1) Define your branding. Your brand should be distinctive and ubiquitous. Make your brand (whether a logo, a word or a slogan) something that is meaningful to you and your customers and something that all who contact you can identify with. Put it everywhere: your website, your product, your letterhead, your brochures, your labels, your sign out front.
Make sure everyone on your team has access to the branding resources they need to maintain consistency. A great place to start is to define the characteristics of your brand in a table for all your team members to reference. The table below is an example of how you can do this and helps ensure everyone uses the brand properly and consistently. Fill out the below table and save it, along with templates, in a folder in the cloud or on a shared drive that your whole team can access.
|Primary Color Codes||
RGB (for online)
CMYK (for print materials)
|Secondary Color Codes – if you don’t have these, use an online tool like https://coolors.co/ to establish them.||
RGB (for online)
CMYK (for print materials)
|Business/product name(s) – Be exact. Do you ever use acronyms? Are they to be used externally?|
|Describe your persona|
|Information on where to find Logo(s) and anything important related to how they should and should not be used/altered.|
2) Make it legal. Add the trademark symbol (“TM”) to your unique mark — the words, slogan and/or logo that represent your brand. By doing so, you are telling everyone that this distinctive mark belongs to you. It represents your company / store / product and tells everyone these goods and services are from you. No registration or filing is required for you to use the ™ term.
However, you may want to consider federal registration. If you register your trademark with the US Patent and Trademark Office, you can use the ® designation. A successful registration can protect your mark nationwide, can be used as evidence of your use of the mark in commerce, can help with keeping foreign imitators out of your market (through the customs office) and gives you the right to sue in federal court if someone infringes.
A federal trademark registration application is usually not too complex and can be done online at uspto.gov. The process involves conducting a search to ensure the mark isn’t already in use and, if no issues are found, completing the online form, paying the fee and waiting for an examiner to approve and “allow” the mark..
As a side note — at SBTDC, we have advised many clients as they have sought trademark registrations and have found the search exercise (in particular) can be worthwhile in unexpected ways. For example, through the process one client discovered a previously unknown competitor who was using the same brand name, but in a different language. The client may never have known about that competitor had they not done the trademark search.
In addition to protecting your brand through trademark registration, it may be appropriate for you to put a copyright notice on your website, product manual and brochures; add a clause to your terms and conditions of sales and on your purchase orders that lets everyone know your brand is yours; it may be appropriate for you to pursue a design or utility patent as well.
3) Sign up for Google Alerts. Keep an eye out — what are people saying about your brand? Sign up for Google Alerts and monitor the online conversations. If something negative comes up, address it with professionalism and true concern. This will give you the opportunity to fix failures, retain customers, monitor the growth of your brand and watch out for other companies that might be infringing on your brand and/or idea.
4) Be real. Your brand should be something meaningful and it should be honest. If you have a slogan that reads “best prices in town”, you better have the best prices in town. If your slogan suggests you love your customers, you’d better love them and treat them that way. Year ago, I would frequent a mom and pop restaurant whose slogan was “the best dang BBQ ever to make contact with the human lip”. The slogan worked well, because the food tasted wonderful! And, I never forgot that slogan.
Contact us! We would love to help you make your brand as effective as possible.
For more information / help with trademarks, copyrights, patents and other IP, contact David Walker (Technology Commercialization Counselor) at email@example.com
For general business counseling, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit http://www.sbtdc.org/erfc/ to request counseling.