge PR disaster for HUGO BOSS because of the intervention of the comedian, and the story that got around implied that the design group was objecting to the Brewery’s use of the name Boss Brewing and as such, opposing the free use of language in the generic term “boss”.

But it was a PR disaster also due to the way the company has conducted itself in past cases.’

Doing some quick Google research, I noted numerous examples from around the world where the company has indeed been somewhat overzealous in enforcing its trademarks. For example, it unsuccessfully opposed an Israeli company that had applied to register this logo mark TREBOSS in Israel for eyewear, sunglasses and eyeglasses

Then Marks IP reports that Hugo Boss failed in its attempt to stop the registration of “BOSSWASH” in a spread-eagle logo at the Japan Patent Office (JPO).

And in a case involving an application to register Carlo Bossi Hugo Boss failed to stop a cosmetics brand from being registered as an EU trademark.

WTR reported in 2018 that Hugo Boss was accused of ‘bullying’ a charity’s use of the term ‘boss’ DarkGirlBoss.

The founder of that charity made a big fuss about the cease-and-desist letter she had received from Hugo Boss asking her not to use the word ‘boss’ due to concerns around brand confusion.

She stood her ground, arguing that the fashion brand was “ridiculous” for sending such a letter. “They are acting like dictators that are bullying me and stopping the formation of a new movement to empower black woman she said complaining that they have all the power and money in the world.” Her outspoken rejection of the company’s arguments succeeded. She has secured her trademark and has gone on to use the name for her book title and website.

Conclusion

In conclusion it’s clearly important to stand your ground if you have a strong case and to settle if you’re on weaker grounds.

I am not aware of the full facts in this case, but clearly lack of resources to fight when you’re up against a big brand like HUGO BOSS is a big reason to settle unless you have a strong case. In this case the decision to settle was probably because use of BOSS BOSS and BOSS BLACK put the brewery at a disadvantage. They were using BOSS twice, and also combining BOSS with BLACK. It wasn’t just a case of them using the word BOSS therefore.

The take away lesson from this case is that as it’s expensive to change the name of a product, it’s even more important to seek legal advice on your proposed name before proceeding. The advice might cost a few hundred pounds, but you can then look to your legal advisers for compensation if they gave you the go ahead to use a name that proves problematic.