Why your brand name is important

Branding has become increasingly important in a congested market, particularly in the petroleum convenience space, retail branding is truly a factor in customers buying decisions. A brand name or trade mark is often one of the most important and valuable assets that a company owns. Or to be more accurate, a good brand name is often one of the most important and valuable assets that a company owns.

A good brand name or trade mark acts as a badge of origin for your products and services, and instantly brings with it, for consumers, an indication of quality and trust. These brand names are protectable and the strongest form of protection is through registration as a trade mark.

Things to think about

Successful brand names which are also easy to protect as trade marks are:

  • Distinctive: You need a name that stands out in a crowd of competitors.
  • Original: By this we mean different from the brand names of other people, including your competitors. Stay away from brand names which are similar to someone else’s brand name. For one thing you may possibly be sued for a trade mark infringement, but from a commercial point of view, a brand name is unlikely to add value to your business if people don’t immediately associate the brand name with your company.
  • Memorable: There’s no value in a brand that no one can remember. Try and think of a name that is easy to say, spell and remember.

Tensions and considerations

There is often a temptation to pick a brand name which describes the product or a particular quality of the product. The advantage? It’s self-explanatory, easy for customers to remember, and it tells your customers what you’re about. The problem?  If the brand is descriptive of your products, it is also likely to be descriptive of your competitors’ products, so it won’t differentiate you in the marketplace. For example, using ‘Cheap Petrol’ as your trade mark immediately tells customers what you are about, but because it is descriptive, other traders can legitimately use this description and therefore it would be difficult for any one trader to claim a trade mark monopoly in these words.

Some of the most valuable brand names are coined words. Think of Google, Walmart, Exxon and Starbucks. The advantage? Coined words are inherently distinctive as a trade mark and are unlikely to have already been used as a brand name by someone else. The problem? A coined word is not always easy to say or remembered by  consumers. Coined words don’t come with inherent meaning for consumers until a reputation in the brand is established.

Other successful brand names are arbitrary words. These brand names are known words with a meaning, but the meanings have no connection with the products being offered. Think Blackberry, Shell and Amazon. The advantage? It’s unlikely that your competitors would have thought of the same word, so it will stand out in the market.  The problem? If the words are so far removed from the products you are offering, consumers may struggle to remember it or understand it.

Who got it right?

A quick look at a list of the world’s leading companies will tell you who ‘got it right’ with their brand names.

WALMART, TOYOTA, ALLIANZ, SHELL, EXXON, CHEVRON, NESTLÉ, AMAZON, SANTANDER, TESCO, VERIZON, TOTAL

These brands all mean something to consumers now, but when they were first developed they were new, distinctive and original.

[This article was written by Georgina Hey (Partner) and Rebecca Brenikov, (Associate) at Norton Rose Fulbright. georgina.hey@nortonrosefulbright.com. rebecca.brenikov@nortonrosefulbright.com.]

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