Tag Archives: design


Is Branding A Superficial Cosmetic Activity or A Substantive Exercise?

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

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


Where do prejudices like this come from?

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

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

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


Meaning of design

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Branding books

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

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

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

Branding is not just about the visual identity

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

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


A Design Brief

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

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

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

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

Naming calls for different skills

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

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

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

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

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


Ideal Process

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

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

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

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

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


When it’s Appropriate to Seek Designs

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

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

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


Approach to Branding

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

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

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


Brand Guidelines

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

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

startup intellectual property

Intellectual Property Business Advice For Startups

startup intellectual propertyBefore considering a budget for services such as Outsourcing, Trademark or Patents even, I’d like to give you some pointers based on my experience of advising startups of all types over the last 15 years.

Businesses tend to change radically in the early years so that a few years after starting up, many look nothing like their initial manifestation.

Sometimes this can be because as they get market feedback on their concepts their ideas develop and they pivot. Or it may be that new businesses don’t know what it is exactly that they do, and who they do it for. Even professionals, like lawyers and web designers, who you would think know pretty clearly what they do, struggle with this.

Startups, therefore, take time to find their feet.

For this reason, I would counsel against spending too much money on anything, be it design, legal fees, or otherwise. As the business gradually achieves clarity about the demand for its goods and services, and figures out which services will generate revenue, and responds to the market, its offering and niche will change.


Early phase legal work

Early phase legal work can therefore often be of temporary benefit only.

Yet what happens in practice when a start up chooses lawyers is that a price is set for the various documents or services the lawyer considers the business needs. This might include a trade mark, terms of business, a website development agreement, documentation for the website, and anything else that is particularly appropriate for a given type of business.

The value a good lawyer can offer to startups goes far beyond the provision of documentation or a particular legal service.

It may be that you could save by using templates and do your own drafting to implement the necessary documents for your business.

One problem is how to get access to best practice intellectual property advice so as to start up your business and projects independently without need to consult lawyers about every decision you need to make as you pivot and change direction.

In fact, few businesses can afford to consult lawyers on the intellectual property issues that arise in the very early stages of their projects, such as when they’re choosing names or even when they’re commissioning websites. Either they don’t realise that so many of their actions have far reaching intellectual property implications, or it’s not feasible to incur legal fees when the project is in its infancy.

The mistake with IP is in assuming you can leave it to one side till later – such as once you have something to protect.  You need to know how to make good choices, what checks to make, and which provisions to include in legal agreements you should use early on.

Over the years Azrights has realised that this requires a different approach to that of consulting lawyers in the traditional lawyer/client one to one advisory service approach.

So, we’ve created a way to deliver early support to businesses so they may protect their IP using a PROCESS BASED system which we’ve developed. This is known as Legally Branded Academy 2.0 (LBA 2.0).

This enables people, even those with no pre-existing knowledge of intellectual property, to use the system to protect their IP. You learn what to do at the point in time when you need to learn it. It’s only when a key action is about to be undertaken in a project that there is a need to apply a given process.  You access and apply processes when you need them. There are different processes depending on the actions the business is about to take.

So, for example, if you have an innovation you want to patent, that’s when you would look at the processes for patents and understand what to do before approaching a lawyer for help. Or if you’re about to pick a name and domain name, that’s when you watch the videos on names and learn the numerous issues to be aware of.  Names are a much misunderstood topic, even by highly successful business leaders. There are many myths and misinformation about naming.

Indeed the need to choose a name so early on in projects leads to many mistakes by business owners, sometimes with devastating consequences for the business. This is just one example of how not having best practice advice, and information at your fingertips when you need it, can result in poor intellectual property outcomes for the business.

Intellectual property has a broad meaning. It includes the knowledge and skills that are to be deployed in the business or project, or which will be turned into a business. It is an umbrella term that includes:

  • patents,
  • trade marks,
  • designs,
  • copyright and
  • trade secrets/confidentiality.

Registration of rights, which people traditionally associate with intellectual property, comes later and often people will consult a lawyer at that time. However, by then it may already be too late to rectify the impact of some of the early decisions and choices they’ve made.

The best way I can help you is via a 6 week group coaching program that gives you access to LBA 2.0 and 6 Zoom meetings when I will explain how to use the LBA 2.0 system in your business as part of your processes, and you will have an opportunity to ask me questions. This is the lowest cost way we’ve been able to find for supporting startups. Thereafter you may buy consultation or different services such as trade mark registration. The system gives you a number of the templates you would need to use and these templates are made very easy to tailor. So, it’s only if the other party won’t sign the document that you’d need to consider consulting a lawyer for advice.

This new process-based approach to IP protection is THE way to protect your IP on an ongoing basis as your business grows and develops.

Here is a link to the Azrights International Ltd site which is not regulated by the solicitors regulation authority, and offers the course combined with coaching. You can put your name on the waiting list if the course is currently closed. It reopens every couple of months and you will get a discount by registering your interest and will be the first to find out when the next course starts.

The first step is to buy a licence for Legally Branded 2.0 and get some coaching. Then order more licences for your team and arrange consultancy services if required down the line.

Being in business myself means I understand the emotional, financial, and creative investment clients make in their own future. With my insight into legal risk, I am well placed to offer you this different approach to managing your legal risks and budget.

In conclusion, the traditional approach to organising your legal work might not result in the best deal for you. What we are all about at Azrights is providing cost effective and appropriate legal solutions to help you to grow your business on solid foundations.

Branding Basics – What We Can Learn From Oscar Wilde’s ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’

The literature classics have become classics because although they were written many years ago, they impart a timeless wisdom that remains relevant even in today’s society. 

So there are lessons we can take away from them. Let’s look at Wilde’s ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’ for some branding lessons.

First Impressions

Wilde has this to say about first impressions:

‘Something tells me that we are going to be great friends. I like you already more than I can say. My first impressions of people are never wrong’ First impressions still carry a lot of weight in our modern day society. 

For example, when we first meet someone, that person’s handshake, their demeanour, clothes, and the way they speak all create an initial opinion about them. It can be very difficult to change these first impressions too.

Similarly, our initial impressions are often the reason we form a certain impression about a business. 

One reason for being mindful of the brand you create in the first place is because you want to make sure the business attracts your ideal customers and that their first impressions create a sense of trust so you manage to build and maintain a loyal customer base.

In the book, The Culling of Brands Douglas Adams analyses why people join cults, and identifies a similarity to why they follow brands. 

There are ways in which we all tend to feel different, even alienated from the world around us.  This makes us search for a more compatible environment. 

When we find an environment where our difference is seen as a virtue then we’re likely to feel a sense of security and safety in belonging there. 

People who become part of the tribe of fans/followers feel themselves to be within a group of like-minded people so they can be who they truly are and be celebrated for being themselves.

A brand that attains cult status has a protective shield to stave off adversity that could seriously damage a lesser brand. 

For example, a few years ago news about Apple treating its workers in China inhumanely had surprisingly little effect on the loyalty of its customer base. 

Had this news been our first experience of the company we would probably have written the company off from the very start.

The importance of the first impression has in fact only increased with the Internet. Nowadays there is so much noise that people’s attention spans have decreased to the point where a mere few seconds is probably all you get to persuade someone to use your products or services.

Your name, logo, website design, content, and first telephone interaction are all examples of what can go towards creating that all important first impression, influencing the opinion a potential customer forms about you.

The first impression includes the designs, but design is not the only factor that matters. 

You need to get the marketing insights clear in your mind, and the values you wish to impart so that you can then ensure the designs follow through. 

For example, when I rebranded my visual designs a few years ago, I spent a lot of beforehand working out what my values were, what my point of difference was and so on. 

Only when I was clear on all this did I invite a designer to translate these values and messages into a visual identity that would be in keeping with my aspirations. 

For example, we are all about online intellectual property issues. So, I wanted to communicate that message which is why we ended up with a logo design that people associate with technology. The logo draws inspiration from IBM

So, it would have been a waste of time simply to ask a designer to produce a visual identity had I not first been clear what brand elements would be right for the business.

The Name Is The Most Important Decision You Make

Often the very first encounter a potential customer will have with your business is with your company’s name, as this is where a brand both begins and ends. Oscar Wilde says:

My ideal has always been to love someone of the name of Ernest. There is something in that name that inspires absolute confidence.’

Wilde does use the theme of the name ‘Ernest’ to mock the superficial way in which people in Victorian times formed their decision whether to marry someone but we can still learn a lot from Gwendolen and Cecily’s desire to place so much faith in a name.

A name does indeed carry certain connotations, and is far from being just a randomly arranged set of letters. Names have meanings and evoke réactions and responses.

Your name is arguably the most important choice you make for your business. You will and help from someone who understands trade marks and marketing intimately. It represents your business’s image and reflects what your business will be like. 

Do you want your company to convey a sense of fun and innovation or do you want to create a more traditional impression? 

FCUK might be a good name for the clothing line aimed at a younger crowd, but would you ever consider calling an insurance company something like this? Of course not.

A lot of the big well-known companies have put a lot of thought into their names- Google based its name on a mathematical term, whilst Amazon chose its name due to its association with the South American river, whose size they wanted to mimic in their desire to ultimately be the largest online shop in the world . They started off of books although Jeff Bezos always intended to be the everything store.

Get the name right and you could put yourself on the road to building a stand out brand- get it wrong and you might unwittingly be losing customers. 

What makes brand names particularly tricky is that quite apart from fulfilling this marketing function, the name has to be legally available, and legally effective. It must also be suitable for your business plans. 

For example, if you’re intending to license the brand and extend it into other categories and offer merchandise, the name has to be distinctive enough to be available to register as a trademark in all the various categories and geographic markets in which the brand will be sold. 

This points to a made up name like Zumba.  This is just one reason why the person helping you with naming must be someone who also understands trademarks extremely well. 

You just can’t choose a name and then think about trademarks. The two are part and parcel of one another.

Being Authentic

Nowadays there is widespread awareness of the importance of being authentic. Authenticity is one of the most important aspects of building a stand out brand.  Even if a company makes an excellent first impression, and has a perfect name, if it is inauthentic in its actions the positive first impression will quickly go sour and the perfect name will suddenly be filled with bad connotations.

‘I hope you have not been leading a double life, pretending to be wicked and being really good all the time. That would be hypocrisy.’

To make sure a brand builds a loyal fan base it has to be consistent and authentic in its actions. If a business promotes itself as ethical, but is then discovered to be testing its products on animals, this is bound to lose it some followers. 

Something similar actually happened to the Body Shop after it was bought by L’Oreal a few years ago. A brand is about delivering on a specific promise- it is something a business is known for.  As the above quote shows, it is hypocritical to pretend to promise one thing and then in reality do something else. 

Therefore if your company makes a promise and promotes itself as being one way, make sure all the company’s actions, whether online or offline, are consistent.  That means if your company prides itself on quality- you need to ensure everything down to the paper you send letters on, reflect this quality.


A surprising amount can be learnt from Wilde’s comedy.

So take these branding lessons and remember to always make that first encounter count. Never dismiss the importance of a name

If you want help as you’re setting up your new brand or want to refresh your existing brand do visit my personal website to find out about the various ways I can help.

Before you tweet that picture

Is Posting Photos On Twitter A Breach Of Chef’s IP?

Before you tweet that pictureThis is the first of a series of blogs in which I look at intellectual property issues in different sectors. I will be considering the extent to which IP protections such as patents, copyright, trademarks, designs, and know how protect business models.

This week the spotlight is on the IP issues that arise for chefs, and the visual aspect of their creations, that is, plating. In part 2, I will focus on recipes, and the protection of foods.


The widespread habit of posting pictures of foods we eat in restaurants on social media (so-called “food porn”) has led to a number of comments by chefs complaining about damage to their intellectual property.

For example, FranceTvInfo reported that French chef Gilles Goujon felt deprived of his “intellectual property” as a result of the practice. And in an article in the Eater in 2012 where several chefs of different origins were interviewed, a US chef expressed the view that photographs of his food without his consent involved the “taking of intellectual property” of the restaurant.

The reasons behind the objections to the practice range from breach of etiquette due to the disruption of the ambiance, to the irritation and annoyance caused to other diners. Mainly the chefs object to the poor quality pictures which they feel create a negative impression of their food creations.

So what is this all about and is there an IP problem?

Before it became so easy for anyone with a smartphone to take a picture of a meal, the way we experienced the food of a restaurant was to visit the place to eat the food. So, this is a problem that digitisation has brought about for restaurants and chefs.

A point to bear in mind is that people commonly refer to their “intellectual property” using the words in a loose sense to mean their ideas and creations. They do not necessarily mean to refer to intellectual property rights in the strict legal sense of the words.

However, let’s see whether there is a legal IP problem.

This involves first considering how the dishes are protected under copyright or design law. If there are IP rights, the next question is whether these rights are infringed by the taking and posting of photos on social media.

Copyright in plated dishes

In the UK, and US there is no protection in copyright for a plated dish because the law requires that a work be “fixed” in a more permanent form to enjoy copyright protection. Other possible forms of protection, such as artistic craftsmanship in the UK are unlikely to apply given that the purpose of a plate of food is for the customer’s consumption.

In Europe where there is no “fixation” requirement, the appearance of a dish could be protected by copyright.  And high-end cuisine plates might well meet another of the legal pre-conditions for copyright protection – namely, that they be original.

However, even if the fixation problem mentioned earlier could be overcome, arguing that there is infringement in taking a photograph would be difficult as there would likely be fair use and fair dealing defences. In other words, you might argue that you took the photos for the purposes of doing a restaurant review.

Design protection

There is no design right protection in the UK for a plate of food because unregistered design rights protect the shape and configuration of products rather than their surface decorations.  Surface decorations would be protected under copyright law, which as mentioned above, does not help in protecting the layout of food on a plate in the UK and US.

In any event, design right is only infringed if someone were to make a product to the design (that is, the recipe). Simply taking a photo of the outcome of that recipe (that is, the designed product) would not be an infringement.

Registered design

Registering the design of a plate of food is possible under EU law.  Different types of design are classified for registration under what is known as the Locarno classification, and foodstuffs are expressly allowed for within Locarno Class 1.

However, unlike the large food manufacturers who protect their IP with registrations, (for example the design of spam slices is protected by EU Design No. 81344-0006), high- end food restaurants do not tend to register designs of their plates of food. Even if they were to do so, it is difficult to see what benefit they would derive from such protection. It would be relatively easy for other restaurants to copy the designs by creating plates incorporating some minor changes. Nor could they use design registration to prevent diners from photographing their dishes.

For more detail on the issues described above, you might like to read the following articles published by the IPKat: Chefs take issue with food porn; and Again on food porn.


In part 2 I will look at food recipes. However, for now it’s important to mention that although a recipe may enjoy copyright protection, that protection simply enables the copyright owner to stop others making  physical copies of the recipe. Copyright law does not prevent others from creating a dish by using the recipe. So, copyright in their recipes would not put chefs in a position to stop diners photographing their dishes.


Therefore, the best policy for restaurants who object to diners taking photos, is to do as one chef in the north of France did according to the BBC. That is, to introduce a “no camera” provision on their menus.  After all, in many other industries such as kitchen design, shops are known to ask customers to refrain from taking photos of their displays. Restaurants could supply photos of their dishes for diners to post on social media. Then at least the quality objection would be dealt with.

In part 2 we will look at food recipes, and foods, and the extent to which IP rights such as trademarks, patents and know how, or industry norms come into play.