Protecting your brand: Brand protection 101 for small businesses

The following are some of the most effective things you can do to make sure that nobody can hijack your brand and protect it for your exclusive benefit.

1. Choose a Good Brand name and Ensure Good Reputation

Obviously, if you want to maintain a good brand, you need to have one that is worth protecting. It’s going to be difficult protecting something when somebody actually already owns the brand. You end up becoming the usurper and that will only get you in trouble. Be sure that your brand has no duplicates and is not being pursued by others, especially bigger companies.

Moreover, you need to establish and maintain a good reputation. You need to be able to provide good services and maintain complaints or bad feedback at the lowest minimum possible. You can’t completely get rid of negative feedback but you have to make sure that you address them promptly and do something to make sure that the reasons for such feedback are properly taken care of. Even if you are just running a small business, you have to be mindful of how current and potential customers perceive your business and your brand.

Also, make sure that social media does not become a bane for your brand. Promptly fend off criticisms, especially the fabricated negative comments initiated by your competitors.

2. Protect your Web Assets

Lastly, you have to acknowledge how important the internet is for your business. That’s why you also need to protect your online presence and everything associated with it. You have to make sure nobody is plagiarizing your online content, graphics, videos, and other media content. Keep track of search engine results for potential plagiarism. Have your graphics and other media content watermarked and copyrighted. Set up Google Alerts so you are aware of mentions of your brand name online and be quick to respond accordingly.

If somebody is using your brand name, you should quickly state the facts that you already own the brand name and assert it with your trademark or patent. Even if these are just coincidental uses of your brand name by other well-meaning companies, you have to quickly assert your right. They may become more successful eventually, effectively stripping you of your claims to the brand.

Also, secure your domain name. There are some unscrupulous entities or persons that try to make money on domain names. Their modus: they register domain names that would have been the no-brainer domain name for some promising startup companies so they can sell the domain names to these companies later on for a higher price. There are also businesses that spend on domain name registration to hamper the online presence of their potential competitors. It’s not difficult to acquire a domain. Many domain hosting companies also offer discounts for multi-year domain buying – so this should help you handle the expense on a financial level. This would only take a few minutes of your time and may potentially save you a lot of hassle in the long-run.

3. Register your Trademark, Get your Patents, and take Advantage of Intellectual (IP) Property Protection

If you are a startup with a highly promising business concept, product, invention, or innovation, it only makes sense having your trademark registered and getting the necessary patents as soon as possible. These serve as your solid tools against possible idea theft and witting or unwitting duplication by larger companies that could make you lose prized product or business ideas over legalistic technicalities. If you are alerted of someone or some company that uses your brand name or your IP assets, quickly send a takedown notice. If the offending party refuses to submit, threaten them with legal action and proceed to actually filing a legal complaint if they still refuse to acknowledge your IP claims.

4. Orient your Employees on the Importance of Branding

The need to protect your brand name shouldn’t be the responsibility of the business owner or manager alone. Everyone in the company should be aware of the importance of brand protection and act as brand ambassadors. Everyone should participate in addressing negative publicity and in ensuring that the brand is not usurped or hijacked by other companies.

5. Don’t Limit your Brand Protection Mindset to the Present. Think of the Future and on a Global Scale

Some small businesses tend to shrug off or ignore other companies that use the same brand name or the same products with similar branding by other competing companies. There’s the tendency to ignore these offenses and not assert claims early on. This shouldn’t be the case. You should always think that your business will eventually grow into a bigger business and brand, and that you will eventually be serving customers worldwide. Letting competitors do as they please, especially those that blatantly copy your branding and business concept, is a big risk. They may end up becoming more successful. You have to promptly assert your claims and use legal mechanisms (IP protection) to prevent others from taking over your brand, or to prevent them from using your brand in unflattering or damaging ways.

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Always remember that branding is very important even for small businesses. You can’t just ignore the importance of brand protection. Use the pointers discussed above as you establish, maintain, and protect your company’s brand online and offline.

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