Digital Brand Management



The proliferation of dedicated portals addressing everything from alliances to training poses a huge challenge for companies that want to ensure consistent brand representation on the web. Take Philips Electronics [www.philips.com]. The global conglomerate has over 200 branded web properties addressing nearly 50 industry segments on all six continents. Almost every customer contact point has a unique brand experience. Style sheets, colour schemes, corporate IDs, navigation and text layout differ depending on how you enter the channel. Is this by design? Probably not–basic marketing principles dictate that explicit value exists in delivering a consistent brand experience regardless of the communication medium.

Rodney D Ryder
“Explicit value exists in delivering a consistent brand experience–that’s regardless of the communication medium utilized”

The benefits of organizing brand standards on the web are clear. It’s a convenient and accessible tool for internal and external parties, marketing processes are accelerated and your chances of delivering a consistent user experience are improved. The net effect is improved brand value–and ideally, greater revenue.

Sound brand management does not end at posting your standards on the web. Here’s my short list of dos and don’ts.

Do: 

  • Provide examples. Downloadable templates, style sheets, images, codes, or any other starting material improves the utility of your brand management site.
  • Keep it simple. Remember that the goal is to make a difficult task, following brand standards, easier.
  • Keep it updated. Nothing is worse than an out-of-date guideline. Take advantage of the simplicity a brand standard site provides.

Don’t: 

  • Just post a document. Simply providing a document describing your brand standards is not enough. You have to provide working examples and templates.
  • Ignore users. Simple web tracking tools or even user registration steps can help you understand who are using the tool and what assets they are downloading.
  • Think the job is over. Effective brand management is a constant effort. Web-based systems and tools are designed to iron out only some inefficiencies of the marketing process. Strong management skills are required to ensure flawless execution of your marketing strategy.

Trademarks and registeration
The strongest form of brand protection is a registered trademark. Trademarks, however, do not have to be registered. If a trademark is registered, special rules apply which make it easier to protect. Businesses should, therefore, consider obtaining registered trademarks to protect their brands.

To obtain a registered trademark, you must apply to the national trademarks registry; in India this is the Office of the Registrar of Trademarks Registry. To qualify for trademark protection, the mark must meet certain criteria and must not conflict with prior rights (for example, pending or registered trademarks).

Once registered, the protection and maintenance of trademarks is best achieved through periodic audits of the portfolio, keeping thorough records, prompt renewal of registrations, using the trademarks, advertising to strengthen brand awareness and promoting a tough policy towards infringers. A periodic trademark audit will confirm what marks the company owns and ensure that the appropriate policies are in place to protect their value. An audit might bring to light that:

  • Marks may be registered in the name of a company that has been dissolved or transferred.
  • Action is needed as a result of changes to trademark law in certain countries (distinct advantages under the new Indian Trademarks Act).
  • Rights may not be fully protected and new registrations are necessary.
  • Marks may have become obsolete in which case registration(s) of such marks should be weeded from renewal records and sending applications withdrawn.

In-house records
Essential to any management system is an up-to-date record of all trademarks contained in the portfolio and associated data including:

  • A clear representation of the mark as registered.
  • Application and registration details.
  • Details of any priority claimed or any dependent registrations.
  • Classification and full specifications of goods (or services).
  • Details of the registered proprietor.
  • Details of the agent.
  • Details of use and volumes of advertising and sale categorised by media type and trade channels.
  • Details of the users or any licensees of the trademarks, and of the recordal of the users and licensees at the relevant
    trademarks office.
  • Renewal dates and any renewal requirements (for example, evidence of use is required in some countries). For companies with a large number of trademarks all falling due for renewal at different times, accurate record keeping in essential.

Checklist: License provisions
The following are the main provisions to consider in a trademark license:

  • Grant: Is the license to be inclusive, non-exclusive or sole?
  • Territory: The extent of the territory should be certain and unambiguous.
  • Royalties: What rate is to be set for royalties? Is there to be a minimum royalty? When should the royalty year end? Is it necessary to include calculation provisions for currency conversion? Where are the payments to be made to? What accounting records will be required from the licensee? What access to the accounts/inventory of the licensees will the licensor require? Are they any tax/stamp duty issues to be considered? Control of quality, use and infringement. What system of inspection and sampling is to be adopted? Who will pay for the samples? What standards of quality are to be set? How is meeting the standard to be tested and by whom at the licensor company? Is there any (an) internal manual regarding trademark use which can be referred to? Should one be created? Who is to control infringement actions? Who is to meet the cost of infringement actions? How are damages to be apportioned? Are the rights of exclusive licensees to take infringement action to be excluded? Is the licensor to give the licensee indemnity from third-party action?
  • Termination: Is there to be (a) provision for remedy of breaches? What time limits are reasonable? How is notice of termination to be given and to whom? What are the consequences of termination? What are the obligations of the licensee on termination? What provisions survive termination?
  • Sub-licensing and assignment: Is there the license to or the right to sub-license or assign?
  • Indemnities and warranties: Can warranties be given regarding ownership of relevant registered and unregistered rights? Are the rights in the name of the licensor, that is, not in the name of another group company?
  • Insurance and product liability: Are there any specific product liability or labelling issues that should be addressed? Will the licensee need governmental or other administrative/regulatory approvals? Who will put the insurance into place and who will pay for premiums?
  • Competition: Are any provisions of the license agreement and particularly restrictions on the licensee likely to raise questions over their anti-competitive nature?
  • Jurisdiction: What is the governing law and which national courts should have jurisdiction? Is there to be (a) provision for arbitration or alternate dispute resolution? Is any specific arbitrator or arbitral tribunal to be identified?
  • Registration: Is there to be (any) provision for registering the license? At whose expense?
  • Administration: Who will have the mandate to negotiate the license? What is the full registered address and company registration number for each party? Who will sign the license on behalf of the licensee and licensor?

Rodney D Ryder
The author is a consultant on intellectual property, trade and technology

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