Sunday, February 5, 2012

the brand battle


The blog Markify recently posted an interesting item about the overwhelming number of boring everyday words that are used in trade marks. Markify was underwhelmed, and made the perfectly correct and lawyerly point that these common words do not help brands to stand out. Additionally, a common or descriptive word is difficult to register, meaning that it is difficult to claim any exclusivity. A trade marks attorney will groan (metaphorically if not literally) when a brand owner comes up with yet another mark containing the word STAR or SOLUTIONS or POWER or SMART or GREEN, or one of the two newest (according to Markify) to join the list : SOCIAL or MOBILE.

This set me thinking.

The attorneys reading this will nod - so what? That’s ‘Trade Marks 101’. Always advise your client to choose a distinctive mark, so that they can protect it and so that they can stand out in the marketplace.

But attorneys are not marketers, and marketers may disagree about what a brand can and should do in the marketplace. It’s not that easy to establish a completely invented word (that Holy Grail for ease of registration) as associated with a particular product. Brands often need to at least subtly, and maybe not so subtly, suggest what the product is, what its qualities are, what the brand owner’s ethos is. An invented word may not cut the ice.

And so the perennial battle quietly rages: the attorneys wondering why marketers can’t be more “original” and come up with much more distinctive marks which would make their life easier; and the marketers wondering why their attorneys seem to be working against them and not with them.

Somewhere in between lies the perfect brand choice: creative enough to carry the freight of suggestion that good marketing needs, but clever enough to be considered distinctive at law.

Here are a few examples to ponder:

THE SOCIAL GETWORK for employment services

TREND FOOD for food products

JAVA CITY for coffee bar services

THE MONEY STORE for money lending services

Good attorneys need to be able to explain the distinctiveness concept, but appreciate that there may be other equally important issues in brand selection.

Good marketers need to be able to include the magic ingredient of distinctiveness while still creating a brand that works for them.

1 comment:

  1. Interesting thoughts about naming that is close to generic but still distinctive enough. I guess those kind of names have an easier start but a lot of work in the following years fending off new similar marks.