This article was originally published on September 11, 2016. It was updated on September 17, 2021.
Your business’s brand name is of top value to you. Even customers place a high value on brands they patronize since they spend their hard-earned money on them. One survey showed that 81% of consumers said that they need to be able to trust the brand in order to buy from them. However, as the Internet makes doing business more global than ever, brand names are increasingly at risk of being infringed upon or even stolen, whether purposely or inadvertently. When brand related fraud happens online, customer trust dwindles. But before you begin to explore how to safeguard your brand, let's discuss what branding really is:
A brand is a name, color, logo,-- or even a feeling-- associated to a certain product, service, or experience. The Branding Journal defines branding more thoroughly as such:
Branding, therefore, is more than just the physical characteristics of the product but a combination of both the physical and emotional cues triggered by the name, the logo, the visual identity, or even the tagline of the product. Branding makes your product, service, or experience, uniquely yours-- which is why business owners place a high value in protecting this. So, how do you make sure your brand is protected? Here are five easy ways:
Domain names are an important part of any business brand today. As soon as you come up with your business name, search for and register a domain name. Even if you’re not planning to build a website right away, it’s important to stake your claim to the domain name you want. According to GrowthBadger, .com domains are over 33% more memorable than URLs with other top-level domains (TLD) and that .com is the most trusted TLD, with .co in a close second place.
However, to protect your brand, be sure to register the same domain name with alternate extensions, such as .net, .biz and .org, in addition to .com. You should also register alternative spellings — for example: stjames.com in addition to saintjames.com. Having domains with multiple spelling alternatives is ideal for visitors to your site because they have a better chance of accessing your website even if they make a mistake in entering your domain name.
Additional tip: Be sure to set up automatic renewal on your registration so that you don’t lose ownership of your domains when the expiration term is up.
While you’re not required to trademark your name and logo, doing so gives you added protection if someone uses a name or logo that’s the same or confusingly similar. Start by searching the Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) database to see if anyone has already trademarked a similar business name and/or logo. You can also apply for a trademark online. The trademark process is complex and consulting an attorney familiar with trademark law can help avoid problems later on. Make sure to comply with all rules regarding renewing your trademark; for example, you will need to file maintenance documents between five and six years after first registering your mark, and again between nine and 10ten years after registering your mark.
There are a ton of benefits to getting a trademark for your business aside from business name protection. According to Heer Law, applying for a trademark registration prolongs the lifespan of a company by 6.6 years on average and applying for a renewal of a trademark registration further extends that lifespan. Not only that, but trademark registrations can also increase your profits. The enhanced trademark protection granted by registering your trademarks raises firm profitability by 1.7% and firm value by 11.9%, relative to matched and industry year adjusted control firms.
The more you use your brand name, logo, and other identifying elements, the more proof you will have that they belong to you. For example, an eCommerce business can put its logo on shipping boxes, tissue paper, and packing slips. A retailer can have sales clerks wear shirts with the store’s logo on them. Use your brand on social media, too, to help establish its presence online. You can use the ™ symbol with your name and logo before you apply for a trademark; after you have officially registered your trademark, you should start using the ®.
Have you heard of the power of SWAG? SWAG items, also known as promotional merchandise, are products branded with a logo or slogan and distributed at little or no cost to promote a brand, corporate identity, or event. Distributing SWAG products have reported a number of benefits for companies. It has been seen that 89% of consumers can recall the advertiser even after two years of receiving a promotional product. On the same report, it was indicated that 85% of people do business with the advertiser after receiving a promotional item. It really is worth it to put your brand name anywhere you can stick ‘em!
Read more: The Return of Direct Mail Campaigns
Set up Google alerts on your business name and use social media management tools such as SocialMention to see when your business name is mentioned. This will help alert you when someone else is using your business name, a similar name or a similar trademark illegally, so you can take action quickly. The faster you can act, the better your chances of stopping the infringement before it damages your brand.
Web.com offers a Business Directories with Reviews Management service that not only makes sure that your company’s listing is correct in all online directories but it also allow you to see and respond to reviews, social posts, and comments from all the connected accounts. This is an amazing way to keep up to date of mentions of your business name in different platforms all in one dashboard.
Typically, you’ll start by sending a cease-and-desist letter to the person or company using your business name or logo. Explain your ownership of the trademark, ask them to stop using it, and state that if they don’t, you’ll be forced to take legal action. You can find templates for cease-and-desist letters online or have your attorney create one.
Protecting your business brand takes a little bit of time, expense, and effort, but it’s worthwhile to safeguard this valuable asset. With these simple and actionable steps, you’ll breath easy knowing that your company can continue to be the brand that customers can trust.