Why Improper Trademark Selection Can Kill A Brand

Trademarks can be words, letters, shapes, colors, sounds, smells or any symbol or device used to identify the source of products or services. Most importantly, not all trademarks are created equal. Valuable trademarks distinguish competitors, while trademarks that don’t distinguish competitors are not valuable.

Nokia and Motorola are good examples of trademarks that distinguish the source of their associated products. There is no issue of whether consumers would be confused as to the source of Nokia and Motorola products. However, what about the trademarks Whoville Eye Specialists and Eye Specialists of Whoville? Might consumers become confused as to the source of the services offered under those trademarks? What if Whoville Eye Specialists develops a reputation for blinding patients during routine eye laser surgery? Do you think that reputation would affect Eye Specialists of Whoville’s brand? Of course it would. The likely result would be loss of patients, loss of potential patients and loss of revenues.

But why? Because consumers use trademarks to avoid companies with bad reputations and seek out those with good reputations. Under my Whoville example, consumers are likely to mistakenly believe that Eye Specialists of Whoville and Whoville Eye Specialists are either one of the same or somehow associated or affiliated. Either way, both companies’ brands become irrevocably damaged. And that’s unfortunate for Eye Specialists of Whoville who now must either change its name or spend tens of thousands of dollars in a public relations marketing campaign. Do think it might be difficult for Eye Specialists of Whoville to develop brand loyalty with consumers in light of Whoville Eye Specialists’ reputation?

Companies that offer their products at consistent levels of quality and at fair prices can create brand loyalty. The result of creating brand loyalty is repeat business, which is what all companies desire. Why do some companies get repeat business while others do not? McDonalds® has been very successful at creating brand loyalty, thus repeat business. But how has McDonalds accomplished that? By offering its products at consistent levels of quality and at fair prices. Consumers know what to expect when they purchase Big Mac® sandwiches in Seattle and Boston. The Big Mac should cost and taste the same in both locations. However, if the cost, and more importantly the taste, of Big Mac sandwiches were different from city to city and location to location, consumers would not be as loyal to the McDonalds brand as they are today.  And that holds true for any product.

Brand loyalty and brand success go hand-in-hand. Strong brand loyalty eventually generates a high level of goodwill for companies and their brands. Goodwill is described as including a company’s reputation in the marketplace. It is inevitably trademarks that will protect the goodwill, reputations and brand images generated by businesses. Do you think companies want trademarks that have little “value” to be "protectors" of their goodwill and reputations? Of course not. So why do many companies ignore the importance of trademark selection? Ignorance, time or money? All three?  What ever the reason, to ignore the importance of selecting “valuable” trademarks can be the difference between product and brand success and failure.