Tag Archives: Rebranding

branding or rebranding

The Second Costly Mistake People Make When Branding or Rebranding

branding or rebrandingThe Second Costly Mistake people make is to assume “brand” means a logo or other visual design.

Due to the widespread confusion about branding: what it is, and what you need to do to get a brand, people tend to start by getting a logo and other visual designs, assuming this is what’s involved to “brand” their business.

It’s essential to understand what “brand” means. You don’t need to be a household name for “brand” to apply to you and your business. Brand applies to everyone whether large or small business because we all have a brand whether we know it or not.

What’s involved to create a brand nowadays is much more than the visual identity. That’s enormously important, of course, but before you can get a logo and other visual designs that reflect your business, it’s vital to first work out what you want them to communicate. Who are you? What are you all about? What is your brand promise going to be?

The designer will need some essential information from you about your values and what you stand for to guide the visual identity work. Thinking this through can take months. It’s important to have meaningful answers before engaging a designer. Otherwise, you will make hasty decisions during the branding process, as I did, which will give you an unwanted “branding” outcome.

When I first set up my business back in 2005, the words ‘brand’ and ‘branding’ were confused in my mind. I spent thousands on “branding” without getting anything more than expensive design work. The designs didn’t help me attract the right sort of clients either.

The creative agency I used had a process to help their clients work out what their brand was all about. This involved completing a questionnaire and having a meeting.

I really didn’t understand their questions. For example, when they asked me about my values, I wondered what values they had in mind. Values about what? The designers were also trying to understand what intellectual property meant!

Based on that meeting they sent me a variety of logo designs. I picked one I liked – it had an old fashioned distinctive-looking font. And that was it. My brand identity was created around that logo.

The website they designed for me featured many pictures of musical instruments, including violins and pianos.

At the time being new to the world of business, I was quite clueless about all things branding. So, this is the brand I got. The visuals gave a cliché impression about the work of an intellectual property law firm.

I wasn’t a music lawyer, but due to all the musical instruments featured on the website, I kept getting enquiries from musicians who couldn’t afford our services.

This is a mistake I see many businesses making in that they hand over to designers to brand their business before they’ve thoroughly thought through their business idea for themselves. It’s important to think about the type of client you want to attract.

I should have started the branding process somewhere else. I needed help to understand what “brand” meant and what type of client I wanted to attract. This is something that requires business and marketing thinking. Developing your brand strategy is essential before thinking about visual identity.

Far better to start with temporary, low cost designs. There’s nothing wrong with that. Many of the clients I support have generally spent a year or two getting started with a temporary name and low-cost designs. They’ve tested the market, understood what works, who their ideal client is, and then they’re ready to identify a good name and get a visual identity.

Your brand is the reputation and identity by which you and your business are known. How do you want the world to think about your offerings? What do you stand for? The answer to such questions impacts your choice of brand “signs”, ie, your name and logo and other designs that reflect your brand.

The word “branding” derives from the identifying mark that was burned on livestock with a branding iron when farmers branded their livestock. It was done not only to enable identification but also to make a certain ranch’s cattle unique.

Sometimes the brand mark told you the name or the symbol of the ranch or owner of the cattle. If any rustlers stole the cattle, the evidence was right there that they were stolen. In this way, branding served as

(1) a legal mark of identification

(2) a physical mark of identification

(3) a way of linking the cattle to the owner

(4) a way to stand out from other cattle

(5) a source of prestige for the ranch.

Just looking at the branded livestock enabled people to distinguish them from other cattle. You were also able to see the connection between them and the farmer or the ranch. If the cattle were very strong, numerous and healthy, people knew who they belonged to. “Those are Mr. Miller’s cattle. He owns five thousand cattle and one of the biggest ranches around. See how healthy his cattle are? That must be a big ranch to own all that livestock.”

A brand mark discouraged cattle thieves. It’s like stealing a company car with the logo and company name on it.

For business today, branding has moved on as a concept from its roots in visual imagery. Although the visual element plays an important part in the long-term growth and prosperity of your business, what you first need to do is to sort out what you stand for, in other words, your brand strategy.

The First Costly Mistake People Make When Branding their Big Idea or Rebranding Their Business

Eureka! You have hit on an idea that you believe is a spectacular business idea.

Or you have joined the league of inventors with one breathtaking invention of your own. You can hardly wait to launch it and let everybody know what they have been missing.

Or maybe you have come up with a winning idea for a new business or product, or you simply have an idea you want to turn into a business.

Whatever the idea, unless you know how to hit the ground running with it, you’re wide open to copycats and thieves and fundamental mistakes.

Many otherwise sophisticated CEOs and corporate managers essentially leave a significant portion of value on the table by failing to develop and execute on a brand strategy directed to capturing and maximizing intangible assets, or intellectual property (IP) to be more precise.

Over the coming weeks I will be releasing 7 blogs to help you to understand how to avoid some of the costliest mistakes people tend to make with their big idea.

The key moments these mistakes happen is when you have a new idea to turn into a business or charity or product etc.

Another common time when you’re susceptible to making serious mistakes is when you’re rebranding an existing business or concept.

To make sure you’re on a strong footing when turning an idea you’re excited about into a business or charity or when rebranding, be sure to check out the blogs so you avoid the 7 mistakes.

 

The First Costly Mistake People Make When Branding their Big Idea or Rebranding Their Business

Is that they don’t start with Intellectual Property.

Thinking about Intellectual Property (IP) the instant you have a new idea or project is the best way to protect an idea. Why? Because ideas alone have no protection under the law.

The fact that you thought of something first, or that an idea is yours means nothing in the world. The minute you reveal your idea anyone may freely use it. Writing down your idea and giving it to someone to hold as proof that you had the idea first does nothing to protect the idea either. Nor does using Non-Disclosure Agreements indiscriminately help much.

It is surprisingly easy to overlook the importance of IP in the early stages when developing your ideas. The internet has changed the rules. The assets of a successful business tend to be intangibles like names, websites, designs, trade secrets and the like. Do bear this in mind when embarking on new projects or creating your brand.

One good reason to think about IP first is so you can understand how to protect the idea as you give it a commercial form, who to reveal it to, how much to reveal, when to be secretive, and when to freely spread your idea. You don’t want to be all paranoid about revealing the idea otherwise you wouldn’t get anywhere with it. On the other hand, you need a good commercial understanding of the world, business and IP, in order to know how much to reveal and when.

Intellectual Property is an umbrella term that refers to the 5 legal disciplines that protect and govern creations originating from the mind – that is intangible assets. These creations might take the form of inventions, designs, art, written materials such as blog posts, music, secret recipes, brand names, etc. These IP laws are known as patents, trademarks, copyrights, designs, and confidential information or trade secrets to use a common term that describes a type of confidential information.

How it works is that one or more of these laws protect a given subject matter. For example, music is protected by copyright. Names are protected by trademarks, and inventions are protected by patents. Some things are protected by more than one type of law. For example, logos are protected by copyright, designs, and trademarks.

You could end up wasting a lot of time and money unnecessarily, all because of some easily avoidable IP mistake.

An extreme example of how failure to understand IP can result in loss is the Karaoke machine. Mr. Daisuke Inoue, the inventor, earned nothing from the billion-dollar industry that the invention spawned. He never thought of patenting his invention until it was too late. Had he done so, it could have made him millions. Reflecting on his experience, one can’t help feeling that it’s unfair that it was the multinationals and not him who made massive financial gains from the invention.

However, the law is clear. As soon as you reveal your ideas, you lose the possibility of patenting if the idea was for an invention. In a world where opportunists are waiting to pounce on the latest new idea, you need to understand the role of IP in protecting the idea. As soon as ideas are in the public domain you can no longer patent them, and others are able to freely make use of them.

But it’s not just if you have an invention that you could lose out by not looking at IP first.

Turning an idea into a business or product and brand involves knowing how to make the idea spread, how to help it to stand out and be memorable.

How ambitious are you for your idea? How much would it matter to you if you made wrong IP decisions? IP is property just like the land is property. It’s the most valuable property your business or idea can be turned into if you get it right.

Whatever you do, don’t start by going to designers for “branding”, such as to get a logo or website. Designers won’t be able to help you with IP. That’s not their expertise. Most of them might know just a little bit more about IP than the general public, but not nearly enough to help you protect your ideas.

Are You Looking to Brand or Rebrand Your Business?

If you’re considering a rebrand or are setting up a new venture start by taking this post on board as it could help you avoid many mistakes people commonly make.

That’s because society hasn’t yet caught up with the huge changes the internet has caused. The way you go about rebranding needs rethinking, yet most people don’t realise this.

I remember hearing about the internet for the first time in the mid-90s during my intellectual property masters’ degree studies. My mind was completely blown away by Professor Chris Reed’s IT law lectures at QMW, London University.  Back then the internet was still very much about Janet an academic network. Professor Reed’s lectures were so inspiring in terms of the significant role the internet would play in our lives, that I was compelled to enlist my husband’s support- he is an IT professional – to get us a dial-up internet connection.

Over the ensuing years the internet has evolved to become what it is today – an essential part of all our lives and businesses.

 

What This Means for Business

It is still hard to believe that in such a short space of time the internet has evolved to radically change the rules. Its thrown many industries into chaos, and in other cases, the internet has subtly, and forever altered how we need to approach things, including branding.

The upshot of these changes, as highlighted in my two books, Legally Branded and Intellectual Property Revolution mean that IP now needs to be one of the first considerations when there is a new project or brand to create.

 

IP is Part and Parcel of Business

So many people I come across say: “What is IP?” And those who are aware of it, assume it’s to be dealt with in the same way as in pre-internet days. Largely, IP is considered to be something you might want to consider if you’re wildly successful or if you prefer to protect your IP rather than just using it. It’s perhaps unsurprising that society hasn’t yet caught up with the changes, given that it’s still just 20 years or so that the internet has been around.

More than 70 % of corporate value today comprises intangible assets. Intangibles are governed by intellectual property law. Without question intellectual property in the form of patents, trade secrets, copyright, trade marks, contractual relationships, and know-how comprises a significant portion of some of this value.

What is less well appreciated is that these assets do not automatically just exist. Some steps often need to be taken to turn ideas into IP. IP could be lost if not identified, captured, and secured, or if the wrong choices are made – such as of the name for a business or product. The wrong name really can make business so much more of a struggle. The name is the most important way to make a business distinctive and must be chosen with the involvement of trade mark experts.

Leveraging IP is how value embedded in it is realized. An awareness of intangible assets is the way to manage them, and preserve the investment a business makes in its brands

 

How Aware Are You of Critical IP Issues Affecting Your Business?

 Thinking about IP first when you have an idea or project, is a good way to start managing and protecting IP. Have a strategy for handling your IP.

Why is failing to capture your Intellectual Property a costly problem?

It is surprisingly easy to overlook the importance of IP at the early stages of developing your ideas, and to lose the entire value of your business in the process, simply because of a lack of awareness of IP.

Inventors and entrepreneurs often believe that simple tasks like choosing a name for a new product do not involve particular legal consideration. This is not true. The name is too important to choose without reference to trade mark expertise.

For example, you could lose everything overnight as Scrabulous found out. The business was unaware that using a name that was similar to someone else’s trade mark would be a problem. Two Indian brothers developed an app that allowed people to play a word game online with friends anywhere in the world. It was a huge success. Hasbro, the owner of the Scrabble trade mark, found out about the company and had no trouble getting Facebook to pull the app. So the business vanished from one day to the next.

Had the two brothers realised that their choice of name could shut them down they would have chosen a different name for their online game. But they didn’t take advice from trade mark experts.

 

Not Realising You’re Making IP Mistakes

But this isn’t the only way names can cause problems. People are often unaware that it’s their keyword rich name that blatantly describes their business services that’s the cause of their lack of success. This is something difficult to understand because from a search engine and marketing point of view descriptiveness is no bad thing. But to name your brand with a descriptive term is plain wrong. This is one of the biggest mistakes I see people make and what’s worse they may never realise that the reason business is a struggle is precisely because of their name.

Another example of how failure to understand IP can result in loss is the Karaoke machine.

Mr. Daisuke Inoue, the inventor, earned nothing from the billion-dollar industry that the invention spawned. He never thought of patenting his invention until it was too late. Had he done so it could have made him millions.

Reflecting on their experiences, one can’t help feeling ‘it’s not fair!’ that it was the multinationals and not them who made massive financial gains from these inventions. However, their case is not unusual and even now many inventors know little about their intellectual property rights.

The lesson is simple – if you are an inventor, or entrepreneur you need to know about IP.

Business and IP are intertwined. Don’t think of embarking on branding without first looking at IP. Use a trade mark lawyer who “gets” branding to support you in any naming exercise.  Why? Because IP and trademarks are one of those subjects where a little knowledge is a dangerous thing.

Why did Azrights rebrand

Rebranding: When and why should you consider it?

RebrandingThis summer we rebranded Azrights by changing our logo, tagline and brand colours.

In a separate blog Rebranding: Legal issues you can’t afford to ignore I explained the steps we have taken to protect our new brand.

The reasons for rebranding Azrights go back a few years, and stem from the many books I’ve read since founding the firm. For example, Differentiate or Die says specialisation in a subject is a sufficient differentiator. So, in our case, this means our niche status as intellectual property lawyers differentiates us from other law firms. However, I wanted to also distinguish us from other IP law firms, and from large law firms offering intellectual property services.

What rebranding involves

As for any business undergoing rebranding, we thought about who we are, what we do, how we do it, for whom we do it, and what it is like to deal with us. That helped articulate our point of difference.

As I looked around and read other law firm websites it struck me that many of them were saying very similar things. They were invariably pointing to their distinguished history, emphasizing the benefits of their size (big or small), their lawyers’ city law firm backgrounds, and superior legal skills in virtually every practice area. A common statement was how efficient, and service-oriented they were.

After much introspection spanning over a number of years, we finally decided how to separate ourselves from the many others that provide similar legal services.

This has been a useful exercise which ultimately makes it easier for customers to decide which law firm to work with.

Clarity

Even before I founded Azrights, communicating clearly was an important imperative. I was struck by how difficult it could be to understand letters from external lawyers when I was an in house lawyer at Reuters. My role involved translating technical legalese into language the business people would understand.

Intellectual property law is particularly complex for outsiders, and so from the day I founded Azrights, I was committed to making IP easy to access. However, I didn’t appreciate that making the law easy could be a sufficient differentiator. Now that we have adopted this brand value, we are going to live and breathe this commitment. It is not just an empty statement.

We have always published a lot of information on our website, blogs, and in my book. And we have always been committed to using plain English.  However, since our rebranding, I have trawled our website and reviewed most of our services pages myself in order to ensure complex issues are explained in simple terms. I will continue to review our pages and emails to improve their readability.

The more we can strip away unnecessary complexity and provide transparent pricing, the closer we will be to our ideal: making access to global IP easy.

A to Z of IP Rights

We also realised that one way in which we differ from other IP law firms is in the work we do.  From the beginning I was keen to provide clients with the A to Z of IP rights services, hence our name. I felt it was undesirable to have so many different professional firms offering aspects of IP services. In theory, clients would go one provider to protect their name or innovation, another for a copyright or contractual issue, and yet another for litigation. However, in such a scenario there is a real risk of important legal issues falling between the cracks, and there being serious gaps in advice for SMEs. The system involving going to several different types of firm only really works for big household name brands. It is especially unsuited to the new digital environment where a more holistic approach to the legal issues is essential.

I was determined to provide a comprehensive service, and went about doing that by finding a network of experts with the necessary skills so we could provide a full range of IP services. To this day we have professionals who we involve when a client needs particular services, such as patents, data protection, complex litigation and so on.  Our own core team on the other hand focus on trademarks, and copyright and advising on internet law and IT issues. I wrote about these topics in my book, Legally Branded.

I also realised that it is the digital nature of our work that holds the clue to our point of difference. Quite a sizeable number of our clients are businesses setting up online. We do a lot of IT, internet and social media related contracts and dispute resolution work as well as IP registrations for them.

Lawyers who understand the digital world

The fact that we are doing the work we do, comes down to how the digital world is becoming centrally relevant to all businesses. Nowadays everyone needs IP law. It is no longer just those businesses operating in the creative sector or who have a portfolio of brands who need to concern themselves with IP.

For example, the risk of encroaching on other people’s rights is far greater nowadays, because a search on the internet may immediately reveal whether a distinctive name or image you are using belongs to someone else. In an overcrowded world of businesses, it is also becomes more important to register trademarks and other IP in order to protect your business against competitors.

Our clients need lawyers with a solid understanding of what it takes to successfully commission a website and software, to do online marketing, pick a name, and avoid infringing on the rights of others in various situations, including when engaging advertising or marketing help.

Given that our team has backgrounds in computer science, and IT, and I worked at Reuters for 5 years, handing IT/IP matters, another point of difference is the specialist nature of our IP skills. We understand the internet, and social media, and can add significant value.

Our logo

Over the years as we tried to understand our USP and communicate our difference through our logo, the logo became quite messy.  The bull and ‘Legally Branded’ tagline were added to explain our focus on trademarks and branding. We added the words ‘Internet, IP, Identity’ to articulate the digital nature of our work and in a bid to explain that as well as IP, we focused on identity matters.
Rebranding

The messy looking logo was detracting from our aim of making IP law clear and simple. So we chose to work with Marianne, a designer who pointed this out to me and emphasised the value that a new logo would bring.

I’m so pleased I listened to her and opted to work with her.

We now have a logo that reflects our brand values and the digital nature of our work, a tagline that distinguishes us from other IP law firms, and a logo and designs that clearly support our ideal of making IP easy.

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It’s taken 8 years to arrive at this clarity, and it will now be a lot easier to grow the business, and to fulfil our goal of making global IP easy to access and buy.

Take a look at our new branding on this website, in our newsletters (enter your email address in the sidebar to sign up), and also on our recently updated site dedicated to Trademark Registration.