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Stop Assuming Your Customer is A Big Sophisticated Brand

January 1, 2021

Happy New Year. I love January, new beginnings, fresh starts and all that, don’t you? For reasons that will become apparent I’ve decided to call this episode Stop Assuming Your Customer is A Big Sophisticated Brand

As I’ve set my intentions for the year ahead I’ve decided to make some changes to the podcast.

Just by way of the background when I wrote my first book, Legally Branded in 2012, I covered the subject of brand and branding in an incidental way, to explain what brand meant for background information purposes. The focus of the book was on trade marks and other intellectual property in a digital world.

Brand Tuned Book

For the Brand Tuned book – The New Rules of Branding, Strategy and Intellectual Property my focus has been different because the book is all about what a small business needs to take into account to create a brand. Writing it has involved research and interviewing thought leaders on branding and marketing and I will be releasing those episodes in the Spring.

My ideas around brands, branding and marketing have evolved somewhat since I first launched the podcast. My eyes are more open to what is important in branding and strategy and IP as it impacts branding.



Small and Medium Enterprises

It’s important when we talk about branding and marketing to bear in mind  Official UK government statistics, which indicate that more than 99% of all businesses in the UK are small or medium size SMEs with fewer than 250 employees. The numbers are similar in Europe and the US.

The interesting statistic though is this: of those 99% of businesses that are SMEs, 96% are micro businesses with fewer than 10 employees. That means the big household name brands that feature in Case Studies and news reports form a tiny number of the actual number of businesses out there.  While we necessarily have to learn from them because small brands being small do not occupy the attention of the press and text books, we should stop assuming that all customers are big sophisticated brands, and treat them appropriately to the stage they’ve reached in business.

Harvard Business Review highlights that small and growing brands have five stages of development:

  1. mere existence – this is when just getting customers is a challenge;
  2. survival – a workable business model exists but cash is in limited supply;
  3. success – traction in the market with a proven, profitable business model;
  4. take-off – concerned with how to make the firm grow rapidly; and
  5. maturity – the advantages of size, financial resources and management.

Training organisations that offer courses for marketers and brand managers should remember that focusing on the big brands, with the big budgets and the glamorous career opportunities may be fine for learning purposes but most marketers will be servicing the small business end of the market and therefore need additional insights into how to how to do their job when it comes to intellectual property or adapting the research tools for a smaller organisation.

In particular, small brands do not have a legal department to take care of IP. Often the small business client knows nothing about IP and is assuming their marketer/designers know all that’s pertinent to their discipline. IP law is intrinsic to branding, it’s not some legal subject that can be conveniently left to lawyers to address later. IP needs to be taken into account during branding.

So, I hope to go some way to fill the gap in knowledge that exists out there and in particular to address the unique features and challenges that smaller brands have which are totally different to big brands.

In the early days the small business needs to focus on finding consumers to buy from it so it can survive and still be in business the following year.

Every brand, every category and every customer has their own unique attributes, strengths, weaknesses, competitor set, and distribution challenges. A particular focus needs to be on ensuring that buyers know who you are and how to buy from you – consistency of branding signals is key here. If you get bored with your branding every so often don’t just change your logo or other elements. You’re likely to be damaging the memory structures that buyers have formed to your brand.

Placing undue emphasis on marketing brands at the maturity stage leaves marketers struggling to know how to find a coherent blueprint for small brands, and that includes how to take account of intellectual property.

Intellectual Property

Intellectual property is fundamentally part and parcel of business. What has dawned on me recently though is that training organisations are training marketers and brand managers as if they will be servicing the big household name brands or as if they will be employed in large organisations that serve such businesses.

What they are overlooking in the process is the need to train marketers and brand managers who will be serving smaller businesses in the basics of intellectual property which is a core skill all marketers and brand managers need in order to do their jobs effectively. I’m going to be doing a mini marketing MBA in April so will report back on how the course addresses intellectual property.

IP isn’t just a legal subject you can leave to the lawyers because it needs to be borne in mind during brand creation. Most businesses do not have access to the resources and support that big brands have when it comes to intellectual property advice on branding. This has a huge implication on what marketers and brand managers need to know about IP such as how to name a brand.

I see too many experienced marketers and brand managers choosing names that come too close to describe the category for comfort. The entire point of a name is to uniquely stand out in the market so why would anyone choose a generic name?

I’d often wondered how trained marketers could make such a fundamental mistake, and it’s dawned on me that the reason is that they’re not being trained adequately in trade mark and intellectual property. Instead training organisations are assuming that there will be lawyers involved on the client’s team who will handle the legal dimension. Consequently, the lack of adequate training means that the smaller business clients suffer needlessly sometimes.

Marketers are having to plug the gap in their skillset by learning on the go, sometimes through hard experience. I’m committed to covering intellectual property on this podcast so its impact on branding can be understood.

Topics the podcast will cover

I set up the Brand Tuned podcast to better understand branding and the part it played in business success. Looking back I feel it lacked direction and focus during 2020. So a change I intend to introduce is to feature episodes that address particular challenges listeners may be facing. The accent when selecting guests and interview topics will be to address issues relevant to my TUNED framework. These are

T for Think IP first– IP impacts marketing and branding in fundamental ways because if the foundations of the brand are wrong you limit the potential of the business – so I’ll include Case Studies and interview to help marketers, branding professionals and entrepreneurs better understand the relevance of IP to their work.

The next element of TUNED is U for Understand the market and customer. This is critical to success whether for a small brand focused on getting more sales or a larger business wanting to capture a bigger share of the market. Nothing is more fundamentally important than understanding the market and buyers. Reportedly Jeff Bezos saves an empty seat at Amazon’s meetings so they consider what the customer would say about an issue under discussion, that’s how important it is to understand the customer.

Whether launching a new product or service, deciding which customer segments to target, how to do tests and research the market are keys to success.  So, I will interview people who can add value to this important topic.

The N in TUNED is Name it Right. Naming is a large subject which is intrinsically bound up with trade mark law, a topic I am experienced in and can provide useful guidance on. One of the areas of training all marketers need is to know how to go about choosing names that are appropriate to the brand’s goals and which will uniquely stand out in the market. Choosing names based on the goals of the business is key while avoiding descriptions is key. I will discuss this more on the podcast and interview entrepreneurs and marketers on how they approached naming projects.

Then the E and D in Tuned is all about Establishing the brand strategy and Driving the Strategy through advertising and other promotional methods to make sales and build the brand. That last element of the TUNED process can include many different market tactics such as Facebook ads, Search engine Optimisation, Story telling, approach to Social media and more.

Who is the audience of the podcast?

The podcast is for entrepreneurs, agencies, marketers, lawyers and designers looking for no fluff guidance on branding and marketing.

We all see the world from our own unique perspectives. Our worldviews shape the way we think, the way we behave, the actions we take as well as the results we get in life.

Naturally, the legal side of branding is a key consideration that I see is inadequately covered and therefore I focus on it insofar as it is relevant in branding. But I am not just about the legal side of branding – I’m all about being holistic and having the range of skills required to know how to brand a business. I may not do the designs myself, but I’ve now learnt enough about branding to be able to brief a designer.

The worlds of lawyers who protect and defend brands and that of designers and marketers who create them have traditionally been entirely separate. I believe the future calls for marketers who have a profound understanding of both disciplines which is why I’m keen to extend my experience of marketing to formally train in marketing. Marketing is a discipline that is core to business so it’s a worthwhile skill for anyone to develop, and believe it or not, so is intellectual property a core discipline everyone in business should learn.