When starting a business, you need to think about how to establish your brand. Your brand is what drives your business, a set of promises and assurances that customers should think of when they see or hear your name. It is your unique identity that resonates within your target audience and differentiates you from your competitors.
With the correct strategy, your brand will continue to gain value over time. This value will come from the positive reputation your brand develops. Brand establishment should be considered as a long term goal and essential to your overall business strategy.
The following tips will help you consider how to establish your brand.
Establish your brand strategy
The first step is to establish your brand strategy. This should be considered when you first come up with your business idea, and should be kept in mind as your business develops. As part of the strategy ask yourself, what are the promises I want associated with my brand and how can I ensure my brand becomes a reflection of these promises? Also consider what you want as your brand identifier; a word, logo, or both?
Businesses naturally evolve over time, so your brand strategy will need to be reviewed as your business develops.
Search your brand name
Once you have the basis of your brand strategy, you can then take steps to clear your chosen name for use. A good starting point is to carry out an Internet search for the name. If you find a business using the same name or something very similar, this may cause problems when you come to register your name as a trademark. So, once you have a name you think may be available, you should speak to a trademark solicitor and get a legal opinion on the name. They can carry out comprehensive searches, even on an international level, to ensure your chosen name is available for use and stands the best chance of being registered as a trademark.
Trademark your name
Your brand name is an intangible asset and one of the most valuable assets your business will own. When you have chosen your brand name, and cleared it for use through a trademark search, it is essential to protect it through trademark registration. Registration will help secure the rights in the name and the goodwill your business generates, increasing the overall value of your brand. Trademarks are split into 45 categories (or classes) of goods and services. This means a name can be used even if it already exists, provided there is no overlap in the goods or services being offered. Trademark drafting is a specialist skill, and should be carried out by an experienced professional. This will ensure you aren’t faced with a worthless trademark, or are subject to a legal dispute later down the line.
Apply your trademark
Once you have secured protection for your name, you can then start to apply your trademark as your brand identifier. When applying your trademark to your business, you need to remember that this is what consumers will associate with your brand, so avoid anything which may reflect negatively on your business. Remember, once your trademark is registered, you can use the ® symbol to denote to your customers and competitors that your name is a registered trademark.
Build your brand
As you start to apply your brand to your goods and services, the reputation and goodwill behind the brand will start to gain momentum. This is the time to start building on your brand awareness, promoting the benefits of your business over your competitors. The sooner you build on the reputation and recognition of your brand, the quicker your brand will gain value.
Learn what works
It is important to constantly monitor how your customers perceive your brand and whether this perception aligns with your brand strategy. Once your business has been running for some time, this is the point to look back at your brand strategy and learn what works and what doesn’t. The next steps involve improving your brand and securing additional intellectual property protection, so remember the lessons you’ve learnt from past experiences.
Improve your brand
Complacency can be dangerous and may damage the reputation of your brand. As a business, you will need to constantly improve your brand to stay competitive in the market. As you have learnt what works, this is a good time to review your brand strategy and consider what improvements can be made. Perhaps the business can offer more competitive pricing, or the quality of your products has improved, in which case these factors need to be communicated to your customers so they become associated with your business.
Secure your IP
You now have an established brand and a reputation to protect. This is a good stage to carry out an IP audit, and an IP risks test, to see what other rights your business should protect. Since establishing the brand name, there may be a host of other rights which have accrued and should now be protected, consider;
- Does my trademark still cover all the goods and services the business offers?
- Has my business expanded into other countries?
- Are there any other names, slogans or logos which are now associated with my business?
- Are there any domain names I should consider registering?
- Are all my innovations protected?
By securing the rights in your IP which develop over time, you can continue to increase the value in your brand and ultimately, your business.
Has it worked?
Finally, consider has your brand strategy worked and does it align with your original intentions for the business? If your strategy was to create a promise of lost cost, high quality goods, does your brand reflect this and is this what customers associate with your brand name?
Having a strong brand strategy and good knowledge of brand protection will help ensure the success for your next product launch, business idea or even just help continue building on the value of your current brand.