You protect your brand, and you future proof your existence
An opinion piece by Mahesh Enjeti, Global Strategist and Co-Founder, BrandReadiy.com (The views expressed here are the author’s own and do not reflect the Australian Marketing Institute’s or any other individual/organisation’s perspective)
The b2b2b virtuous cycle
Every marketer knows that building a brand helps to grow its business. Conversely, as a business expands, it helps to strengthen the brand further on the back of increased sales, more visibility, repeat usage and recurrent (expectedly, positive) experience. But this virtuous cycle could be at risk (you will see why as you scroll down).
Two sides to the brand value coin
A powerful brand works at two levels, it can drive more sales at the same price or achieve the same level of sales at a higher price. While marketers champion brand value on behalf of the consumer (and rightly so), many pay little attention to the value that the brand must deliver to the business. Although brand preference and intention to buy are leading indicators of future revenue, it is the dollar contribution of a brand to a business’ topline and bottom-line, not brand health metrics that matter in the Board room.
From a customer perspective, ‘brand value’ is the assurance of consistent quality each time a product or service is bought and consumed. From a business perspective, ‘brand value’ is the capacity of a brand to generate future profits, frequently measured as the Net Present Value (NPV) of the sum total of all future earnings. The brand is thus as much an asset as any other such as infrastructure, plant & machinery, people, data, etc.
Any asset that is not protected becomes a liability
Insurance policies, investment in periodic asset renewal, company culture & incentives, cyber protection, and loyalty programs are some of the ways businesses sustain the life and continuity of these assets. The insurance for long-term brand preservation is Intellectual Property (IP) protection and a robust trademark. While marketers and many business owners get the concept of brand building, the topic of brand protection is alien to most.
The responsibility for a brand’s protection and its continuity into the future must go beyond the Legal, Finance, Corporate Affairs, or Commercial departments. Marketers are in the best position to spot any seeming infringement or sense any potential challenge to their brand by keeping their eyes and ears open in the marketplace and in cyber space. Waiting until a threat becomes real could potentially undo years of investment in brand equity building. Besides, the expense, pain, loss, and disruption from legal battles can distract organisations from their core business.
From growth spurt to a stutter, the start-up brand landmine
In many start-ups, the choice of a brand name receives scant attention. The battle for survival and the day-to-day operational pressures make it difficult if not impossible. Equally, the long-term value of a brand is rarely recognised. The commercial need for an early launch means a few names are thrown around and a couple that catch the fancy of a majority of Founders are shortlisted. A name is chosen that seems workable after checking for URL availability on domain registries and a quick Google® search to discover any similarities with other brands in associated categories. Soon, the website is launched, and the venture is up and running.
As the business grows, it runs into a series of roadblocks. The brand cannot be registered as a business name. Cloned identities and hashtags are already in use on facebook®, Instagram®, twitter®, LinkedIn®, or TikTok®. The brand is constrained to assume multiple avatars on different online channels, gradually eroding its equity even before it is built, thus diminishing the likelihood of owning a trademark in time.
The folly of funky names
The reality is that most sought-after brand names are already in use or parked with scalpers. Start-ups are therefore tempted to choose a name that is different – usually a coined word that is likely to be meaningless or even outrageous; frequently these are homophones that are spelt uniquely. Yet, it is important for a newbie to have a name that is more relevant rather than simply different. Apart from the risk of being navigated to an alternative site, it is a huge ask to build brand salience from scratch whether online or offline for a name that virtually means nothing. It takes a lot less time, effort, and dollars to establish a name that communicates even obliquely what the business is about, or conveys the benefits delivered by its products and services.
The changing colour of brand space
The virtuous cycle of brand building leading to business expansion further enhancing brand strength is no longer guaranteed. The growth in e-commerce (abetted by Covid) has witnessed traditional brick-and-mortar brands rapidly venturing online. Simultaneously, new digital brands are gaining ground not only in the tech space but in other categories as well. Despite their high failure rate, a few start-ups are beginning to assume challenger brand status. The domain of brands is thus increasingly turning into a red ocean as imitations and iterations, lookalikes and soundalikes swell in numbers and chip away at legacy brand equity.
Consistency across channels is key to protection
The proliferation of platforms and the fragmentation of media makes it imperative that brands appear consistently whenever and wherever they are seen, heard, bought, or experienced. Fragile and fragmented with no identical presence across growing digital platforms, well-established brands are now increasingly threatened. They could face dilution or even rapid erosion of their equity in the absence of a uniform identity and a secure trademark. Similarly, start-ups that cannot foresee the asset nature and the potential future value of brands run the serious risk of adopting a cloned name that could potentially destroy the business following one ‘cease and desist’ legal notice.
It is critical therefore for new and established brands to be featured identically on Facebook®, LinkedIn®, Instagram®, TikTok® .... etc., etc., just as they appear on their website. Importantly, brands will also need to register the business name and trademark the company/product/service name and logo if they are to avoid any legal challenge from other brands that are trademarked in the same or related category.
The onus of checking is onerous
With the exponential growth in digital channels, the task of ascertaining if your brand name is being used by another business was difficult, time consuming, and frustrating. And if you are considering a range of names for your business or if you are a brand or communications agency working simultaneously on a number of brands, it could take hours even days to check every name on every platform. Thankfully, that is no longer the case with BrandRead.i.y®, the one-click, one-stop, do-it-yourself (DIY) App that enables your brand to become digital and IP ready.
(Disclaimer: The author is actively involved in its strategic development and has a minor stake in the business).
Enter a brand name in the search box on BrandReadiy.com and it will in an instant comprehensively list all digital identities already in use (on Facebook®, LinkedIn®, Instagram®, TikTok®, or any other relevant digital platform) for any new or existing brand name. So, choosing a shortlisted name or extending a brand's presence to other domains and/or social media platforms becomes effortless. Clicking on each result takes you to the relevant page. If you are an Australian brand, BrandRead.i.y® will also tell you if your brand is registered as a business name, and/or a trademark and who owns it.
As a fast, reliable, and easy to use self-service portal, BrandReadiy.com saves time and effort besides the potential to stave off any pain from future legal challenges.
The ready-made brand search engine
BrandRead.i.y® was built with one grand purpose - protect the Intellectual Property of every brand by securing its equity. Its vision was to make BrandReadiy.com the Google® for brand name search. This fit for purpose, game changing service is targeted at marcomms and brand agencies, start-ups, brand owners, even IP professionals.
The three Founders discovered over decades of working with brands that searching for brand names on Google® provided only limited results and no pointers for IP protection. They had to undertake separate searches on domain name registries, and portals such as ASIC, IP Australia, and ABN Register besides extensively scanning social media platforms like LinkedIn®, Facebook®, Instagram®, etc., resulting in wasted time, effort, and energy use. With BrandRead.i.y all that has become history.
Long live brands!
To sum up, BrandRead.i.y® enables start-ups to evaluate a wider pool of branding options before arriving at a unique and meaningful name for their business (or product/service) that can be safely adopted without any potential IP risk. New ventures with global ambitions will have the ability to undertake essential checks before choosing to lodge Trademark applications. Even for established businesses (with access to the services of an IP professional practice) on a growth trajectory and expanding into new markets BrandRead.i.y® will be an excellent investigative resource. Lastly but significantly, marketing communication agencies and brand consultancies will derive immense benefit from ongoing savings in both time and effort. To explore the value of BrandRead.i.y, visit BrandReadiy.com
BrandRead.i.y is an International Finalist at the 2022 AMI Awards for Marketing Excellence in the Creativity in Brand, Product, or Service Marketing category.