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There can be no doubt that brands are valuable. The contribution of branding to company value by the top brands is measured in the hundreds of billions of dollars. Your company’s success or failure depends on your brand. Although “brand” and “trademark” are often used interchangeably, there is a difference. A brand is what a company, product, or service is in the minds of consumers. A brand is not a trademark or what a business does, but who it is and why it exists. Branding, therefore, is the process of articulating the characteristics, values, and attributes of a company, product, or service.

The trademark you select should evoke the feeling of your brand. So, selecting a distinctive trademark is only one step in a proper strategy for protecting your company’s goodwill, and should only be undertaken after you have properly positioned and articulated your brand. That said, if you are diligent in the branding process, select a distinctive trademark, and protect and use it properly, your trademark will become the manifestation of your brand in the mind of consumers.

The branding process generally follows the four steps below, which culminate with a “brand positioning statement.” These steps may seem simple at first, but each require a great deal of interdependent, complex analysis.

  1. Analyze the market: First, perform an industry/market analysis to identify the target market as a whole and potential areas (products, services) for growth in the market.
  2. Analyze the current competitors in the market: Next, analyze the practices of your competitors to determine how the brand should be positioned. This analysis includes an evaluation of each competitor’s branding strategy and trademarks. Use this information to develop a consistent customer experience (“brand promise”) that distinguishes your company from competitors.
  3. Identify and analyze the target customer base: Based upon your analysis of the market and its current players, specifically identify your target market. You can segment the market by income, age, gender, habits, or any combination of these or any other factors you deem significant. Next, analyze the tastes, habits, geography, and interest of your target market. Market segmentation and analysis is critical to developing brand loyalty. Avoid the temptation of becoming lukewarm tea, that is, attempting to be all things to all people (if some people want hot tea and some want iced tea, everyone will be happy if you sell luke-warm tea, right?).
  4. Develop practices to deliver to customers: Based on the products or services you plan to offer, the current competitors in the market, and your target customer base, identify the specific aspects or practices of your culture, technology, or offerings that make your company different and allow you to deliver value to your target customers.
  5. Create your brand position statement: Use your analysis from the steps above to develop your brand’s position statement. The positioning statement specifically articulates what you want your company to be in the minds of consumers. There are no hard and fast rules for writing a brand positioning statement, but they typically follow a format like:

Consumers believe that my company is the only [category of product or service, from step 1] that provides [brand promise, from step 2] to [target audience, from step 3] by [how the brand promise is achieved, from step 4].

Trust me, this is way harder than it seems. You will likely need to revisit the other steps repeatedly to hash out your brand position statement.

Only after you have your brand position statement do you begin developing lists of potential distinctive trademarks that evoke your brand. You can test whether your potential trademarks reflect your brand by plugging them into the brand position statement in place of “my company”. You’ll know which trademarks work and which don’t.

Your brand position is the bedrock of your company. Ensure that everything your company does, both internally and externally, reflects your brand position and delivers on your brand promise.