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Choosing a brand name can be the make or break of a business. How did iconic brands like Google, Apple, Microsoft and Coca-Cola get it right? In this article we answer questions frequently asked about brands, what it takes to choose a good brand name and how to avoid the pitfalls.
What is a brand?
The UK Intellectual Property Office (IPO) describes a brand as 'a promise of an experience which conveys to consumers a certain assurance as to the nature of the product or service they will receive'. A brand can be a company's most valuable asset as it will set it apart from competitors offering virtually identical products and services. The terms 'brand' and 'trade mark' are often used interchangeably but, in a strict legal sense, a trade mark is any sign which is capable of distinguishing goods or services of one undertaking from those of another undertaking whereas the definition of brand broader and less precise. The best way to protect a brand name is to register it as a trade mark at the IPO (or equivalent in other countries).
What makes a good brand name?
When selecting a brand name it is instinctive to think of words that describe the product or service in question such as SWEET for confectionery or RAPID for delivery services. Such words are descriptive, non-distinctive and unlikely to make successful brand names. Most iconic brand names are either invented words or an everyday word that does not relate to the product in question eg Google, Microsoft, Amazon and Apple. These names are catchy, memorable and over time have built very strong association with certain types of products.
Generally, words that describe the goods and services being sold cannot be registered as trade marks because it would be unfair to give one trader the ability to prevent other traders from describing their products. Therefore if your brand name is descriptive, a competitor could use it and thereby exploit your brand and benefit from any confusion among consumers.
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