Brand owners may misunderstand the function of a trade mark and not realise the importance of choosing one that is “capable of distinguishing” them in the market place from their competitors.
In the previous blog post (Part 1) we described the first critical factor to consider when selecting a trade mark and outlined the golden rule for brand selection, which is that strong trade marks aren’t descriptors of the products that they are used to sell.
In this post, we highlight two more factors to consider that impact the effectiveness of your trade mark, particularly relating to the ease of pronunciation and visual indicators.
Principle No. 2 – Optimise your trade mark for legibility, colour and shape.
Your trade mark is the “handle” by which customers request your goods and services. If it is difficult for customers to say your trade mark, recognize your trade mark or remember your trade mark then your business will be at a disadvantage.
Two factors that make a trade mark easy for a potential customer to use are:
The sound of the mark
Don’t choose a tongue twister for your trade mark. For example, think of Rolex®, Nike® and iPod®. Each of them is relatively short and extremely easy to say. It’s hard to say any of them unclearly because they all include contrasting vowel and consonant sounds close together.
If you are thinking of exporting your brand overseas then make sure it doesn’t have any negative connotations in the foreign countries you’re interested in. For example, the trade mark SQUIRREL has positive connotations in Australia however in North America squirrels are often thought of as a nuisance and so the trade mark might not be suitable in that market. These sort of issues need to be considered right at the beginning of the trade mark selection process.
The look of the mark
First of all, choose an easy to read font. Some fonts are supposedly more masculine or feminine than others and some fonts are more old fashioned or modern than others. The type of font you choose should appeal to your prospective consumer demographic but not at the cost of legibility.
The aspect ratio of your trade mark (width : height) should preferably be about 5:4 so that a viewer can read it very quickly in one take without having to move their eyes. Trade marks that are very wide and narrow or tall and thin are difficult to read.
Trade marks are often accompanied by a logo, for example until about a decade ago a particular brand of service station always included an image of the flying red horse Pegasus on all its signage. Can you remember which brand of service station, e.g. was it Caltex® or Ampol® or Mobil® ?
It was Mobil®. Mobil® petrol stations used to have an image of Pegasus above the word MOBIL. Would you say to someone in search of a petrol station “go to the flying red horse petrol station” or “go to a Pegasus petrol station”, or “go to the Mobil petrol station”? Probably only the last phrase would be used. As you can see, the logo is usually not nearly as important as the wording of the trade mark and in fact using a logo can sometimes reduce the impact, and hence the memory recall, of the wording.
Mobil dropped the flying horse and now simply use the trade mark Mobil® in blue letters with a red “o”. The change has increased the visibility of their signage and decreased confusion over exactly what the meaning of the flying horse was. By focusing on the wording they’ve strengthened their trade mark.
There are only a very few simple symbols that make effective trade marks. For example, the double R for Rolls Royce® and the three pointed star in a ring for Mercedes-Benz® have both become powerful graphic trade marks. However, it has taken decades to build up the power of those symbols.
If you’re launching a new trade mark then a distinctive word mark will usually be a much better option than a graphic.
Principle No. 3 – Use colors to distance your brand away from your major competitors.
Designers and marketers commonly choose a brand’s color scheme so that it is either in harmony with the products that they are selling or selected to evoke a particular mood in the prospective customer. While it makes sense to take these factors into consideration it is equally if not more important to take your competitors’ color schemes into account when deciding on colors for your own brand.
For example, Coca-Cola®, the founders of the cola drink category, have a color scheme that is primarily red. For many years Pepsi® had a color scheme that was equally red and blue. However, incorporating a color synonymous with their main competitor into their branding did not help to distinguish them from Coca-Cola®. Consequently, over the last decade you will notice that Pepsi’s branding colors have become more blue and far less red.
Trade marks are critically important business assets. Careful selection and development of a trade mark can help your business secure a brand that connects with potential customers to the extent that it “pre-sells” your products. Effectively, they buy the brand, not just the product. On the other hand, selecting the wrong trade mark can put you on the back foot right from the start.