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The Right {or Wrong} Trademark Can Make {or Break} Your eCommerce Brand

Whether we realize it or not, we all encounter trademarks daily. Actually, scratch that..more like hourly.

Trademarks are a simple and concise method of communicating information about a brand. The information communicated centers around the desirable qualities and characteristics of the brand.

Your trademark "sings" the song of your brand. {You've probably already heard me say that a time or two!}

Some of the highest performing brands today don’t just sell products - they sell a lifestyle. A key example of this is the health and wellness industry. A consumer is not just buying a pair of yoga pants - he or she is buying a healthy lifestyle. Businesses within this industry develop strong branding and trademarks that clearly, concisely, and effectively communicate to buyers that they are purchasing a lifestyle of physical wellbeing. {Hello, prAna, Lululemon, and my favorite, my client Eagle Rock WERKSHOP!}

Over time, trademarks come to encompass far more than their original marketing messages. Company reputation becomes a key factor as more and more consumers gain experience with a product bearing a trademark. This can have a profound effect on the value of a trademark - for good or bad {and that's up to you, as the brand owner!}

Branding strategies should be designed to support and promote a retailer’s desired perception of a product. When a retailer fails to develop trademarks that align with this goal, the result can be especially detrimental.

Poor trademark creation practices are likely to completely impede a retailer’s ability to attract a strong customer base, and more specifically, the customer base they desire. A business lacking a regular stream of loyal customers will struggle to survive in any market - let alone the current market, which is highly competitive, particularly in the online retail world.

The Qualities of Good (and Bad) Trademarks

To help marketing teams make good branding decisions, a well-developed trademark is:

  •    Simple
  •    Distinctive {unique}
  •    Meaningful
  •    Well-associated with a retailer’s product class {but NOT descriptive of said product class}
  •    Capable of eliciting a robust mental image
  •    Designed to evoke an emotional reaction {hopefully, a smile!}

Based on these stated qualities of a good trademark, we can infer the qualities of a bad trademark. A private label with a poor trademark selection strategy is likely to have a trademark that is:

  •    Overly-complicated {e.g., challenging to share verbally}
  •    Difficult to distinguish from other retailers’ branding {might as well be on the lookout for a cease and desist letter}
  •    Lacking in meaning or significance to consumers {watch out for those trendy marks full of consonants}
  •    Difficult to search for using voice on Alexa and other voice searching platforms {this is gonna be a biggie in the future}
  •    Unable to elicit strong mental images {a la borrrring}
  •    Incapable of creating an emotional response

The Importance of Trademarks for Private Label Businesses

In the age of Amazon, it is imperative that private label businesses develop branding strategies that sell, and create trademarks that best represent and convey those strategies.

A strong trademark puts a private label business on a stable path toward the creation of a high-performing brand, and one that will grow in value over time.

This is also important for Amazon sellers. So listen up!

These retailers must be mindful of how they can build a strong brand name that will persist over time without having to rely on the existence of an external platform like Amazon. {Amazon isn't here to help you police and enforce your brand. Don't depend on Amazon. Diversify.}

The Marketing Value of Trademarks

A compelling trademark is the critical starting point for private label businesses looking for avenues of driving sales and maximizing their market share.

An effective trademark establishes a business in the mind of the target consumer.

This establishment then serves to stimulate critical consumer behaviors:

  1. purchases of the business' products,
  2. communication about the brand’s value with others, and
  3. return customers.

In the modern age of social media, consumer communication about a brand can be invaluable. Developing a strong brand name that consumers can easily communicate about online and in-person creates a fertile environment for positive consumer perception. This allows potential consumers to have a deeper initial experience with a brand, which will ideally drive new sales to the retailer, as well as bring back repeat customers.

The Legal Ramifications of Trademarks

From a legal perspective, a trademark is a powerful protective force for a retailer. Establishing a legal trademark protects a retailer from other parties infringing on the brand. This is known as trademark infringement, which is defined under US law as, “the unauthorized use of a trademark or service mark on or in connection with goods and/or services in a manner that is likely to cause confusion, deception, or mistake about the source of the goods and/or services.”

The law allows a trademark owner to file a lawsuit if the owner believes another party is infringing on the trademark. In cases where the court finds that trademark infringement has occurred, the trademark owner may be entitled to:

  •    A court order demanding that the infringing party stop using the trademark
  •    A court order that requires the infringing party must destroy or forfeit any infringing articles
  •    A court order requiring the infringing party to pay the attorneys’ fees of  the trademark owner
  •    Financial compensation for any profits the infringing party made as a result of the infringement 
  •    Financial compensation for any damages
  •    Financial reimbursement for the costs of filing the lawsuit

These laws are designed to protect businesses and their brands, as well as consumers! Businesses who are striving for market success should be aware of these protections and how they can utilize them to maintain the quality of their branding strategies and increase the value in their trademarks over time ~ super important!

Apres' Ski

The modern eCommerce age has provided private label sellers with an extensive platform for conducting business.

A well-developed trademark is an essential element for a business to distinguish itself from the crowd, establish itself within the minds of consumers, and grow itself into a reputable ~ and profitable ~ industry leader.

Establishing a strong trademark ~ from both the legal and the marketing perspective ~ and a well-planned branding strategy lays a solid foundation for success within the online retail sector.

Do you need help with trademark creation?

I understand that finding the nexus of a great trademark ~ from both the legal perspective and the marketing perspective ~  can seem elusive. But guess what? I can help you.

Join us over at Trademark Trailblazers to learn more and for lots of free resources rolling out on trademark creation and brand value building!

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3 Tips for Trademark Creation Brainstorming

Are you in the midst of forming a creative team for an internal creative process?

Well, there are certainly plenty of pros and cons of forming a creative team when it comes to creating trademarks for your private label products, services, courses, or even the name of a podcast!

Nailing down a viable and strong trademark for a new product in the early stages of product sourcing and or development is ideal, because it's the optimal time to choose a trademark that is both marketable (from a brand value perspective) and protectable (from a legal perspective).

Setting up a creative team for your brand name selection endeavor is helpful, but by no means required. In fact, I think some people put too much emphasis on forming a creative team for so-called creative brainstorming events. 

There are certainly some pitfalls when forming a creative team. So watch out! 

In fact, there are some real advantages to being your own creative team. The best creative team might be comprised of: YOU! So, think long and hard about whether a creative team will work best for you. 

If you don’t love the naming process the first time you do it with a creative team, try it alone with the next round if needed. And vice versa. There is no right or wrong way. It’s all about finding out what works best for your business, your brand, you

As an introvert, I see a lot of benefits to being a one-man show. If, for any reason, you don't think you can put together a creative team, don't worry. 

I'm going to provide guidance on working with a creative team, as well as how to go this alone, and still create a totally amazing trademark either way.

If you do want to form a creative team to help you in the brand name creation process, ask yourself a couple of questions: 

Who has the creative fire, and knowledge about the brand,  to help you with your initial brainstorming process?

Is it your employees, partners, vendors, suppliers, family, beer-drinking buddies, or a combination of the foregoing?

You might also want to consider your current most loyal customers, if you've been around long enough to establish that base and you're rolling out maybe a second or third brand name. {This idea probably won't work if you're just starting out.}

If you are putting together a creative team, whether it's two or ten people, or you alone, identify the creative resources you will utilize. For example, you might want to rent a party room somewhere, or even use a table at your favorite bar and treat everyone to beer and pizza.  

You may have more resources than you realize to brainstorm internally.

Avoid uninspired surroundings.

Of course, if you're unhappy with the first results of a creative team brainstorm session, you may be forced to pivot in some way. You can set up a different creative team: again, try to go it alone. 

My hope is that you'll get faster and faster with future brand name rollouts, as you ultimately learn what works, and what doesn't. You’ll learn if you are able to surround yourself with a great, go-to creative team, or if it makes more sense for you to roll solo.

Learning this information will save you from future hangups, and the process will get even smoother. 

Of course, a lot of of this depends on your own internal processes and availability ~ or lack thereof ~ of creative people and beer-drinking buddies.

Beware,  I have seen too many companies outsource to so-called "professionals" on the creative side, paying thousands if not tens of thousands of dollars, and then, end up with trademarks that end up getting challenged on the legal for any number of reasons. So watch out for this trap.

I'm not trying to dissuade you from outsourcing the creative element. In fact, I can assist you with the creative process as well. However, I think you need to proceed with caution and understand the possible downsides if you do outsource. 

Remember, most outsourced creatives are developing a brand name from a creative perspective, and cannot necessarily help you from a legal perspective or help you watch out for legal traps. Beware!

I also don't want you to think a creative team or focused groups are required. They are NOT.  {Creative “teams” and focus groups are NOT necessary!}

"Focus Groups"

I particularly want to caution you against "focus groups." Focus groups are not supposed to make decisions for you.  

While there are a lot of good reasons to utilize focus groups, trademark creation is not necessarily one of them. You can't "focus group" names generally because creativity is hard to test, and even harder to quantify.

Plus, focus groups might not be familiar with your brand. Keep this in mind.

You cannot use scientific analysis to find great art. And, analogously, that's what you are doing when you utilize a focus group in brand name creation!

Another problem with focus groups is that participants would be asked about possible brand names devoid of context. Participants need to know the big picture. Because, remember, brand names are living vessels that collect all of the interactions, experience, and news for your brand. 

Attempting to isolate the name as a variable is unnatural and foreign. 

It's very similar to selecting a name for your new baby. You're bound to get looks of disapproval from the in-laws no matter what, "Don't you think you should maybe consider a...familyyyy name....?"

Again, when it comes to trademark creation, focus groups are discouraged, and creative teams are totally optional….

And, you should consider if a creative "team" makes sense for your naming project.

But, do not get discouraged if you cannot get a team together. 

Be ready willing and able to roll solo. 

Remember, the answers to pretty much everything are usually found within.

Ready to work with me on brand name creation, protection and enforcement? Do you need help with legal compliance for your private label business? I'm here to help you! Apply today!

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Don't be a Vongle

What is a VONGLE?  I don't even know.

What does that brand name/trademark sound like to you? I don't know about you, but I HATE it.

What does it MEAN to you?

How does it make you feel? Does it conjure up any emotional feeling within you?

This term is a great example of a "brand name" that has no meaning. It doesn't elicit any emotional reaction ~ at least not for me. Nothing positive, at least.

And it's a GREAT example of why it's important to create trademarks that conjure some type of emotional reaction in consumers. And it's an even better example of the dangers of "coined" trademarks.

Coined marks can be really great from a legal perspective ~ generally, they are easy to register and they are "distinctive."

But, keep in mind that coined marks pose challenges from the marketing perspective, because they are hard to remember and sometimes challenging to share via word-of-mouth marketing. Plus, as I mentioned before, coined marks tend to fail to conjure emotional reactions in consumers. And emotional reactions ~ especially positive ones ~ are key.

Fortunately, I've never had to work on a Vongle. My clients select some pretty rad trademarks.

But, how are YOU creating YOUR brand names (ahem, trademarks)? I have a lot of prospective clients reach out to me about possible trademarks, who seem to solely guide their trademark selection process by what domain names are available or not available!

Please, do not do this!

You are doing yourself, your company, and your customers a huge disservice if you write off a totally rad trademark just because you cannot obtain the pure domain name. 

To me, "VONGLE" sounds like someone was able to grab a pure domain name, and that's about it. There's no connotation, and someone is gonna have to work really hard to educate consumers about what the hell your Vongle is. (Your trademark attorney, however, will have an easier job getting the mark registered for you....)

Consumers are educated enough to realize at this point that a lot of "pure" domain names might not be available. It's no big deal. There are ways to work around this!

Do NOT be a vongle and don't create vongle-like marks for your products or services.

If you need help creating a totally rad brand name for your private label products, I can help you. And, the cool thing is, I approach the task from both the marketing AND the legal side. 

Garlic presses rust away. Brand names can last forever. Select a strong brand name that you are thrilled to share, and one that elicit smiles from your customers.

Do this at the outset. Do it when you selecting your products (or starting your business or service).

Don't put it off as a sideshow and do not underestimate the value that a strong trademark can bring to your business ~ whether it's a private label or service-based business.

Ready to get started? Good.

I do not want to be a Vongle! {Start here!}


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Just 4 Quick Steps

Every day I see entrepreneurs make crucial mistakes that cost them money and put their business at risk. I’ll show you how to protect yourself in this quick guide.