Tag Archives: branding and ip

Decide on a niche business

How to Decide on a Niche to Focus on in Your Business

Decide on a niche businessIn my podcast Brand Tuned, Successful Brand, Successful Business, Ronnie Fox discussed how focusing on the right niche led to success in his long and illustrious career.

He mentioned that he decided to specialise in a relatively narrow field of employment law when he started his own law firm, doing “golden handshake” work. In those days there were very few exclusively Employment Lawyers. But when the Employment Lawyers Association was formed, the carta of Employment Lawyers grew and grew.

At the same time, he was getting some partnership law work and found that partnership work was very different. It wasn’t really recognized as a speciality on its own at the time. People came to him and said, “well, you went from one partnership to another, you were in a partnership that merged, so you must have learned something about partnership”. And when the number of Employment Lawyers belonging to the Employment Lawyers Association went into the thousands, Ronnie thought he would focus on partnership work and build recognition for partnership as a separate area of expertise.

So, by focusing on an emerging field of work alongside employment law he distinguished himself and attracted a steady stream of work.

Combination of Skills

Tim Ferris in a video discusses combining skills. He suggests we should aim to become specialised generalists and cites Dilbert’s advice of trying to combine a handful of skills that are rarely combined. For example, a computer science degree and a law degree is a great combination.

Of course, you don’t want to dabble in a million things. You should still end up going a mile deep. However, if you spread yourself out across multiple skills that are rarely combined and can be effectively combined you should end up with a unique combination of skills that are sought after.

Tim also covers in that video 3 skills that are highly effective to add to your existing specialism – namely, writing, public speaking and negotiation.

The problems that led me to combine my skills

As an intellectual property lawyer, I identified numerous problems around IP and branding. I’ve written extensively about these in various articles and in my YouTube channel. Briefly, they were as follows

  1. In today’s digital society, the assets of a business are largely comprised of intangibles.
  2. Intangibles like websites, logos, content, trade secrets, names and the like, are governed by intellectual property laws.
  3. Few people understand what intellectual property means, and when it’s appropriate to protect it, even though some people may be aware that it’s important to the value of a business.
  4. Taking the right actions when you create or develop each type of intangible asset is how you ensure you have a valuable business.
  5. Different actions are needed to protect the different IP rights of copyright, trademarks, patents, designs, and know how. In practice, you need to make the right choices, use the right legal agreements and register your rights, such as in names.
  6. Failing to protect IP can render a brand generic, and very expensive to enforce.

So there is widespread lack of understanding of IP laws, and I also noted that people want designs created for their business even before they’re ready with their business plan or business strategy, and some tend to spend a lot of money on branding which will often completely overlook IP.

What to expect from designers and creatives

During my 15+ years in business, I’ve come to know that on the whole, designers who support entrepreneurs with their branding lack a proper understanding of IP laws. Sometimes they have misleading ideas about what can and cannot be protected or owned. That’s not surprising given that IP law is a different discipline. However, their clients don’t realise this. So the upshot is that the IP dimension of branding isn’t adequately addressed, leading to various potential problems for business owners.

Some end up using names that cannot be owned, which holds their progress back, and limits the potential of their business. Sometimes people use names that hadn’t been adequately searched, leading to the occasional disaster, or an expensive rebrand. This could happen either because the clients themselves chose a name without properly understanding the impact of IP laws on their decisions or hadn’t followed the agency’s advice to get a name that was created for them checked out by their own lawyers.

Other problems related to branding are that the client doesn’t secure ownership rights in their logo or in software developed for their website.

By overlooking IP protection or giving a service that did not properly address IP, creatives make my role as an IP lawyer difficult because I am often cast in the role of bearer of bad news, the one the client might divert its dissatisfaction onto.

This naturally led to my decision to combine my skills in IP protection with brand creation so I can help clients and agencies alike with naming and identifying how to create protectable distinctive assets. That’s the best way for a business to uniquely stand out and be seen without being copiable. Combining brand creation with brand protection also means business owners can be properly advised around IP.

Becoming skilled in brand creation

First, I had to get a good understanding of what people need to do when they go through branding.

I have been reading branding and marketing books for years, but now I needed to understand what people needed to do before naming their product or service.

I soon discovered that the terminology in the branding world is maddeningly difficult to penetrate. There is so much jargon, and people use different terms so that you are left wondering whether they are the same or different to something else. For example, some books refer to brand principles, while others make no mention of brand principles, instead, they might talk about brand architecture, or brand platform. In other words, there isn’t even a universal meaning to the terms people use, so that it’s difficult to know what you need to do in order to work out your brand strategy.

The core of branding seems to involve working out your vision, mission and values, that much is simple enough. But there are a host of other details that are confusing. For example, you need to determine your brand promise, and brand personality, or tone of voice. Some people suggest thinking about what you want to leave people feeling, what you want to be known for. Do these mean the same things, I found myself wondering? Is positioning the same as how you want to be known? And what about purpose? This has certainly become a very fashionable ‘must have’ nowadays, but is it going to impact the designs? If so how? Or is purpose more about motivating your team in which case why do some books on branding talk about purpose so much?

Once you’ve worked out what all this stuff means you still need to think about your story, PR, and much more. And then there is the issue of personal branding and its effect on your business. It’s no wonder that small business owners might be confused and not really know who to turn to for their branding.

TUNED Framework

Having spent many years learning about branding, and the last few years trying to decipher all the different terminology in order to work out what currently happens in branding, and what I believe should happen, I’ve gradually created my own unique framework, known as TUNED.

The Tuned Framework combines branding with IP to support entrepreneurs to get a great stand out brand for their business so they can be ready for success. I’ve been very much led by evidence-based marketing in developing this framework. For example, see my blog about Byron Sharp’s work last week. It was really important to me to be objective and to produce a methodology that would move the needle for business owners, using best practice and IP thinking.

Not only does this combining of two completely disparate skills bring extra value to clients, but it also provides a more effective approach to branding by overcoming the numerous problems that now exist.

We now just need to identify entrepreneurs and businesses that understand and value IP so they use Brand Tuned when it’s released later this Autumn, as it will deliver far more for less. I’m teaming up with a fantastic design team and using my own brand as a guinea pig for the visual identity work before launching the final product into the world.

In the meantime, if you want to benefit from the series of introductory webinars I’m delivering then do sign up to the next one which is called Name it Right! It provides a road map to support you in naming your business, products, or methodologies.

Sign up to attend the webinar on 8 July

When Nothing Works Anymore – How Do You Get Cut Through?  

In a world where there is more and more noise, it can be difficult to be heard. Many of us feel that despite producing awesome content, we’re just not getting through to anyone.

To capture anyone’s attention requires more than good content.

This is a topic I’ve decided to research and study closely so in future posts I’ll be sharing my findings and ideas for distributing our content so as to reach more people. Watch this space.

You’re Not Alone If You Feel That Your Marketing Isn’t Working

You’re in good company if you find that your marketing isn’t working any more.

Mark Schaefer, in his new book, Marketing Rebellion, observes that his Chief Marketing Officer friends who represent some of the biggest names in the business, without exception all feel they are falling behind… on everything

They say things are just not working like they used to.

These are some of the biggest marketing stars at the most famous brands.

They’re experienced, deeply respected executives with some of the biggest companies in the world. They have limitless resources, access to the best people, and premier agency partner relationships. And yet they echoed the same desperate sentiment that many small businesses, and entrepreneurs with little or no budget feel.

Nothing seems to work anymore.

Identifying Your Niche

The book has interesting insights which has sparked off ideas for my marketing. I’ll be sharing some information about that in the future.

For what I’m about to communicate, the part that stood out for me was Schaefer’s suggestion that for your marketing to stand a chance of working, you need to make sure you accurately identify your “place” – what you want to be known for.

He suggests to then define your space – which should be an uncontested niche to tell your story.

Once you’ve done that Schaefer explains how important it is to create effective content to convey your message and build an actionable audience. I’ll be working on these elements over the coming months.

It’s about much more than just generating good content.

Creating More Than Brand Online Course

When I recently created my new online course to help businesses position or reposition their brands, I was able to reposition the Azrights business in the process.

At the time I hadn’t read Schaefer’s book.

My “place” – what I want Azrights and myself to be known for – is branding and trade marks, branding and copyright, branding and intellectual property, as opposed to just trademarks, or copyright or intellectual property legal protection.

Copyright, Trademarks, Intellectual Property

As an intellectual property law firm Azrights is currently positioned to deal with the legal side of branding – trademarking, copyright, and intellectual property. But it hasn’t previously provided branding services. Now, due to our repositioning, it does provide branding services.

So, we’ll be making various changes to the website so that in future it is quite clear to site visitors that Azrights also offers branding.

Drawing on my 15+ years of running a business I am well placed to support businesses with their branding. I have studied marketing mainly because it totally absorbs me as a subject.  I read lots of marketing books, attend many marketing and social media related courses, and so, it’s a subject I feel comfortable helping clients with.

My next book will be on branding.

What Branding Isn’t

Unfortunately, there is a widespread misconception that branding is all about a logo or visual identity work.

I’ve experienced branding of that type first hand on two occasions, both in my own businesses (twice), and when supporting branding projects helping agencies with name clearance or advising on other aspects of intellectual property.

The first experience I had personally with branding didn’t work out so well because I hadn’t thought through my brand for myself first before approaching designers. The second experience worked mainly because I’d done all the business thinking beforehand for myself.

Branding services combined with IP

The fact that I will be able to combine branding with intellectual property is what brings real value to the niche Azrights will henceforth occupy.

The disciplines of branding and intellectual property are so closely intertwined as to be inseparable. Yet intellectual property is not well understood by the branding industry as a whole.

Problems When Branding And IP Are Not Aligned

I see many problems when branding is divorced from intellectual property. The person who loses out when branding and intellectual property are not aligned is the business owner, and often they’re quite unaware that their identity is the root cause of the problem.

When certain issues arise in their business, such as a competitor muscling in on their turf, they don’t realise that the name they’re using is the reason they are vulnerable and unable to fight back to stave off the unfair competition.

Separating the two disciplines doesn’t generally give the best results

Bedding in New Positioning for Azrights

Once this positioning is bedded into the Azrights business and our website, it means Azrights will occupy a unique place.

It will be the first law firm that offers branding services to its clients in addition to intellectual property protection. Azrights will deliver some of the branding services through its sister company Azrights International Ltd.

Reason for Repositioning

When I initially set up Azrights back in 2005, intellectual property law firms were few and far between. So, IP was a good niche positioning for my firm to adopt.

At the time, in 2005, solicitors tended to handle litigious matters, copyright, and IP strategy while patent and trade mark attorney firms dealt with the registration of trade marks, designs, and patents.

I was being different in offering the A to Z of IP services – a full registration and litigation service as well as drafting of legal agreements.

However, this positioning soon looked run of the mill as the division between the two professions began to break down. Patent and trade mark firms soon began offering litigation work, while law firms delved into trade mark registration work.

Dozens of Other IP Firms

So, one reason the IP niche needed to change was this. A few years after Azrights was founded, dozens of intellectual property law firms began sprouting up, virtually overnight. Most of them now handle registration work and while IP was still a specialist subject back in 2005, it’s increasingly ceased to be niche.

The subject is now quite mainstream as non-specialist law firms, such as company commercial lawyers offer intellectual property work, including trade mark registration.

So, I could see the writing on the wall. It was time to make a change to our niche positioning.

The decision to encompass branding within our niche made complete sense from many perspectives.

Why Include Branding Services?

While the traditional path for law firms is to offer the full range of legal services as they expand and grow, the most important consideration for me was my own interests.

I’ve always wanted to do more than just legal work. That’s why I became an in-house lawyer at Reuters. I wanted to be involved in the commercial side of life, to advise on more than just law.

The branding industry currently comprises a plethora of design related companies essentially offering visual design identity work.

Some of them delve into the business side, but essentially the problem they have is that they are running too tight timescales and therefore their clients don’t have all the time they may need in order to properly think through the business issues that arise from the branding exercise.

So, there is a high risk of simply ending up with pretty designs, as I found to my cost after my first branding exercise.

Need for More Education

So, I believe that what is needed is more branding educational providers to help businesses to properly think through their branding before turning to designers for their visual identity work.

The current branding landscape is dominated by designers. And there are many law firms who offer intellectual property services to support branding agencies.

However, none of them is helping businesses with branding support. So, nobody currently occupies the position of offering branding along with trademarks, or branding along with copyright, or branding as well as intellectual property advice and protection – until now.

That is the position Azrights will occupy

As mentioned the two disciplines are intricately intertwined in a way that perhaps branding professionals who do not work with intellectual property law are sufficiently aware.

Otherwise, it wouldn’t be so common to see brand identities based around descriptive names that are incapable of being uniquely owned.  Nor would it be so common to see brands that are unprotected because the branding agency didn’t discuss legal protection when quoting for the work.

Why descriptive names are a problem

Any name may be registered with a logo, and many are. However, that doesn’t give the client any protection over the name if the name is too descriptive to function as a trade mark.

When a name can’t be uniquely owned, the client can experience a number of problems.

Every business must use a name that can function as a trade mark (that is a word mark) because having unique rights to a name is what enables the business to protect its revenues.

It always saddens me when a client comes to us because a “me too” competitor has muscled in on their turf. If the client has a descriptive name then there is little they can do to prevent the competitor stealing their market share.

A passing off action against a competitor who is using the same generic name as you would be throwing good money after bad, although I have seen many law firms take on such cases.

If you can’t uniquely own your brand name then you’re extremely vulnerable.

Branding and Intellectual Property Are Connected

Branding and intellectual property thinking need to go hand in hand. It’s no good creating the brand and then leaving the client to seek out lawyers to help them protect it.

By offering both branding and intellectual property insights, I can help clients in a unique way. Firstly, to identify a suitable niche, then to get their brand strategy and name sorted and once all that is clear, that’s when design services would be appropriate – an area that Azrights has no intention currently to occupy.

I am looking into using designers, developers and social media marketers that belong to reputable bodies who have codes of conduct to protect consumers. Or we may create our own code of conduct as well.

Mistakes people make

I see many mistakes around branding that I myself made when I first set up in business, such as paying far too much for “branding” which ultimately just consisted of some pretty designs.

I didn’t know enough about business at the time, and effectively abdicated responsibility for branding my business to a graphic design agency simply because I didn’t realise that branding was about much more than visual design work.

Much of the thinking about branding needs to come from the business owner, and these things take time. So, new businesses should avoid spending large sums of money on the logo and other designs until they’re clear about their business brand strategy.

Conclusion

It’s essential to have access to a deep understanding of both intellectual property and business when you’re creating or fine-tuning your brand.

Protecting your ideas and IP as you develop your positioning, name, tagline line and business plan is what branding involves. Therefore, these are best dealt with together before seeking help with visual identity work.

This is the new Azrights niche. You’ll find plenty of Intellectual Property law firms and plenty of branding agencies, but nothing that combines branding with trademarks, branding with copyright, or branding with IP. Yet these belong together.

I feel strongly about this subject because it’s important to me to impact, inspire clients and teach clients what is involved to brand themselves so they can make their positive contribution to the world.

I have just launched a new online course called More Than Brand. It will help you get clarity on how to position your business in the market and protect your distinctiveness.

Learn more about More Than Brand Online Course!