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The business owner might try to take care of everything themselves and co-ordinate the various suppliers. More likely, they tend to rely on one or two suppliers, such as an agency helping them with their branding, to fulfil all the functions that impact branding – namely, intellectual property and other laws, digital marketing, social media, IT, PR and communications and so on.
In my experience, business owners often lack clarity on what “branding” really means. Many assume that the supplier helping them with a new logo or name will take care of far more than falls within the remit of a design or marketing agency.
The business owner is effectively the brand manager by default, but due to their lack of skills and specialist insights into brands, they reduce the effectiveness of the brand and its efforts to achieve increased sales.
Business owners that lack the in-depth knowledge of brands that the brand manager in large organisations brings to the table, tend to make some very basic and avoidable mistakes.
One example of how businesses typically go about things is that they commission designs and other intellectual property elements, such as websites, without putting in place appropriate legal agreements with their suppliers who are doing the creative work for them. They often don’t understand the naming process, and the need to check availability in trade marks and consider how effective the name will be in capturing market share for them. Instead they rely on their supplier, who in turn does not understand the intellectual property dimension of branding – why should they - they are marketers or designers after all, and intellectual property law is a totally different discipline.
The problem is that naming and brand identity involves the law, and is actually part and parcel of Intellectual Property. Branding needs therefore to include a trade mark lawyer as a key member of the team because the law affects the types of name that is appropriate to choose. It’s not just whether the name is available or to secure protection of a brand that’s already been created.
The right legal input can help avoid many problems during the branding process. For example, a serious mistake that tends to occur – even when experienced branding professionals are involved – is that descriptive names are chosen for the business that are incapable of being protected as word trade marks. Such names will build little brand equity.
Also, when small businesses have a website or logo created for them, they don’t realise that they won’t own the necessary copyright unless this is agreed BEFORE the work is carried out rather than left till AFTER the event.
The upshot of not having a brand manager in place in small businesses is that the brand doesn’t have the right expertise it needs during creation. Then later, it lacks attention from an experienced brand manager in order to help it to grow and thrive. When a brand is not consistently and correctly maintained, improved, and upheld it holds back the brand name from becoming associated with positive results.
Until and unless the business grows to a size where it has an internal marketing and legal resource that can get the right outcomes for the brand when it’s outsourcing, or developing new concepts, its likely to suffer from neglect or incorrect treatment along the way as the business owner muddles through. So, it’s unsurprising that so many businesses fail in the first 10 years.
As I see it there is a need for brand management services to be available to small businesses so they can start successfully, grow, and exit with a strong brand.
The multi-disciplinary nature of brand management means that many differing areas of legal and non-legal issues – such as marketing, public relations, communications, business sensitivity, social media etc – need to be taken into account.
As for the law it involves Intellectual property (IP), contracts, employment and other fields. If a lawyer is to provide the necessary brand management service that SMEs need, the lawyer must develop a degree of intellectual flexibility.
I would argue that lawyers are the best placed professionals to provide the brand management function out of all the suppliers that need to be involved to help the brand to grow, such as designers, digital marketers, social media managers etc
The lawyer needs to develop a degree of intellectual flexibility, and find a way to support small businesses cost effectively. The task is to keep the legal and non-legal in sync – always remembering that it is the brand that matters.
Lawyers are natural problem solvers – or to be more specific - legal problem solvers. We are trained to find legal solutions to business problems.
And herein lies the reason why lawyers need to change if they’re to support a business in related areas of business, such as brand management services by trade mark lawyers. They need to broaden their perspective and find business solutions to business problems ensuring the legal dimension is taken on board in an appropriate way without dominating it, unless it’s intrinsically necessary for the legal issue to do so.
Although I had noticed numerous problems around branding and mentioned them in my book Legally Branded which was published 7 years ago, it was only recently that I realised that the true problem in the market lies in the fact that the brand manager function isn’t available in small businesses, and that the gaps this leaves go beyond law.
Consequently, the most valuable asset and intellectual property of businesses – namely the brand – isn’t being properly created, developed and cared for.
As an intellectual property law firm Azrights focus is the brand. It makes sense for us to offer brand management both due to my own interests and inclinations – I read voraciously about brands and marketing - and because the market opportunity lies more in the direction of helping businesses to grow and succeed through the brand.
I will soon launch my new book and offering for small business owners to access the brand management services they need in order to actively manage their brand, from inception to exit.
That’s the best way for ambitious businesses to seize opportunities inherent in their ideas, avoid threats, protect the brand from unauthorised use by competitors, and develop online content. Maximising brand power forms the heart of commercial strategy for businesses in nearly every industry, whether major names or start-ups with big ambitions, and Azrights is well placed to support them.
By signing up for Legally Branded Newsletter, You will gain insights every week on intellectual property. Paying attention to IP is the way to discover what steps to take to preserve the value of your assets, to grow your profit margins, create new income streams, protect your market share, and prevent competitors from copying your ideas.