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Why Your Brand Should Distinguish But NEVER Describe


Small Business BrandingOne of the most common mistakes businesses make when it comes to branding is to choose one that describes their products, services, location or industry. When I tell clients to steer clear of descriptive brands I see the same shocked expressions on their faces or hear it in their voices:

“What do you mean? How will customer’s know what I’m selling if I, my brand or business name is nondescript?”

Now, let me start off by saying that I am a lawyer and not a marketing guru by any stretch of the imagination. So, I can’t give you a lesson in the psychology of consumers. But, what I can say is that from an intellectual property perspective, a descriptive brand is a big NO-NO!

Why? To answer this question, let me start out by explaining what a brand is.

What is a brand?
In a nutshell, your brand is you and embodies your promise to your customer. It tells them what they can expect from your products and services and conveys how you want to be perceived.

Put simply, having a brand is like having a personality for your business. Your brand will form an integral part of your marketing strategy and encapsulate you or your business’ unique identity. It will convey quality, type, and the kind of goods or services provided, and will become what your target customer base thinks about when they hear your name, read your Facebook posts, or see your logo.

A brand can consist of many elements, ranging from your business name, to your logo and tagline, and even the colours you use within your advertising materials.

So, why do you need a brand?
Many small business owners perceive the creation of a brand identity as a costly exercise best reserved for larger, global companies. In fact, the opposite is true. Effective branding can not only lead to increased sales, but establish your business as an authority within the marketplace, regardless of your current size or reach.

Your brand functions as the face of your business and is extremely important for creating awareness of your products or services and in establishing trust and loyalty amongst your customer base. A brand can also add value to your products and credibility to your services.

Your brand should set you apart from your competitors and create a “voice” that reflects your company ethos and mission statement. Think of your brand as your reputation – an invaluable asset that works on your behalf to attract and retain a loyal, repeat customer base.

Avoid descriptive branding
Descriptive branding (where a name and logo simply describe what the company or product does in a literal form) rarely succeeds in creating a strong, powerful brand. Before the rise of the internet, many companies used descriptive branding, but nowadays in the age of SEO (search engine optimization) with millions of companies vying for the top search results spots, naming your company “Best Budget Holidays” or “Designer Shoe Supplier” just won’t cut it. The more descriptive and generic your name and brand, the more likely you’ll get lost in a sea of online competitors.

The idea that a business name should be descriptive in order to inform the customer is wrong. A name rarely has to spell out in literal terms what the brand stands for; this will become clear through the brand’s overall context, conveyed through the many elements we’ve already mentioned above.

In addition, from a legal standpoint descriptive brands are much harder to enforce as you can’t stop your competitors from using similar words to describe their goods and services. Whilst descriptive branding can offer instant understanding for the consumer (“Traditional Sweet Shop”, for instance), it can become impossible to enforce the trademark rights and stop similar names being used (“Best Traditional Sweet Shop”, for example).

Stand out; be distinctive!
Okay, so now I’ve covered what a brand is, consider it in the context of existing brands in various industries. If questioned, most people would be able to recognise many of the so-called ‘brand leaders’ such as Coca Cola, Nike, Mercedes Benz, and even Veuve Cliquot champagne. Why? Because these companies have successfully developed brands that encapsulate their unique selling point, encouraging familiarity and trust, as well as instilling the concepts of quality, service, and satisfaction.

Using a brand simply to describe your goods and services is not an effective approach. Avoid falling into the trap of creating a generic, lack-lustre persona for your business by injecting as much personality as you can into your brand. Your brand is your business’ personality so make it unique and memorable, not generic.

So, despite the common misconception that descriptiveness helps to convey your brand message, good brand is distinctive and makes your goods or services stand out from the crowd. Having a strong, unique brand will ensure that your business will be instantly identifiable, whether it is through your company’s website, external advertising or social media. A good brand will be memorable and capable of conveying your unique selling points to your target customer base.

Getting started on your brand
Creating a strong brand takes time and effort, but as I’ve discussed, it is essential in setting your business apart from competitors and signifying the quality and value of your products or services.

If you’re unsure how a brand can work for you, or you’d like some help in getting started on creating and protecting your brand, then invest in getting a professional marketer and engage a trade marks lawyer. In my experience, the ideal scenario is to develop and protect the brand simultaneously by having a marketer, graphic designer and trade marks lawyer working together, with you.


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Kate Ritchie, EthikateAbout Kate Ritchie
Kate Ritchie, Principal Lawyer, Trade Marks Attorney & Brand Protection Specialist, Ethikate.

Brand protection is what we do best at Ethikate. We will work closely with you to develop your brand and create a tailored protection strategy that not only addresses your business needs and future plans, but is also cost-effective for entrepreneurs and small business.

If you would like to know more about brand protection and how Ethikate can help you to protect your brand, check out our website here.

Ethikate’s Principal Lawyer & Trade Marks Attorney, Kate Ritchie, has a strong commercial background acting in both commercial and legal roles, over the last 10 years. Kate has worked with high profile major event organisations, top tier and boutique law firms, small to medium businesses, government agencies and large corporates across a broad range of commercial and intellectual property law services.

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