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How To Build A Valuable Brand

Many business owners dream of creating valuable brands for their businesses that allow them to charge a premium for the goods they produce or the services they provide while also allowing them to be selective about their customers, clients, or patients.

For many, the dream of creating a valuable brand is just that, a dream.

For a select few, however, significant brand value is a reality.

I like the way that Seth Godin defines brand value:

A brand’s value is merely the sum total of how much extra people will pay, or how often they choose, the expectations, memories, stories and relationships of one brand over the alternatives.

For example, are some people willing to pay more money for a BMW than a comparable car from other manufacturers because of their expectations for that BMW? You bet.

But why?

Though there are almost always exceptions, a brand can build value by offering products or providing services that are distinctive and not available from any other source.

When Apple first launched the iPhone, it offered a myriad of functionalities that were not available from phones made by other manufacturers. Some of these features were simple improvements over competitors’ phones, but some were game changers – like the iPhone’s full-featured web browser.

In each subsequent version of the iPhone, Apple added new, distinctive functionalities. But so did its competitors. And over the years the distinctions became less and less significant.

Although the iPhone’s functionalities really aren't that distinctive from those available from its high-end competitors these days, Apple was able to capitalize on those early distinctions and create brand value to the tune of $247 billion for Apple as a whole.

Although few companies will ever have brands as valuable as Apple or BMW, even small businesses can build valuable brands.

Consultants will tell you that in order to build brand value, you need to ask the right questions, you need to be consistent, you need to be nimble, you need to have the right people, etc.

Those recommendations are all fine and good, but when it comes down to it, the business needs to be distinctive. Even if a business is in a so-called “boring” niche or even it it sells a commodity, it can differentiate itself and create brand value by making even one element of its business distinctive.

This distinction can range from seemingly mundane to significant, including:

  • The features of a particular product
  • The way that products are ordered or shipped
  • The way the business provides services
  • The way the business bundles services

The list goes on and on.

For example, Subway distinguished itself over the past decade not so much based upon its sandwiches, instead it positioned itself as a healthy alternative to fast food.

But what if someone tries to use, misappropriate, or steal your brand while you're devoting all this time and energy into building it?

Although, a brand is much more than a name, perhaps the single most important aspect of brand protection is protecting the brand name, and to a lesser extent, logo. Without a protectable brand name or logo, how can a brand differentiate itself from its competition?

For example, if Apple couldn't prohibit its competitors from using either the “Apple” or “iPhone” brand names, how would people know if they were buying a real iPhone or some knock off that doesn’t work nearly as well? 

Neither the Apple brand nor the iPhone brand would have much brand value because they wouldn't induce people to pay any more money for Apple products or phones than they would for competitor’s products or phones.

Fortunately, there is a potent means of protecting brand names. We call it Brand Armor.

This brief overview of some important considerations associated with federal trademarks is by no means comprehensive. Always seek the advice of a competent professional when making important financial and legal decisions.

Federal Trademark AttorneySteve Cook is a trademark lawyer at Cook & Cook. Although his main office is located in Mesa, Arizona, he firm represents clients throughout the United States..

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