Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Protecting your Brand

Last week I talked about how important it is to have a brand and brand consistency. This week I would like to stress that once people start to recognize your brand that you want to be careful about who uses it and under what circumstances.

Photo by Dell
In order to promote brand awareness many companies partner with non-profit organizations, other companies or celebrities. This can work out fine if the target markets overlap, or if there is a connection between the two. (ie a celebrity breast cancer survivor speaking at your breast cancer awareness event). The problem comes when the partner does something that will damage your brand by association. (ie the celebrity shows up drunk to the event and has to be hauled off by police.) Now your brand is associated with being drunk and you will need to do some damage control to fix your brand.

Admittedly most situations are not as simple as the example above. A single incident may not impact your brand at all if it's a small event that few people are attending or if the celebrity being drunk and disorderly appeals to your target market. In some case it may seem like the old adage of "any publicity is good publicity" is working as you receive phone calls from various media outlets about the celebrity's antics. The problem with this thought process is that the outlets aren't calling about you so in a few weeks the media coverage will fade away and you will be left with just the reputation of being "the company that works with the drunk celebrity", if anyone remembers you at all. You will quickly find that general consumers won't call you because of the association and eventually you will either have to close or do some major damage control and distancing to fix your reputation.

Photo by Matheus Kowalski
For a real world example look at the recent split between Miley Cyrus and Disney/Hannah Montana. Miley was a cute kid and daughter of a well known celebrity and Disney wanted it's new show, which is aimed at tweens, to have a better chance at success. It was a great partnership, until Miley grew up.

Once Miley decided she was done being sweet and innocent, Disney had a problem. They had already tied the Hannah Montana brand to Miley Cyrus as a person, so when she started to do some not so cute things, which would offend Disney's target market (young children and families), they tried to do some damage control. Eventually they severed all ties with the budding pop star and created a media buzz around a new strong female character. One they could control better - Merida.

The hardest part about protecting your brand are the people who are trying to get their own brand or company noticed and decide to latch on to your brand without your knowledge. This could be as obvious as posting your logo on their advertisements as if you endorse them to more subtle uses like dropping your name at social events. In any industry reputation is everything, and if the politician who was just arrested for child pornography got elected with your company brand on his posters then you will see that impact your business as people remember that you endorsed him.

Photo by Wayne Marshall
As the brand owner you can protect your brand through various means. You can use Google's Image Search feature to find copies of your logo on the web. You can write a cease and desist letter to people who are using your logo or brand without your permission, or use the DMCA to ask webhosts to shut down websites that are using your content without permission. If you have trademarked your logo then you can sue the person for misuse of your intellectual property.

Your brand is what you make of it. It's up to you to protect it. Having it associated with people who are not compatible with your target market or who offend your target market will create confusion with your customers and a loss of sales as customers would rather buy from a company they can trust to have the same values that they do.