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Start up

Start up

October 14, 2014

It can be difficult when you start up to know how to spend your resources. Keeping a tight rein on expenses is essential in the early days, but it’s equally important not to neglect important issues like intellectual property (IP). IP is relevant in a number of different ways, one of these being the name you call your business.

The brand name is the primary way in which consumers will identify your business, and is the ‘sign’ that customers use to distinguish your goods and services from those of competitors. Contrary to popular belief you are not free to choose whatever name you like, even if the name is one that is available to register as a domain or company. Your use of such registered names must still conform to trademark laws. Finding a name that is available to use for all your business purposes is not easy – especially if you trade internationally.

When starting up you may wonder what to deal with yourself, and what to outsource. What do you postpone and what do you deal with immediately? How do you go about creating a brand, and when should you invest in branding?

A brand is relevant to every size of business

Some business owners think brands are only relevant to the big household names. However, anyone who aspires to greatness should consider what a brand actually is and what’s involved in creating one.

A business becomes a brand once it is known for delivering on a specific promise. This attracts customers who positively want to do business with it rather than with the competition. The brand also attracts employees, suppliers and, ultimately, investors. So, your brand is what draws people to use your business instead of that of your competitors.

An important point to note is that the good associations customers have with a brand are, for the most part, transferred to its name. Just as individuals are identified by their name, so we identify a business primarily by its name.

Names involve legal complexity

A name is one of the first things you need when you start up in business. However, names involve a lot of legal complexity and potential costs. So it makes sense to have a strategy for the early days if you want to keep your expenses down.

Names are an important way in which the law protects a business, so it is worth taking time to settle on one, and to choose a legally effective name. This must involve a lawyer experienced in trademarks. The name is one of the most valuable IP assets your business generates if it is successful. The very choice impacts the value of the business. Pay proper attention to naming even if you think whoever eventually buys your business will not use the same branding.

Unless you already have a good understanding of your market and the gap you will fill in it, it could save precious resources at start up stage to avoid the expense of naming, design and branding. You will be much better placed to differentiate your business and brand it once you’ve been in business for a while.

Descriptive names

As a start up you might want to use a descriptive name to avoid the expense of trade mark searches and registration, and the risk of infringing on someone else’s rights.  A descriptive name informs the market of what your business does, and this can be useful in the early days when nobody knows you exist.

For example, if you will be providing digital marketing services, and call your business ‘digital marketing worldwide’ you would not need legal checks, expensive designs and more. You could get going and after you’ve been in business for a while choose a proper name. That’s the time to spend on branding. The name you pick must not be a description of your services, although you could always continue to use your descriptive name – ‘digital marketing worldwide’ in our example – as your tagline.

In the meantime, bear in mind how to what is involved to create a real brand.

Everything you do creates a brand

Every brand has its own distinct ‘identity’ and ‘promise’. It’s due to this promise that we know to expect something completely different if we buy a Rolex watch rather than a Swatch.

Everything you do, or don’t do, such as your marketing communications, employees, packaging, website, videos, photographs, premises and logo impacts the impression your brand makes. So you will need proper branding as soon as the business concept is proven.

Many other factors are also involved, including the products or services you sell, the way you respond to telephone enquiries and deal with your customers and the way customers are left feeling as a result of doing business with you.

Other things that contribute to the overall impression include:

  • whether you are a virtual business or based in an office
  • the way you engage on social media platforms
  • whether or not you blog – and if you do, what you write about
  • your writing style, newsletters and emails
  • your terms of the legal agreement with your customers.
  • your physical appearance and that of your staff.

The trust that your business gradually establishes in return for delivering a particular result or outcome is how your business becomes a brand.

You will be known for delivering a particular quality or outcome due to your reliability in the past. Customers will know what to expect if they use your product or service and there’s little risk of an unpleasant surprise. By contrast buying a product or service from a business that has not yet acquired brand status is risky, because it represents something untried and untested.


To get the clarity you need to brand your business takes time. Initially, work out what your unique value proposition is, and try to identify your core customers so you know why they are using your products or services. Then focus on satisfying their needs and get feedback on how they perceive the business.

When you are ready to pick a name, and brand your business be sure to include in your team a designer, a trademark lawyer, and a marketing expert.