How To Maximize Brand Strength

Gokcen Uzer Cengelci / Lisa Wright,

Want to know how to boost the valuation of your business? Invest in brand strength. Brand strength (sometimes known also as brand equity) is the value that is carried by a brand. 

Brand equity - as defined by David A. Aaker in his book “Building Stronger Brands” - is: “A set of assets (and liabilities) linked to a brand’s name and symbol that adds to (or subtracts from) the value provided by a product or service to a firm and/or that firm’s customers.” It is a marketing term that denotes a consumer’s perception of a brand or the value invested in it by a business over time. 

Positive brand strength is always profitable for a business because it enables a premium price for your goods or services, in contrast with lower value generic pricing. Brand equity has other benefits for businesses too. It can be transferred to other products in its product lines and can boost revenue by association. And, having a strong brand can also help to raise the overall valuation of a business, leading to a higher market share and an increase in turnover and profit for your company.

What makes a brand strong?

Once you have decided that your business can benefit from having a strong brand how do you choose a good trademark? Ideally you should have trademarks that align with both the business and legal needs of your company. You want to look for a strong trademark that will be both an asset and add value to your business. 

Overall, there are 3 factors that you should ideally incorporate when creating a strong trademark:

1. Uniqueness

Choose a trademark that will clearly connect only with your company and not the related goods and services per se. In other words, it should connect the goods and services that are delivered to the consumer by you with only you. You want uniqueness. You can easily and instantly check for any exact and partially-exact, existing trademark matches with your candidate by conducting a preliminary knockout search of your candidates.

2. Investment potential

Branding is built up over time with a considerable amount of time and money invested. If you are a startup ideally you should not set out with a large number of brands and trademarks (unless you have a significant budget set aside for your brand and trademark filing strategy). Otherwise your company could end up with inconsistent and weaker branding. 

3. Protectability

Your trademark has to be protectable. A strong mark (as dictated by trademark law) will help your business to carve out a niche in the market.  

A trademark attorney can give you a legal opinion on the protectability of your trademark candidates and will assist you at the trademark application stage.

Trademark ranking - from strong to weak

There are 5 main categories of trademarks used in trademark law to determine protectability. The more distinctive they are the stronger and more enforceable they are under trademark law. Here we rank them in order of strength from the strongest (fanciful) to the weakest (generic):

  1. Fanciful 
  2. Arbitrary
  3. Suggestive
  4. Descriptive
  5. Generic

1. Fanciful marks

As a general rule of trademark law, the more unique or distinctive your mark is, the more likely it is that it will be registrable and highly enforceable. The mark ‘Kodak’ is a good example of this type of fanciful trademark - it is a made-up word. This type of trademark is one of legally strongest types of mark. It is totally unique and it is not likely that a third party will want to use the same word (at least at the very beginning), which makes it both easily registrable and protectable at the outset.

2. Arbitrary marks

An arbitrary trademark is a word/image that already exists, but it has no connection with the business that uses it. An example of this is a mark like ‘Apple’, which one would call arbitrary when used to market and sell mobile phones.

3. Suggestive marks

Suggestive marks bring to mind the good or the service, but there is an additional link that must be made between the trademark and the good or service. An example of a suggestive trademark is the ‘Airbus’ brand for aeroplanes.

4. Descriptive marks

Marketing teams usually aim to find words that are easy to say, spell and remember, in order to decrease the marketing and advertising spend. This can sometimes lead to descriptive candidates being put forward to legal. A descriptive mark describes one of the characteristics of the good or service. An example of a descriptive mark is ‘Cold and Creamy’ for a brand of ice cream.

Legal professionals, don’t generally like these types of descriptive marks as they are not legally strong and without acquired distinctiveness, not protectable. In other words, if your trademark is not distinctive enough it may not achieve registration at all unless it has acquired distinctiveness gained by use (also defined as secondary meaning). 

Or it may be registrable, but will not be considered as a strong mark, both in a business sense - if the market already has similar trademarks - or legally. This will lead to the company having to tackle many disputes with similar trademarks.

5. Generic marks

Generic marks are not registrable under trademark law, because the entire market needs to be able to use those particular words to describe their goods and services. An example of a trademark that has been found to be generic is ‘Apple’ when used to market or sell apples. 

Marketing and legal working together

Finding a perfect fit is a combined effort by both marketing and legal teams. Brandstorming activity can present significant challenges, especially as the brand name or mark would typically be a consumer’s very first impression of your product and/or service. The idea of a legally good trademark is different from that of the marketing structure. 

If your trademark is not distinctive enough it could become a challenge to legally protect it from third party uses and even to distinguish it from infringements and similar uses. All of which will weaken the value of your trademark and ultimately affect the value of your business.

Stand unopposed

When launching a new product or service onto the market one of the hardest decisions for a company is to pick the right brand candidate and select the perfect name that will convey and reflect the quality and value of their products and/or services as well as being able to stand legally unopposed. 

Our AI Clearance tool helps teams at the very first stage of brand development, enabling them to understand the candidate word or words strength by breaking the trademark down into its component parts and compares those parts against any matching marks. It is easy for marketing and legal to collaborate on our platform. Reports can also be customized, downloaded and shared externally.

Brand strength

Our Brand Strength Tab is helpful in giving you a sense of the relative uniqueness of your mark: for example, the strength of different words within a multi-word candidate.

 Screenshot 2019-12-10 at 17.49.00

Word meanings

Our AI also gives you a unique opportunity to check the candidate word meanings with our Word Meaning Tab. This gives your marketing team the opportunity to explore its meaning in one or more languages and eliminate problematic meaning - a factor that could hinder its success in the marketplace.  

The Word Meaning Tab is not only important to evaluate the strength of your future brand, but also it gives an overall picture of the words that may prevent registration in particular territory. 

Mind your language

An example of these features can be seen when searching for the mark IRISH MIST in class 33 (alcoholic beverages, except beer) using the Word Tab in our AI Clearance tool. The Word Meaning Tab reveals the following top word results:  

Screenshot 2019-12-10 at 17.52.36

So it is clear that it would not have been a smart idea to launch a beverage under this brand name in Germany or Austria. (Although there is now a South African gin on the market made of ingredients including elephant dung!)

Start your branding journey today - try our pay-per-search tools

Marketing and legal teams that use our pay-per-search preliminary Enhanced Knockout Search tool and our AI Clearance Search tool have a great opportunity to make these early stage brainstorming sessions more collaborative and efficient by using our platform for brand selection purposes.

New online brand monitoring tool - Word Watch

And, once your new brand has been decided upon and protected through trademark registration, it is critical to continue to monitor your mark to enforce and protect it against potential infringements by third parties.

Our new pay-per-watch brand protection tool Word Watch gives you an affordable and flexible brand protection solution. 

Find out how our new pay-per-search and watch e-commerce tools can help your trademark to stay yours!

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By Gokcen Uzer Cengelci / Lisa Wright
Gokcen Uzer Cengelci, Trademark Counsel at TrademarkNow, worked as a trademark attorney for over 12 years in top-tier trademark law firms where she specialized in opposition procedures and trademark portfolio management strategies. She regularly publishes articles on trademark law and has a deep interest in the role of legal tech in IP. Lisa Wright, Content Writer at TrademarkNow is a graduate of the University of Law. She researches and publishes books, articles, and webinars on global IP law and trademark activity.

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