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    Your brand is important. Here’s how to protect it

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    Whatever the type of business you run, whether you’re the founder of a tech startup, a restauranteur, a mom and pop store, or an eCommerce business, you have to pay attention to how your brand is perceived by your customers. Here are four basic steps you ca take to protect your brand.

    Step 1. How is creating a brand identity different from defining your business?

    Your brand is the expression of the core values of your business. It is informed by the emotions, ideologies and philosophies your customers associate with your product or service. Unmistakable for its inviting promise of a hot cup of richly brewed coffee, genuine service, and a cozy atmosphere — Starbucks, for example — has clearly catalogued the customer experience they want to create on their About Us page.

    To cohesively synthesize the vision for your business into a brand identity, work backwards. First think about what customer activity should trigger the image of your business in their mind. Next, define the emotions you want your customers to associate with you. This will help you ideate the various elements of your brand: the colours, the icon, the logo, the mascot, the slogan. For inspiration, look at how the big brands do it. Integrated with their trademarked slogan, ‘Just Do It’, Nike’s swoosh has the company synonymous with sports. Your brand can evolve over time, but your core ideology should remain strong and unchanging so that it can remain protected and un-infringeable.

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    Step 2. Showcase your competitive advantages

    Your competitive advantages don’t just differentiate your business in the market; they also serve to inform the most intriguing aspects of your brand. Competitive advantages go beyond the features and benefits of your product or service.

    Here are some examples of competitive advantages of real local businesses in and around Vancouver.

    1. The only mechanic in town that caters specifically to Volkswagens.

    2. The only keto-diet–friendly bakery in the neighbourhood.

    3. The only salon in the city that accepts bitcoin in exchange for their services.

    4. The only cafe where performance artists, stand-up comedians, and poets can gather to showcase their art to the community.

    Whether it’s customer service, quality of product/service or distribution, identify the vital aspect of your business your competitors don’t have the means to beat. Then, make sure every member of your company knows it. Your sales team should be able to speak to it; your marketing team should be able to leverage it; your customers should be able to experience it.

    The more effectively you market your competitive advantages, the more your customers can do the job of differentiating you from the competition.

    Step 3. Give your brand legal and creative protection.         

    While it’s vital to protect your brand identity from a creative standpoint, you should ensure you’ve taken the precautions to insulate yourself from any kind of legal trouble. If you’re working with a partner, an investor or a vendor, make sure all the terms and conditions of your agreement are in writing. Check yourself: have you trademarked your brand? Have you patented your design? Have you incorporated your business? If you receive a verbal promise of a purchase order, know that it means nothing without having it in writing.

    In business, you have to be able to plan for all eventualities. It is much simpler to distinguish between possibility and truth when you have everything catalogued on paper.

    Step 4: Consistently and creatively engage your customers 

    While social media gives you the ability to connect quickly and easily with customers, it also comes with the responsibility to be responsive. Customers now have the power to review your business on so many platforms: Google, Amazon, Yelp, Facebook — you name it.

    Post engaging organic content that your readers will find educational. While you don’t want one unhappy customer to infect your carefully built reputation, you also want to capitalize on a glowing review. The more your customers can count on you, the more they will cherish and protect your brand.

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    Originally published November 25, 2019, updated August 25, 2023

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