People often ask the question, what is a brand, or what is intellectual property, and is a brand intellectual property. Before I answer that question let’s look at what the terms mean.
A good starting point to understanding what brand and branding mean is to note the word’s origins. It started as a term to describe the identifying mark that was burned on livestock with a branding iron. That was how people could tell who owned the cattle.
Although the concept of branding has its roots in this visual imagery it’s important to appreciate that branding has moved on considerably since those times. While the visual identity matters, of course, branding is nowadays about so much more than a logo, or visual designs. The visual identity is the final stage of branding not the first.
The Design of Your Business is Key
Branding nowadays is much more about the way you design your business than the designs you get for your business to use.
Even small businesses will have a brand. It’s not necessary to be a household name or a large business for “brand” to be relevant to you.
That’s because if you think about it, the big brands we all know and use, are all known for something specific. Every single business, charity or entity can be said to have a ‘brand’ in the sense that they all have an identity rather like you or I have an identity as people.
We have a name, a way of dressing, talking, and walking and subjects we are known for or topics that we tend to talk about.
We have beliefs and opinions, and a certain personality. In short, we’re known for something. People have a certain response to us or think of us in a certain way. So, anyone alive has an identity. The world can tell one person apart from another because of these differences between them.
In the same way, businesses also have an identity – a brand.
A company is a separate person in the eyes of the law. Even if you’re a sole trader your business identity will be an extension of you, but it will be separately identified, often under a trading name.
What you say, how you operate and so on reflects how you come across to others as a business and brand. So, every business has a brand whether they know it or not. Every business has an identity and personality and as such has a brand.
The branding process involves thinking through how to create a good business that’s reliable and known for delivering on a specific promise. As the brand acquires pulling power, it will attract customers who positively want to do business with it rather than with the competition. The brand a business establishes gradually also attracts employees, suppliers and, ultimately, investors.
Think about the associations you have when considering successful brands such as Ikea or Apple. Notice how these names are known for delivering what is often an unspoken promise. In Ikea’s case, we expect to find affordable self-assembly furniture when visiting its stores. When we buy Apple products, we expect to get something that’s well designed, intuitive and easy to use.
Every brand has its own distinct ‘identity’ and ‘promise’. It’s due to this promise that we know to expect something completely different if we buy a Rolex watch rather than a Swatch.
You will need to think through how you want your business to be known. What quality or outcome will you want to deliver consistently and reliably? How will customers know what to expect if they use your product or service so that there’s little risk of an unpleasant surprise? Buying a product or service from a business whose brand is not yet known is risky because it represents something untried and untested.
Once a business becomes a recognised brand in its marketplace, it can command a price premium or a market premium. People are willing to pay a premium to receive the expected results the brand is known for delivering.
This applies even if the promise of the brand is based on price. For example, people may still prefer to shop at Ikea rather than at an unknown shop that offers even cheaper prices, because they have certain reassurances regarding product quality and the shopping experience they can expect at Ikea.
Shopping at Ikea Carries Little Risk
They won’t have this comfort and recognition if they use an unknown seller. Shopping at Ikea carries little risk because Ikea is a brand which means that customers know what to expect from it.
A brand is primarily about substance rather than surface visual imagery. Indeed, nowadays even employed individuals and business owners need to consider their personal branding in terms of what they want to be known for.
Once you have worked out how you want to be known and sorted out your branding, get some designs to help support the overall impression and feelings you want your brand to evoke and convey.
If you don’t create a successful business that meets a market need, then no amount of ‘visual identity branding’ will turn your business into a brand.
My online course More Than Brand, helps you work through your branding including the intellectual property aspects of branding. You can even use it to work on your personal brand.
So, turning now to a definition of intellectual property, while I usually attempt to directly answer the question by defining intellectual property, I’ve realised it’s the wrong question.
Defining intellectual property doesn’t give people any greater clarity about what they’re supposed to do about intellectual property. What’ lies behind the question, “What is intellectual property?” is more important to understand here.
The real question is whether Intellectual Property is relevant to a business, and if so why? What should they do about it?
I suggest you think of Intellectual Property as something you need to address in your business because it’s the FIRST consideration any business needs to be mindful of when starting up or developing your ideas.
Contrary to popular belief Intellectual Property (“IP”) isn’t just something you deal with once you’ve succeeded and gained traction. Think of IP as risk management and taking advantage of opportunities.
IP is complex, but you don’t need to learn all its ins and outs. Instead, you just need to put in place some processes in your business to manage the risks and to make sure you don’t lose opportunities.
If you don’t cover off intellectual property, you run various risks such as:
- of not owning the rights to that app or software, or to your website functionality, which your business could have otherwise exploited to generate extra revenues,
- finding that the name you’re using infringes on someone else’s rights and is a liability rather than the asset it should be.
- discovering that your invention can’t be patented because you mentioned it on your website,
- not having rights to the data that was collected on your behalf by someone who is helping you to set up a networking group.
- not owning the copyright in your own logo so that you can’t easily take action against someone who is misusing your logo.
- discovering you are liable for infringing copyright in images or content on your website which your web designer is responsible for.
The value in your business in the digital economy lies in such intangibles. Intellectual property is what you need to address to protect your business.
Find out about the Legally Branded Academy as people’s understanding of what “protection” involves is quite misconceived and gives rise to the typical mistake businesses make when starting new projects
Your brand is one of the most valuable intellectual property assets your business could own. However, you should take the right actions when choosing it as the very choice itself is how you protect the brand and ensure it has a name that’s suited to its business plans. The name should be chosen in consultation with an expert brand lawyer and should be protected along with other brand elements.
Legally Branded Academy Course
In the revised Legally Branded Academy course that will be launched later this year, I’ve identified more than 15 processes that a business should introduce to manage intellectual property risks and opportunities such as the example scenarios outlined above.
It is an excellent way to train team members in the essentials they need to know about intellectual property, so they don’t unknowingly take actions that infringe on the IP rights of others.
So, for example, one of those processes involves using a specific template before engaging someone to do work for your business. By always following that process you ensure you secure intellectual property rights in assets being created for you, and in doing so you take significant action to protect your business.
The course isn’t about replacing lawyers. It’s about managing an organisation’s risks in those very early stages when people tend to make some drastic mistakes. Those mistakes happen because people wouldn’t even think of consulting a lawyer so early on.
So Legally Branded Academy Revised is a business process and risk management course.
As intellectual property concepts apply pretty much universally the world over, thanks to various important treaties signed between countries, the Legally Branded Academy is relevant no matter which country you’re located in.
If you want to protect your business now would be a good time to invest in Legally Branded Academy as the price is going to double later this year. Buy it now and get access at the more affordable price it’s currently sold for.