IP is Key to Developing a Complete Brand Strategy

brand creation brand management brand strategy branding design entrepreneur tips graphic designer intellectual property marketing Jun 07, 2022

If you had a background in IP, you would be as astonished as I am that branding courses don’t teach any IP.

IP laws govern intangibles like names, logos, symbols, music, websites, content, and creations of the mind. IP is the currency of the 21st century. It’s where the value of successful businesses lies. So disregarding an important subject like IP from MBA and branding courses leaves a gaping hole.

David Aaker, the Godfather of Modern Branding, and professor of marketing strategy at Haas School of Business, endorsed my book, noting that IP is underappreciated and understudied. When I interviewed him on my podcast he attributed the reason for IP training not being taught in MBA and brand management courses as due to people like him who don’t know about IP setting the curriculums. As he put it: “we don’t have any background in it, we don’t even recognise that it’s a problem." 

That’s increasingly untenable. If you’re training people who will be working for the likes of Procter & Gamble, Google and Amazon it is less important to address the business context and wider role branding plays in business success. These organisations have processes in place to ensure their projects consider IP first because IP is a major driving force for them. They bring inter-disciplinary teams together to develop their brand strategy, so that branding always intersects with IP.

However, most organisations rarely involve multi-disciplinary teams to finalise their brand strategy. Instead, a linear, silo approach is the norm. There is an even greater disconnect between branding and IP for new businesses where the founder rarely even knows what IP is, let alone why it’s significant to their brand. 

When the people who create brands have no training in IP it means they’re ill equipped to understand its subtleties and the wider issues that their choices of names and other identifiers entail. For example, they don’t take account of brand protection considerations. So, IP rarely informs their brand strategy.

In practice, the only IP input most branding projects receive is when IP lawyers are consulted to do availability searches. But IP rarely influences branding decisions because lawyers are expected to rubber-stamp decisions. Unless there is a serious trademark conflict, the expectation is that lawyers will accept whatever name is put forward. So, they approve sub-standard names, and if they suggest changes, they are perceived as negative or obstructive.

Shifts brought about by digitisation, globalisation and the internet make IP more acutely relevant in branding. However, society still hasn’t caught up with the need to update its approach. There is a serious gap between branding and IP given that experienced branding professionals don’t have a background in IP. So, IP education is missing from courses. I discovered this when I did Mark Ritson’s Mini MBA in Brand Management, and other branding courses, such as Marty Neumeier’s which are popular with designers.

Since doing Mark’s course, I’ve recorded a short video for him to add to one of the modules so that marketers (who are often those closest to the brand within large organisations) recognise the why and when to liaise with their legal teams. The information I’ve included in the video is comprehensive for marketers working within organisations with established brands. However, when creating new brands there is much more involved to take account of IP strategically than my video or even my Brand Tuned book cover. 

I think it’s unfortunate that people attending training programs in branding emerge without an understanding of the central part that IP plays for organisations and their brands. To foster greater business success I’ve therefore created the Brand Tuned Accreditation program to plug the gap in knowledge that people creating new brands have about IP’s role in brand strategy.

IP laws have much to say about what should be created by way of names, and brand identifiers like taglines, symbols, colours, sounds etc. If you develop something distinctive like the Coca Cola bottle shape, but don’t have a strategy to promote and protect it appropriately so you can secure ownership of it long-term, you’re wasting the most important opportunity available to the brand. The whole point of visual identity design is to be uniquely recognisable after all. Understanding IP in terms of what to create and what can be legally protected is a key aspect of this objective.

While the Brand Tuned Accreditation program was initially designed as one course, I’ve now changed it to be two different courses. We’ll be updating the website shortly to reflect this.

Essentially one of the courses will focus just on IP strategy. It will be a 6-week course, incorporating half the modules highlighted on the Brand Tuned course page. The IP strategy course is likely to suit the needs of branding professionals and marketers who have their own approach to branding, research, and brand strategy. What they’re missing is the IP piece. This course might also appeal to IP lawyers who want to advise their clients on IP strategy as it relates to branding, without getting involved in the business and marketing side of things. Hence why I’ve introduced this IP strategy course. It is priced at £750 including VAT, although it’s currently on offer at half price, so only £375. 

The comprehensive 12-week brand and IP strategy course on brand creation will remain as advertised, namely £990 discounted to £495 currently for September’s intake. However, the price will go up to £1320 next March. So, if you want to do the comprehensive 12-week brand and IP strategy course, this is your last chance to buy it at this discounted price of £495.

Note that there will be no further discounted offers on the price of either program in future. The current 50% discounted prices will cease to be available once 20 people are booked onto the program (this excludes those who gave feedback as they are entitled to a 50% discount on the price even if they buy in 2023).