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Building and protecting a brand

Protecting a brand and making the right decisions about when, how and where to expand a company are vital to the success of new or growing businesses.

Protect the brand from the early stages

You should protect your brand from the early stages of a company all the way to maturity. Do not give away more rights than you have to.

Register your trademarks not only at home but also where you believe you will be taking the brand in the future. It is money well spent. Whatever channel you use for growth, whether owned shops, franchises, wholesale, licensing or others, think carefully before you engage with your partners about what rights you are prepared to give away and how to get those rights back if things goes wrong.

Work on the basis that you will give your partners the bare minimum rights over your brand. When it comes to documenting agreements, beware using the contract you used previously - it may well give away too much and it’s much harder to negotiate back from an over generous position.

Choose the right channel for the brand

It is tempting to have a major physical presence to reflect your brand, but beware the temptation to build your 'brand cathedral' too early. You can build a business online with a minimum of real estate cost. Test the business online before incurring the cost and long term liabilities of real estate that are so easy to incur but so difficult to lose. Online sales allow brands to expand at home and abroad much quicker and at much less cost than ever before so don’t be tempted into incurring the cost of that physical 'memorial to the founder' too early.

Choose the right international model

Rapid growth for consumer goods in Asia Pacific, South America, USA and the Middle East make the opportunities for international growth very attractive. But which markets should you target and how?

The answer comes from taking the time to understand where the demand is greatest for your brand and what the local competition is.

Expansions need not incur the cost of setting up a wholly owned overseas bricks and mortar shop. Options include:

  • local language websites targeting the favoured jurisdictions
  • viral marketing via social media with in depth analysis of the response
  • conversations with local franchisees, wholesalers and retailers
  • market research.

Getting the right franchisee, wholesaler, joint venture partner is critical. How important are your brands to them? Will they make the effort to push your brand rather than others? Will they work with you to create the right store look and feel? How will online work in that jurisdiction if you have a JV or franchise partner? What if it doesn’t work - how can you extricate yourself? Take your time to get these issues right.

Localise the brand, if appropriate

What makes a brand successful in one market may not translate into success in a different country. This is particularly true of brands that form their identity by drawing on places and cultures - in some cases the link to a place will translate as a real selling point of the brand, in others it can be a distinct disadvantage.

You need to allow for an element of 'localisation' so that your brand can fit into local cultures and expectations. Researching local factors and having local contacts within those regions to advise will be invaluable.