Strategies for Building a Strong Brand

In this episode of the Own Your Genius podcast, Attorney Murray unveils strategies for building a resilient brand identity. Discover the importance of conducting a comprehensive trademark clearance search and the pitfalls of waiting until your business is profitable to register. Explore the power of consistent branding and its impact on brand recognition.

Tune in for practical insights that will guide you through the complexities of trademarks, leaving you equipped to protect your brand’s identity and own your genius.

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About the Own Your Genius Podcast

The Own Your Genius podcast is the perfect mix of business, law, and mindset to help black entrepreneurs succeed in business and life.

Join Attorney LaConya Murray each month as she and guest share their entrepreneurial journey, tricks of the trade, and their secrets to getting out of their own way to succeed.

Inspired by her grandmother, the community bootlegger Attorney Murray‘s passion for helping entrepreneurs started early. Today she helps entrepreneurs throughout the country protect their brand, content, and ideas through trademarks, copyrights, and business development.


Until next week, keep building your business, growing your brand, and owning your genius!


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Episode Transcript

Hello, Geniuses and happy February. Listen, January took a sweet time getting out of here and I’m not mad. Welcome to another episode of the Own Your Genius podcast. I’m your host, Attorney Murray. And today we’re diving into a topic that’s crucial for any business that’s aiming to leave a lasting mark in the marketplace. And that is trademarks. Specifically, we’re going to talk about strategies for building a stronger brand identity. But before we dive into the world of trademarks and how to make your brand stronger, make sure you subscribe to our podcast, so you don’t miss any of the insights into owning your genius.  

Welcome back to the Own Your Genius podcast where we discuss building businesses, growing brands and what else? Only your genius. I’m your host, Attorney LaConya Murray, owner of Off The Mark IP Solutions. Off the Mark is a boutique intellectual property firm representing innovative entrepreneurs aka geniuses who are looking to protect their brand and grow their business with ongoing legal support and business mentorship. We have a good one for you today, so let’s get started. 

First things first, let’s talk about why brand identity matters. In a crowded marketplace, a strong brand identity is what sets your business apart. It’s the face of your company, and it conveys not only just what you do, but who you are, and at the heart of protecting this identity lies trademarks. And specifically, the strategy that you’re going to use to protect everything that you’re building. So exactly what is a trademark? 

 And you might’ve heard me say this a couple of times, but let’s break it down. A trademark is not just a logo, it’s a symbol of trust. It’s a symbol of quality, it’s a symbol of consistency. Whether it’s the golden arches of McDonald’s or the iconic Apple trademark, they’re just shorthand for promises a brand makes to its customers. And so, when we’re talking about trademarks, it is that brand identifier. That logo is just one example of what a brand identifier can be. For many people, for most companies, especially when you’re starting out, your brand identifier is your brand name. And then you also have things like your tagline. Certain brands have colors. If you think about Tiffany’s blue and UPS’s brown, they have these colors. So, when you see that brown truck coming through your neighborhood, you’re like, yes, my Amazon packages have just arrived. But it’s not just about being able to recognize those brands. It’s also about being able to recognize the quality or lack thereof, depending on the brand you’re talking about that’s associated with that brand. Let’s talk about strategies for building a stronger brand. What can you do to build a stronger trademark? I have three strategies that we’re going to talk about. And the first one, I cannot stress enough, you’re going to conduct a comprehensive trademark clearance search. Before you fall in love with a logo or brand name, make sure you conduct a thorough trademark search. And this step is often underestimated. It’s about ensuring that your brilliant idea isn’t already someone else’s property.  

When it comes to performing a trademark clearance search, there are two types of searches. You have a knockout search, which is when you put in the exact name or phrase that you’re looking to protect and you’re looking for that exact match. And that’s a good start, but that is not enough. That is not a thorough search because trademarks protect not only the same, but also similar. When you’re just looking for that exact match, you’re going to miss potential conflicts.  

If you don’t see it, it doesn’t mean that you’re in the clear, which brings us to our second type of search, which is a search that we do here at Off The Market IP Solutions, and it’s called a comprehensive search. And this search looks not only for the same, but also similar trademarks. And we also take our search outside of the USPTO’s trademark database for common law uses. And we want to ensure that your trademark, that name you intend to use, is available. In common law, when we talk about common law uses, we’re talking about a use for brands that have brand identifiers or trademarks, but they haven’t registered with USPTO. Remember in the United States is first to use, not first to file. Even though those common law trademarks have a limited amount of protection, if you file before them and then they decide they want to file, it could cause you trouble in the long run. We need to know what’s out there and what possible conflicts you may have in the future. And that’s the purpose of performing a comprehensive search. So that’s strategy number one, start with the search.  

Number two. Register early and make sure you protect this vigilantly. Timing is crucial. Registering your trademark early is like planting a flag in the marketing commerce landscape. But it’s not enough to register your trademark early. You must vigilantly protect it to safeguard your brand against potential infringements. Now there’s conflicting thoughts on when you should register your trademark. You have some people, maybe business owners, maybe just internet professionals or whatever who are not attorneys who will tell you to wait until you’re making money before you register your trademark. And I get it. I understand that train of thought. They want to make sure that you’re going to be able to see a return on your investment. However, if you wait to register your trademark until you are making money, you’re going to risk the chance of someone else using your mark or registering your mark before you do. If you’re not going to wait until you’re making money. 

 How can you protect your brand that you’re building while also ensuring that you’re going to see a return on your investment? Let’s talk about it. I believe that’s a great question. The first thing that I will tell you to do is make sure that the good or service that your brand is tied to is something that people want. Do they even want this good or service? Sometimes people skip hard work, and I’m not going to say that it’s necessarily hard because it’s not hard work. It can be complicated because it’s time-assuming, but they skip that hard work of doing the research to ensure that the business idea they’ve created is viable. They skip taking this idea to the audience to see if this is something that they really won’t. They skipped doing the research to see how long it is going to take for me to bring this idea to market and they skipped the time to determine who the market is and where they can be found and how they want to be spoken to. When you skip that stuff, it’s hard to know if the business you’re creating will be successful. And you’re just jumping in blind because the idea of entrepreneurship is so sexy, but doing the research, doing all those things is a part of entrepreneurship. And I know, I know there are plenty of people who will tell you that they didn’t do all those things and they’re successful. And yeah, that might be true, but the question is, what type of trial and error did they have? Because I’m a prime example of someone who had a great idea and didn’t test the market and just sat for months. Like literally I sit here for months, not making any money because I didn’t know how to reach my people and I didn’t know how to talk to them in a way that they understood exactly what service I was providing and why it was valuable. Because back in the day, when I first started, trademarks were not buzzwords. So, a lot of people hadn’t ever heard of it. They had no clue what service I was providing and why it was valuable. I had to just, I just sat here. I had a fancy website. I got a new logo. Before I started Off The Mark, you know, had created this brand name, we were going by our business name, which is Murray Law Group LLC. And when I had this brilliant idea that I wanted to serve business owners and I wanted to serve them in this way, I rebranded it. I got a website, I got logos, I got a new phone number. I think I even got office space. Like I got all this stuff. And I just sit there.   

Waiting on the phone the ring and when it did ring it wasn’t even for trademarks it was for the things that I was doing for like federal criminal work appellate work and That’s because I didn’t I didn’t do all this stuff beforehand and when I did When I did take the time to actually say hey, who do I want to talk to where are they at? How can I reach them? Maybe it just took off. So why not do that in the beginning. Why not take that time? I mean, it just takes a week or two to do it. Let me see. Oh, I have one. Well, it’s not, this is the sample cup copy we were working on rebranding our business plan workbook. But this business plan workbook is just some of the questions I asked myself to see success. And I’ve used it for different things, different things like if I have a new service offering or whatever. Anyway, going on a tangent, just to let you know that it is important for you to take some time to make sure you have a viable idea before you invest in the trademark. Because if you don’t have a viable idea and you don’t stay in business over six months, maybe let me tell you, the trademark process can take over a year. And some people aren’t making it to that year in business because they haven’t taken the time to do the research to make sure that this is something that they want to do and what’s going to be involved. What will it take to get it done? In those months that I was just sitting there, I could have been making money, but I wasn’t. I didn’t take the days or weeks it would have taken to do the research. Okay, so now I’m going to step down off my soapbox. That’s the number one thing that you want to do before you register your trademark. 

I just had an idea. It doesn’t have to be perfect. The plan doesn’t have to be perfect, but just have some idea of what it’s going to look like to make money. You don’t have to make money to register your trademark. And if you wait until you are making money, like I said before, what’s going to happen is you spend all this time and all this money preparing to launch, only to receive a cease-and-desist letter because you’re infringing on someone else’s trademark because the idea of the brand name is not protected. Oh, you’re saying that this is my brand name and we’re going to provide this service? That is not protecting the brand name. You must have that good or service in commerce so that the name can be protected. And that’s where a lot of people go wrong. They spent months preparing for the launch. They spend thousands and thousands of dollars on logos, labels, signage, marketing material and then they don’t make sure that the name is protected. So that’s why we say, register as soon as you can. But like I said before, registration is only the beginning. After you have your trademark registered, you need to put your flag in the sand. After you put that flag in the sand, you’re going to have to be prepared to protect your territory. Like you’re going to must be prepared to say, hey, hey, what, that name that you’re using, it’s too like my name. 

And as far as the name is concerned, we’re talking about the name, not the service. Like you can’t stop people from doing the same thing as you, but you can make sure that if they’re doing the same thing as you, they’re not using the same or similar brand identifiers. A lot of times people will make an investment in the trademark, but they won’t do anything to make sure that no one else is infringing on their brand. Because let me tell you why this is important. If you don’t make sure that people aren’t infringing on your brand and you just let anybody and their mama use that same or similar trademark, you will end up losing that trademark because now when people see it, it’s going to be so similar to other people’s trademark that it no longer becomes a source of recognition for the goods and services that you are providing. What do you want to do? The first thing you want to do is begin monitoring your trademark. Monitor your trademark to see who is out there, monitor your trademark, to make sure that no one is trying to register anything like yours. And then next step, if you find someone when you’re monitoring that’s using your trademark, the next thing you want to do with these possible infringements is prepared to send them a cease-and-desist letter, asking them to stop. And not just asking them to stop but demanding that they stop using your trademark because of the potential confusion. 

And then after that, if they don’t listen to that cease-and-desist letter, you need to need to be prepared to go all the way. When I say go all the way, I mean, litigation, filing a lawsuit so that the infringement will be stopped. Being diligent about protecting your brand and trademark is not being a bully. It’s protecting your interest in the market space. It’s protecting your investment, it is ensuring that when people are looking for you, they find you and not some knockoff friend, which is this whole reason why you registered your trademark in the first place, right? Enforcing your rights is something that big brands do all the time, so they can stay big brands. And although you might be small now, your goal is to become a household name. And the way that you do that is to make sure that your brand is protected. Okay, and now we’re coming up with the third strategy that I have, which is consistent branding. Can we just take a moment to acknowledge the fact that some brands are confusing. And I’ve seen this personally, because again, I’ve been doing this for 10 years. I literally launched Off The Mark in the beginning of 2014, I was like, hey, this is Off The Mark. 10 years, and over those 10 years, what I’ve seen is that people will have different variations of their brand, but they’re not consistent. And there’s no rhyme or reason for that but consistency breeds recognition. Let’s talk about why maintaining a consistent brand and that brand image across all your platforms and all your products not only strengthens your trademark, but also enhances your overall brand impact. Over the last 10 years, one of the biggest mistakes that I’ve seen people make outside of not clearing their trademark first, is not being consistent in their branding.  

That means that they’re using different shades of a color, they’re using different fonts depending on, you know, what mood they’re in. They’re just even using different logos. And there’s no rhyme or reason for it, like I said. And it’s not like this logo is tied to a particular product. It’s just like, oh, today we want to add this flair to it. And tomorrow we don’t. And when you’re building a brand and bringing consistency, people need to know what to expect. 

One of the reasons I think that people are so all over the place is because they’re building these brands themselves, which is okay. But you must know what you’re doing. They’re creating and they’re going one place with a logo on that, and they come up with these names and these colors look cute. So, this is what they want to do. And they don’t know how they’re going to tie it all together. And they don’t know how to find HTML codes for the color. And this is why I tell people. I’ve been telling them recently is to work with brand strategists and a brand strategy is going to help you Not only put together a cohesive brand, but also going to make sure that you know how Um that brand that you’re putting together All that brand that you’re creating they’re going to make sure That it has your customers in mind because why do all of this? Why do all this and build all of this if it’s not speaking to your customers? 

And when you build a brand with the brand strategist, they’re going to give you what’s called a brand guideline. And that’s going to be your brand’s Bible. It’s going to tell you how to do your logos and how to use your logos, where to use them, how to use them, where to use your sub marks. They’ll tell you exactly which fonts to use and they’ll tell you when, because you’re going to have several different fonts that you’ll use in different situations. And everything will be consistent. That’s why I really like using brand strategists. They also going to tell you what colors to use, which ones going to be your main color, and when to use this color and that color. It’s great. It’s going to build that consistency throughout your brand. And that stuff, let me tell you, that stuff really matters. Like I said, I’ve been doing this for over 10 years. And one of the things that stands out to me when people meet me in person is how they’re complimenting my brand. They’re saying, oh my gosh, I love your brand. I love how it looks. I love how cohesive it is. And even with the rebrand, people are still noticing like, hey, I’ve been using this purple as part of my brand since 2014. And they connect to that, and they recognize that. And if I can tell you one thing in building a stronger brand, that will be to be consistent. It makes a huge difference and goes a long way with your market. 

We covered the power of brand identity. We talked about what a trademark is. We talked about strategies for building a strong brand. Now what I want to do is tackle some of your questions, drop them in the comments, and I’ll answer them in next week’s episode where we’re going to discuss some real-world case studies of successful brands and some brands who got it wrong. You can see, we’re going to explore how businesses, big and small, have navigated the trademark landscape, the successes they’ve had, the challenges, and some of the lessons that we can learn. And that brings us to the end of today’s episodes, talking about strategies for building a strong brand identity. Remember, your trademark is not just a legal safeguard, it is the soul of your brand. If you found today’s episode insightful, don’t forget to subscribe, rate, and leave a review.  

Let’s take this conversation over to the Markedlegal Community. I want you to share this episode with three people and have them meet you there. But you know what to do before you go. Make sure you hit that subscribe button and rate the podcast. Until next week, I want you to keep building your business, growing your brand, and owning your genius.