Brand protection strategies all too often tend to fall by the wayside when it comes to small and medium-sized businesses. This is especially evident in the case of young, naïve, entrepreneurs.
However, a brand protection strategy isn’t just essential to large, international companies and businesses with well-known brand identities. If you’re company creates a product or service, operates online or on social media, happens to be design-focused, or develops unique code or concepts, then you could benefit greatly from brand protection.
If you’re interested in learning more about brand protection, trademarks, and taking steps to ensure your valuable assets are properly safeguarded, look no further than these next few lines.
Intellectual Property: The Basics
The textbook definition for intellectual property is general, and to be honest, rather ambiguous. However, it could be argued that in being so, it allows for a wide range of interpretations in order to provide the broadest amount of protection. Intellectual property is essentially defined as “any product of the human intellect that the law protects from unauthorized use by others”.
When most people think of intellectual property, the arts tend to come to mind. Paintings, songs, lyrics, and films are all forms of intellectual property. However, so too are products, services, and even concepts and/or processes. In short, intellectual property can cover both tangible and non-tangible assets.
What is the difference between a trademark, a copyright, and a patent?
Traditionally speaking, intellectual property breaks down into four primary categories:
- Trade Secrets
Trademarks cover words, designs and phrases (or a combination of the three) which are specific to your brand’s identity. An example of a trademark would be Coca-Cola®.
Copyrights cover original intellectual property which “exist in a tangible medium”. This includes property such as books, songs, lyrics, paintings, drawings (digital and traditional), coding, and photographs.
Patents, on the other hand, are focused on technical inventions. These encompass everything from “chemical compositions” (such as pharmaceuticals), to “mechanical processes” (such as complex machinery), or “machine designs that are new, unique, and usable in some type of industry”.
Trade secrets tend to be more self-explanatory. Trade secrets are confidential pieces of information which are limited to a group of individuals and innately hold commercial value because – that’s right – they’re secret.
As you can see, regardless of which industry you operate in, as long as you are delivering a product, service, or coming up with unique and/or innovative ideas, a brand protection strategy is crucial.
Types of brand abuse
We’ve covered the various types of protection you can leverage in order to protect your intellectual assets. However, it is equally as important to be aware of the myriad of threats which can compromise your business.
Counterfeiting is a billion dollar industry, and you’d be mistaken if you thought that it only happens with the most prominent brands.
But, not all abuse is so blatant. Many shady businesses and individuals take it down a notch and instead, take advantage of you and your customers with a tactic called brand impersonation. This is done through various tactics such as by creating look-a-like items or rogue websites.
Typosquatters rely on the concept of human error and will set up domains very similar to an authorized business’ domain in hopes that an unsuspecting customer won’t notice they’ve made a typo in the URL (i.e. “faecbook.com” vs. “facebook.com”).
Domain squatters focus on those little, seemingly insignificant variations in domains (i.e. “.com” versus “.org”) and attempt to claim ones that have yet to be claimed by the actual business in order to trick customers into thinking their site is legitimate.
Then, there’s trademark infringement. This involves the unauthorized use or misuse of a company’s intellectual assets such as their brand name or logo. Sometimes it is targeted and intentional. Other times, it is accidental – a partner using incorrect formatting or placement of an asset.
Trademark squatters on the other hand, will snag up trademarks in international territory where an original business has yet to establish a registered mark in order to capitalize off of that brand’s domestic popularity.
Copyright infringement is probably one of the most well-known forms of brand abuse. This involves the unauthorized reproduction of copyrighted materials (i.e. books, films, songs, lyrics, works of art).
If you happen to be a millennial then chances are you’re already familiar with sites such as Pirate Bay. You might also remember in 1999 when the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) filed a lawsuit against Napster which forced the company into bankruptcy. Or that time when LimeWire popped up and then was shortly crushed into submission. Then there were the lawsuits directed at citizens. Every 12-year-old kid in America was shaking in their boots when they started going after children.
You should be ashamed of yourself.
Why do you need brand protection?
The bottom line is that every company or organization, regardless of industry could benefit greatly from having a brand protection strategy in place. Every business, every entrepreneur, is at risk for intellectual property theft. Apart from the obvious ill-intentioned abuses, there are also various partner compliance risks which need mitigated. This could involve misguided promotion efforts, sales outside of authorized channels, unauthorized promotions or discounts on products and/or services, or unintentional Ad Manager violations.
The tangible risks are obvious – a potential loss in countless dollars, ROIs, traffic, and campaign performance. But then there are also other risks to consider which could be equally as if not more devastating: A plummet in your customer experience levels, a drop in long-term loyalty and brand trust/confidence.
Counterfeit products tend to be cheaper, lower quality knock-offs of a higher-quality, highly curated brand. When a customer unknowingly purchases a counterfeit product – there’s no way to regulate quality control. This lower product/service then naturally gets connected back to your brand – not to mention the negative reviews associated with it. If you happen to work in the pharmaceutical or medical industries, it’s easy to see how low-quality/counterfeit goods can easily have devastating impacts not only to your customer base, but to your brand, reputation, and bottom line.
Benefits of brand protection
With all of this in mind, it’s easy to see why investing in a robust, high-quality brand protection strategy is vital to the future sustainability of your business. Unless you are a licensed professional in the niche, then you can’t ever really have peace of mind that your efforts are effective.
Industry experts have the ability to take a proactive, granular approach to protecting your brand by helping you develop iron-clad protection. They can also assist by identifying, reporting, and shutting down counterfeit competition in your industry and by helping to enforce policies with various partners and venders.
For businesses with brick-and-mortar stores, or physical products, a brand strategy could also include the creation of a physical/on-product authentication strategy.
The benefits to your business in the end are innumerable. These for many include an improved ROI and more optimized marketing investments. If counterfeiters are purchasing branded keywords, then they are literally competing against you for your own customers. This not only creates brand confusion and impacts your reputation, but it ultimately also impacts your ad spend.
Furthermore, a comprehensive brand protection strategy can help provide you with a myriad of business insights into your market, competition, customers, and target demographics. This information can then further be used to fuel data-driven decisions and to optimize everything from your marketing spend, to product pricing, and customer service experience.
Despite what many may think, prioritizing a brand protection strategy is absolutely crucial for any business. A robust, quality brand protection strategy can help you improve everything from your ROIs, to your customer experience, brand reputation, and market competitiveness. In addition, the process involved includes collecting granular insights about your busines, industry, and your competition.
As a result, a well-rounded brand protection strategy can also provide you with valuable insights which can fuel data-driven decisions about your company, your products and/or services, and your customer base.
Ultimately, in the end, a brand protection strategy provides you with peace of mind. It mitigates the sea of risks associated with doing business and operating in a cut-throat competitive environment. It can also help protect you against unintentional or accidental forms of abuse which may occur at the hands of some of your most trusted partners and vendors.
So, what are you waiting for – get started on implementing a brand protection strategy today. You deserve a good night’s rest.
Have you ever fallen victim to brand abuse? What steps have you taken in order to prevent it? Let us know in the comments below. We would love to hear from you!