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.
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.
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.