As Seen on the Stage 4 Solutions Blog: (With a slight title change, I wrote it I can do it).
When you look at the common denominator among successful businesses, be them local, small businesses or large, multinational corporations, one thing is certain; each actively maintain, promote, and protect their strong brand name. The task is no simple act, especially for small businesses, considering the countless channels, both online and offline, in which a brand has visibility. Why is this important?
“Your brand is your most important asset,” explained Laurel Sutton, Co-Founder of Catchword Branding, a cross vertical naming and branding leader. Things can go “viral in seconds” she said, so it’s essential to “be aware and make a plan.” At last night’s Business Marketing Association event, Laurel shared with us some brand-protection “Do’s and Don’ts,” shedding insight on the many challenges brand managers face.
Just ask Jeremy Lin, the New York Knicks new point guard sensation – far from a brand manager by any stretch of the imagination. Just a month ago, Jeremy spent most of his game-time minutes on the Knicks bench, an unknown and unproven player. Now, Jeremy finds himself on the front page of newspapers and websites, globally. True “Linsanity.”
But Jeremy, a Harvard grad, is smart, very aware and has made a plan. (No he wasn’t at the BMA event last night, but his actions certainly reflect a working knowledge in the brand management field).
Knowing the trademark landscape is extremely crowded; Jeremy hired a lawyer and applied to trademark “Linsanity.” With T-shirts, mugs, and other souvenirs appearing everywhere proudly sporting the tagline, Jeremy sought to capitalize on the opportunity and make money off of his own success. Not so fast. Two other individuals had already applied to trademark the term! Again aware, this time of his intellectual-property rights, Jeremy is prepared to oppose the other applications – which he would probably be successful in opposing, sources close to the matter claim.
Laurel would wholeheartedly support his decision. “Don’t sign away rights to your name,” she defended, stressing the need to be diligent in sending cease and desist letters to protect what is yours. If one person has rights to your name, what’s stopping the next person and the next person?
Ultimately, Jeremy Lin seems to be following Laurel’s advice perfectly. He is aware, has made a plan, and has set aside time in his busy schedule to make brand management a part of his daily business routine.
So What Can You Do For Your Business?
Below are some brand management “Do’s & Don’ts,” shared with us by Laurel.
- Pick a winning name – “Your brand is your most important asset.”
- The trademark field is crowded – do your research to make sure your name is available. Visit the Trademark Electronic Search System http://www.uspto.gov/ebc/tess/, hire a lawyer and get your name trademarked.
- Know your audience – if you are a toy maker for 5 yr. olds, you as the boss don’t have to love the name.
- Domain names on the web are purchased on a first come, first serve basis – be defensive and secure all the possible variations to your name. Possible domain endings now include:
- .com | .biz | .org | .net | .us | .tv
- SEO – paid and organic strategies
- Site directories allow you to post links to your business, and can be organized by geographic location, industry etc.
- Refresh your website content frequently – blogging can be a good tactic for updating content. Consider having guest bloggers to make the content creation process easier.
- Participate in relevent forums, and always be positive with your input.
- Social Media can be a great tool, as long as you pick the appropriate channels for your business.LinkedIn and Twitter are great for networking and real-time sharing. YouTube and Flickr help showcase physical products. Yelp! can be great for brick & mortar businesses. The verdict is still out on Facebook’s potential for small businesses
- Use Google Search – 10 minutes is all it takes to make sure your brand’s hasn’t received negative press and your search rank is where you want it.
- Google Alerts are the easiest way to get updates about your brand from across the entire web – with notifications sent directly to your email inbox.
- Google Analytics is a great tool for seeing who is coming to your site and where they are coming from – another way to see where your brand is visible.
- Stay diligent with Trademark protection – Don’t sign away rights to your name; always be prepared to send cease and desist letters to defend what is yours.