3 Questions to Answer: Do I Own My Brand?

  • Do you own it in the mind?
  • Do you own it in the market?
  • Do you own it in the media?

We’ve discussed the 7 Tests of a Great Brand Name. One of the tests is that it needs to be Ownable. In the comments on the article, Chris Cathcart asked me about securing the brand name as a key test. I realized that I assumed this as a part of being Google-able, but it is really an Own-ability issue. If you cannot own the URL, then you cannot own the brand.

As I thought more about it, I realized that there is more than one way to own a brand. I think there are three, but I know there are more. So, read on and then be sure to share other ways you think we can own a brand in the comments below.

Do I Own My Brand? Here are 3 quick questions to help you determine if you do or not:

Let’s look at each one of these:

1Owning a brand in the mind.

  • This should be the first step
  • Barriers to entry are low

This is the first and most important place to own it. It goes all the way back to the Ries & Trout book, Positioning. And it’s never been more relevant than it is today. His book (written in 1981) opens with a diatribe on how much mental clutter there was in the world. If they were cluttered, then what are we? Mental landfill?

Getting into the mind has never been easier or harder than it is today. The barriers to entry are so low – just make a killer video about your shave club. But this low barrier only means there are more entrants into the marketplace of ideas. The economist said a decade ago we have 3,000 ads coming at us each day. This was early internet days.

So, how do you find space in the mind? Ah, isn’t that the question. You are looking for a space that is meaningful to consumers, unique from competitors and deliverable by you/your company. Sounds easy, right?

There’s lots of great resources to help with this – I’ll write more about them soon – but for now, check out Blue Ocean Strategy. Probably the best title to help you find new space in the market (and therefore the mind).

There’s also the idea of categories, which we will go into on another post as well. Because you cannot talk about brands without talking about categories. The category is really where you win. Again, check out Positioning.

2. Owning a brand in the market.

  • Check uspto.gov to make sure your brand name is clear
  • Start using the ™ on your name and logo all the time
  • Call your attorney and set-up a time to have this mark registered

This is how I’ve originally thought about Ownability. If you are going to create and build a brand, then you want to make sure you can legally own it. This is why we build equity into a brand. So that it will accrue value both in the mind of the consumer, but also to your balance sheet.

Much has been written about the asset value of brands. And there are companies who track the value of top brands in the US and globally. So, we won’t go into this here. Suffice it to say that you need to make sure that you can register your brand for trademark protection.

If this is a new concept for you, then here’s a quick primer. A trademark is what allows you to do business with a particular name and logo (literally, trade mark). You do not need to register your trademark for it to have legal protection. You can simply put the small TM out beside every use of your name, logotype or mark. This shows use and intent to protect.

But I don’t recommend just using the TM. Especially if you are investing heavily in this brand. Take the time, effort and invest in registering. You can check to see if it is clear on uspto.gov. But go to your legal counsel to do the rest. Don’t mess around here. It can be costly to jack up your trademark or find out you don’t own it.

3. Owning a brand in the media.

  • Getting a URL is a challenge, but a necessary one
  • Don’t settle for less than what your brand is worth
  • Get your name out there in media via PR

Yes, I just wanted another “M” but I also want to expand this beyond just securing the URL. When I am ideating names for brands, I keep a browser open to bounce between GoDaddy and Google. This is to check and see if the URL is available, and then to see what comes up if your Google the word.

Getting a URL for a brand is a huge challenge. It is actually more of a challenge that finding a legally clean trademark. And it is almost as hard as finding mental whitespace in the mind of the consumer.

So, what to do if you cannot get the YourBrand.com? I have a couple of recommendations:

  • Do NOT settle for the other extensions like .biz or .tv – you’ll never meet someone who was happy making that decision. Get the dot com.
  • If you cannot get your brand, then figure out another URL that works in conjunction with it like ConsultYourBrand.com if your are a consulting firm, or ShopYourBrand if you are a retailer. These are less than ideal, but a great brand name is worth sacrificing the perfect URL.
  • The key to this kind of URL is making sure it uses a great keyword for your company. Don’t just pick a random work. Make it meaningful to consumers. Because they will make it meaningful to Google. Your great content on your site is going to get you found for now.

Other ways to own your brand in the media:

  • Make sure you are getting your name out there in traditional media via PR.
  • Make sure you can get all of the vanity URLs on your social media – especially, Facebook, Twitter, Google+.
    • LinkedIn and Slideshare if you are B2B.
    • Pinterest and Instagram if you are a visual brand or in the design, style, fashion spaces.
  • Create killer content on topics that your consumers love so they will equate your brand with that topic.

Takeaways:

1. Owning a brand is a lot of work on the front end. But it is the most important asset in your company.

2. It is the entity that you are building value into. So, it’s worth it to get it right.

Sean writes weekly about the intersection of Retail, Media & Brands. To get his weekly SMACK Talk newsletter, sign-up here. And if you want to read what Sean’s been reading this week, then let him know (via LinkedIn) and he’ll add you to his Weekend Read featuring the top articles from around the web this week with a bit (or a lot) of his commentary. Finally, if you are a brand selling to Walmart (or another retailer) and are interested to see how advertising with SMACK Media can grow your business, then please contact Sean at slw@smack.co.