Tag Archives: small business

Brands Grow

How Brands Grow – A book by Byron Sharp

Brands GrowBack in 2011 when I began writing my book Legally Branded I realised that despite spending years focused on brand protection, I didn’t really know what the word ‘brand’ meant and what was involved to create one.

Having joined BNI soon after starting my business in 2006 I kept hearing the designer in the chapter referring to how everything you do is your brand, or that it was important to stand out. Intrigued, I had become a client of the agency and undergone “branding”. Yet here I was a few years later unsure what ‘brand’ meant. I asked a group of entrepreneurs in a Facebook group what they understood by the word, and got a host of different responses. I also sought out definitions in respected textbooks.

Over the years, I’ve read many books on branding and heard many people refer to it. The word is bandied around quite a lot, and yet most people are largely unaware of what it actually means.

A brand is actually one of the most valuable intellectual property rights a successful business can have. In fact, most business assets such as the brand are largely digital and intangible in the 21st century. Much of the work that a creative agency does when “branding” a business involves creating intellectual property assets which the business should own. However, unless there is the right written agreement between an agency and its clients the client will not own the IP assets.

It makes sense that a 21st century approach to branding should be an IP led activity so a lawyer can, among other things, ensure the agreement with the design agency protects the client. Brand creation should not be a design led activity.

I’ve decided to write a book on the subject, but I don’t want to just add to the noise around brand and branding. I want to discover what really moves the needle in branding, so that my book can truly enlighten readers and act as a guide for them. My starting point for this, has been Byron Sharp’s research, which is all about evidence-based marketing, as detailed in his book  How Brands Grow.

 

Scientific discoveries

The result of research conducted by Byron Sharp and his team with the world’s top brands at the Ehrenberg-Bass Institute, University of South Australia indicates that our existing preconceptions about increasing the loyalty to our brands is misguided. He found that all brands have a lot of buyers who only buy them infrequently. Even the Apples and Harley Davidsons have a lot of light users who buy other brands more than they buy them.

Those brands with a smaller market share have less market share, largely because fewer people know about them to buy them. The people who do buy them are less loyal and buy them less often. They devote less of their whole category buying to them. Consequently, the brand has fewer loyal customers.

The normal assumptions are that niche brands have a very loyal customer base, albeit small.  However, it seems from the research that you can’t grow by selling to your existing customer base. You need to find new customers.

I’m still working out how to apply the research to service businesses, but the implication seems to be that branding is terribly important – not for building deep emotional connections with consumers, as is generally thought, but in the battle for attention. Consumers are very busy with other things, which is why they don’t fall in love with brands. They’re very happy to be loyal to a repertoire of brands. Even heavy category buyers don’t buy all the brands that are on the market. They keep returning to some favourites. They’re happy to be loyal. To do that they have to recognise the brand, notice the brand. The key in other words, is that brand has to be present wherever the consumer is looking to buy.

 

Implications for Branding

The implications of these fundamental scientific discoveries and findings about what marketing works are huge.

Another book that has emerged from that institute is Building Distinctive Brand Assets by Jenni Romaniuk, and the combination of the two books blows away some of the big myths in marketing.

My conclusion from the books, and what my own TUNED framework stresses, is that branding is largely about setting yourself apart. You need to look like you, not looking like your competitors.

If you can do that you can build a loyal customer base. You don’t have to get people to fall in love with your brand. You just need to get into your consumers’ heads.

Subway is an example Byron Sharp gives of a brand that has managed to get our collective attention.  Sandwiches are a big category. There was no branded sandwich before Subway. Subway came up with a brand that has got into everyone’s heads. People know they can get sandwiches there. It’s not built the business on the quality of its sandwiches.

The battle for mental availability is a hard barrier to push through.

The Subway name is a good one because it’s distinctive and that is another reason why the brand has been able to stick in our minds. The company didn’t try to use a name like Big Sandwich to describe its sandwich, which is just a quick example of some of the less distinctive naming approaches that might have the benefit of communicating what you you’re all about, but don’t help you to truly stand out longer term. Descriptive names that are not truly inventive can simply make a brand generic, and therefore blend in among all their competitors.

All Brands Face the Same Challenges

All brands are smaller than they want to be, so they face the same challenges. A new brand has the challenge to implant memory structures, to build mental availability amongst a big population of potential buyers.

The real advantage that big brands have, is that their mental availability overlaps with their physical availability. What that means is that any store they’re in, that physical availability works harder because anyone who comes into the store is more likely to notice the brand. The brand is in their head as well. It means the brand’s marketing works more effectively because anyone they reach with their advertising also shops in places where they are present. So, this creates a virtuous circle.

The bigger you get the more your mental and physical availability overlap so that everything works better for you and you’re more visible.

A small brand has to build mental and physical availability. Sharp suggests focusing on getting the mental and physical availability to overlap.  Consumers are in all channels so if you’re only in one channel you’re going to be smaller, and your advertising isn’t going to work so well because it benefits some people but not others who predominantly go to other channels. These challenges are exactly the same for all brands, but for a small brand it looms larger due to its lesser resources.

However, all brands start out small. Some manage to make the transition to being big.

 

What it Means for B2B Brands

For B2B businesses the takeaway message from this is to be present on all social media platforms, even if you double down on one or two more than on others. The notion that you don’t need to be on all the platforms is misguided in my view.

If you’re a new brand, the challenge of building a customer base is really stark. According to Byron Sharp the danger is that small brands fall for old marketing myths that if they start really small hopefully, they’ll go viral – that if they focus on people who really love them, they will somehow magically infect all the other people. In his view this is wishful thinking.

How brands grow is about how buyers buy, and how brands compete. What is branding hasn’t changed. Brands are constantly competing head on. That makes marketing and branding very important. You can’t build mental availability and get into people’s heads without a brand.

However, the emphasis needs to be less on creating “meaningful” brands and typefaces and other issues that people currently focus on. What matters is the distinctiveness of your brand so that people realise who you are, and that they’re not seeing someone else. One of his conclusions is that branding is largely meaning free.

We use brands to simplify our lives. To be a little box so we store memories. McDonalds has done amazingly well to get into people’s minds. We all know what they sell. There are millions of cafes where we don’t know what they serve.

One implication from this, in my view, is that lawyers need to work alongside branding agencies to advise on what can be protected, because there is no point placing a huge emphasis on a branding element that you can’t uniquely own.  Instead, you need to make sure you’re creating distinctive brand assets that are ownable. If the distinctiveness can’t be protected then the brand isn’t going to be able to prevent competitors copying.

 

The New Era of Marketing

From books like Building Distinctive Brand Assets by Jenni Romaniuk it is clear that the new era of marketing will emphasise distinctive assets and will be guided by this insight in the branding process.

Tropicana is an example of a brand that didn’t understand what made it distinctive, how they featured in people’s minds. They decided to make their packaging more premium, and in the process took the orange off the pack. Sales dropped dramatically.

Sharp and Romaniuk point out that consistency is very important in branding. So, a rebrand is risky. It’s a bit like starting again. Their advice is to do careful research before making a change to avoid disaster like the Tropicana experience.  Use the research to give the creative team a framework within which to be creative.

Marlboro cigarettes were unsuccessful with their brand which at one time targeted women. So that was a good reason to rebrand, to search for something better that might work. They started again, and that led to the hugely successful Marlboro brand using a Cowboy.

Sharp and Romaniuk suggest it’s hard to think of a brand where you’re succeeding and would make a change. Unless there are overwhelming reasons to change things stick with your existing branding and if you must make changes then do some research first to work out which assets are distinctive in order to understand what you can and can’t touch in any brand refresh.

For new brands who do not yet have distinctive assets it’s worth thinking about the future at the start to decide what assets to create and build recognition for. This is where being informed by intellectual property law would really help.

People often focus on consistently using the same colours in order to stand out and be memorable. However, Romaniuk’s research found that colour was not such a recognisable asset for brands. And for most practical purposes it’s safe to say you can’t own a colour trade mark either. It would take a lot of time and a huge marketing budget to reach people’s consciousness with your brand colours such that you could claim rights over a colour on its own.

Careful thought will need to be given to such issues in branding, and this will be one of the focal points of my book, focusing on elements that can be uniquely owned, and can’t very easily be copied by competitors.

For branding that will really move the needle for you, it’s vital to have a distinctive name. Register for my upcoming webinar to learn more about how to approach naming or rebranding your business.

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adobe business

How Adobe’s Company Culture Drives Continuous Success

The fast pace of change can make it challenging to maintain a sustainable, and profitable business. So it helps to look at how others are managing to succeed. In my blog this week I look for clues at Adobe, one of the world’s top brands.

Adobe was founded almost 40 years ago and has established an internal culture that drives success. According to Glassdoor, Adobe employees rate working there at 4.4/5 on average, putting the company in their top 30 US employers, based on employee opinion.

 

What makes the Adobe culture so remarkable?

A quick review of the company website reveals that Chairman, President and CEO Shantanu Narayen is passionate about building and empowering teams to drive product innovation and to scale Adobe’s business globally.

This provides a small insight into the approach to the culture at Adobe, whilst the many leader interviews and other published articles provide us with even further information.

A recent Forbes article explains how Adobe has put the employee at the center of their global well-being program, which is regarded to be a large part of defining the culture at the company. Other staff perks include paid family vacations, health care, and onsite yoga facilities. Their approach to working flexibility is also a major perk, with home working, adjustable working schedules and no restrictions on vacation days, as they are at the discretion of the employee’s manager.

Adobe’s encouragement of employee development is unique with a learning fund of up to $10,000 per year for degrees and certain certifications. That is some serious financial commitment to help their employees to continually develop their skills and knowledge.

You can find out more on my blog about how Adobe creates a culture of creativity and loyalty.

 

What we can learn from Adobe

Small businesses can do a lot when designing their businesses and creating the business brand to ensure they build a brand based around a strong company culture. What we can learn from Adobe if we want to establish our own business culture along positive lines is to think about what we can do as leaders of our business to

  1. Make team members feel valued and motivated by taking the time to show appreciation of good work, thanking people, giving out awards, or financial perks based on performance.
  2. Empower the team by providing the development support and freedom to them to try new ways of working, rather than having to stick to the same old ways. This could just involve giving people time off to do some research on an area of work that interests them, or familiarizing themselves with some new software, etc.
  3. Be committed to employee wellbeing. Adobe’s wellbeing program is recognized as one of the key factors in establishing an award-winning company culture. By introducing wellbeing perks, our businesses can all benefit from healthier, happier employees that are more committed to going the extra mile in their roles.

I will be focusing on more brands in my upcoming blogs to share some of the tried and tested approaches of successful companies so as to help small businesses to grow their own brand.  Be sure to check out my blogs over on the Azrights.com website.

Deregulation And The Legal Industry – Exciting Upcoming Changes

Although “deregulation” of the legal industry in the UK was initiated by the Legal Services Act 2007 the new laws didn’t come into effect until 2011, and far from the “big bang” that was anticipated it was a damp squid.

There was an air of anticipation around Alternative Business Structures which were the new vehicle introduced to implement Lord Clementi’s recommendations.  Some people believed that the ABS would cause a sea change in the way legal services were provided because for the first time non lawyers could own a stake in law firms.

However, to date the radical transformation of the legal services market that was envisaged from deregulation hasn’t happened – at least at the small business end of the market where access to lawyers is still costly for many.

In my view, the new regulations about to come into effect in November 2019 which relax the rules around how solicitors may practice will have a far bigger impact in opening up access to legal services than anything that’s gone before.

 

New Alternative To ABS

The problems the legal market suffers from are down to the high cost of being in business. Once you remove some of the significant overhead costs by allowing legal services to be provided within ordinary businesses by solicitors, then innovation is bound to follow.

You see the new regulations don’t attempt to regulate the businesses solicitors form to solve the problems they see in the legal market. By removing the need for their businesses to be regulated law firms, and in particular removing the need for them to carry the special type of professional indemnity insurance that adds a significant overhead cost and risk for solicitors, I believe solicitors will be freed to be creative and responsive to the market needs.

It’s an exciting time for lawyers to set up in business and become entrepreneurs.

In my experience, a reason the impact of the ABS has not been felt too profoundly is due to the increased costs that regulation as an ABS entails, and professional indemnity insurance is a significant component of that extra cost of being an ABS.

Removing the requirement for the “gold plated” professional indemnity cover that law firms and ABSs are required to carry, makes it possible for solicitors operating ordinary limited companies to offer their services cost effectively.

These overhead expenses and costs of regulation are ultimately only of theoretical benefit to the majority of consumers of solicitors’ services.

Solicitors themselves will still be regulated and so consumers can have the confidence of using a solicitor albeit without the gold-plated PI cover. It will also be possible for such businesses to have non lawyers involved.

Freelance lawyers will be permitted to offer certain “reserved” legal services too.  So, it will be interesting to see how the insurance market develops for freelancer services.  Essentially, insurance is only a problem in the solicitors’ market because of the way in which the requirements for the insurance have developed.

 

What is The Solicitors’ Professional Indemnity Insurance Problem?

For reasons which have a lengthy background, the solicitors’ profession has developed some archaic professional indemnity insurance rules which make it difficult, especially for smaller law firms, to run and grow their businesses with the confidence that entrepreneurs generally run their businesses.

There are various reasons for this. Insurance premiums are extremely high. For small firms, even those with good claims records, it’s possible to experience a sudden, inexplicable hike in the premium instead of a no claims bonus like insurance companies usually give you.

This has a worrying impact for smaller firms because a higher premium means a higher run off premium if the business wants or needs to close for any reason, such as to merge with another law firm.

It’s incredible that you can’t take it for granted that when it’s time to renew your insurance you will be able to affordably, and reliably access insurance. The market is extremely unpredictable and volatile with premiums fluctuating wildly from year to year, based on whether the insurers have faced claims in the legal industry or not. It’s quite unrelated to whether you as a firm have any claims.

Some years it can be impossible to get cost effective insurance.  The premiums are so high, or the availability of insurance is so precarious that firms have been forced out of the legal sector. These firms could include those with no adverse claims records. I’ve known of firms that were dropped by insurers who had insured them for years, just before renewal, for no apparent reason. Suddenly these firms found themselves without an insurer.

Some of them closed, some managed to get cover days before their insurance expired, some got insurance by reclassifying their work as ‘commercial’ rather than intellectual property because at one time the market for IP had hardened. It is often difficult to get accurate information about what is going on and why.

Other legal sectors such as the Bar and Intellectual Property Regulation board which regulates trade mark and patent attorneys seem to manage the twin requirements of providing their members with affordable and effective insurance and protecting the public without all the drama that law firms face. For example, PAMIA insures trade mark and patent attorney firms for extremely low premiums, while also offering good protection to clients who may suffer losses.

These professionals may retire or close their practices without having to pay the eye watering sums that solicitors have to pay as “run off” cover due to their premiums being so high.

 

Why ABS Was Not The Answer

Smaller law firms could not justify the extra costs of becoming an ABS on top of all the other expenses of being in business as a law firm.  In particular, the burdensome professional indemnity rules, combined with the competitive market is a disincentive to growth and a serious concern for lawyers contemplating exit or retirement.  The more your turnover goes up, the higher your PI insurance premium will be. This is a tax on success effectively.

Professional indemnity insurance cover is supposed to protect both the professional providing the service and their clients in the event of negligence, errors or omissions, breach of professional duty and civil liabilities.

For most professions the insurance aspects work without the sort of problems that the solicitors market experiences. People can secure affordable insurance which gives them confidence and peace of mind in having an insurer available to finance the cost of errors or omissions.  The client has the benefit of having an insurer to look to if problems arise. Solicitors operating ordinary companies will be able to enjoy cost effective insurance cover if they want it. There is no requirement to get cover even.

This isn’t the forum for examining why the solicitors’ arm of the legal profession has evolved to have such undesirable PI insurance rules which go over and above the normal aims of insurance.

Insurers don’t like the so called “gold plated” professional indemnity cover they’re required to provide to solicitors’ firms. Nor do lawyers like it either as it has such a negative impact on their business. Although in theory, the consumer has the ultimate protection, in practice more consumers lose out through having to pay higher legal fees to access legal services that the PI rules cause than the few consumers who might benefit as a result of an extreme situation occurring. The PI rules are the result of people without any real world understanding of business being in charge of deciding what insurance should cover.

Every law firm at some time or another has experienced the unpleasant side effects that PI renewal can entail. Inability to secure affordable insurance cover should not be an issue that businesses face for reasons that are outside their control. Hopefully, the relaxation of the rules allowing solicitors to offer legal services outside a law firm will therefore have a far bigger impact on opening up access to legal services than the ABS or anything before it.

 

The Future

Before these changes solicitors wanting to provide legal services without setting up a law firm could either do it by giving up their practising certificates and telling consumers that they were non practising solicitors, or they could operate as consultants attached to an existing law firm.

Now they will be able to offer their services as solicitors – except for a few “reserved services” such as probate, conveyancing, and litigation – and they will be regulated as solicitors even though their business is not a law firm.

As an intellectual property lawyer I’ve worked with clients include startups looking to position themselves and stand out with distinctive names and branding. Having run a law firm built from the ground up for the past 15 years which has many entrepreneurial clients I am keen to support lawyers wanting to explore the possibilities that the new regulations open up.  If you’re a solicitor, no matter what stage you’ve reached, you’ll want to explore the opportunities and risks of the impending regulations.

So if you want to set yourself up on the right path for 2020 register your interest

Yes Please Add My Name To The Attendee List for the Next Dinner.

Is a Brand Intellectual Property? Definition of Brand and Intellectual Property

brand and intellectual propertyPeople 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.

Branding Process

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.

 

Intellectual Property

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.