Lawyers working for Entrepreneur Magazine have recently started sending “cease and desist” letters to business owners who use the word “entrepreneur” anywhere in their name. These letters urge the recipients to stop using the word “entrepreneur,” as it violates Entrepreneur Magazine’s trademark.
In a blog entry about the subject, Seth Godin, a guest blogger on DuetsBlog.com, writes, “With great cost and hassle, fledgling entrepreneurs […] who have finally gotten their business off the ground now have to dig in to either fight a huge law firm and their misguided but well-funded lawyers–or spend the money to change what they already built.”
There are a couple of problems with this, but most importantly: you can’t trademark the word entrepreneur. At least not the way Entrepreneur Magazine is trying to. Why not? Read on to learn more.
A trademark is defined by the US Patent and Trademark Office as “a word, phrase, symbol, and/or design that identifies and distinguishes the source of the goods of one party from those of others.” The term is generally used to refer to the lesser known “service mark,” which differentiates a business providing goods with one providing services.
You don’t need to register a trademark or any other form of branding to enjoy its legal protections. Simply using the mark—which generally means a logo, brand name, slogan, or other identifying device—grants you common law rights. And trademarks, unlike patents and copyrights, never expire (as long as the proper paperwork is periodically filed).
Speaking of patents and copyrights, they’re similar in that they’re intended to protect intellectual property rights. Patents protect inventions, and copyrights protect literary, artistic, musical or film material. Both expire after a set period of time.
The thing about Entrepreneur Magazine’s ill-advised attempt to prevent others from using the word “entrepreneur” is that you can’t trademark generic words. Under US trademark law, generic words (like apple, or entrepreneur) are not registrable, which means you can’t stop anyone from using them.
In fact, Apple Computer (now Apple, Inc.) famously sued Apple Records, which was owned by The Beatles. Apple Computer didn’t win—in fact, they ended up paying Apple Records a settlement to put the case to bed. They did reach an agreement that basically stated Apple Records wouldn’t go into the computer business, and Apple Computer wouldn’t go into the music business.
You can’t trademark a common word. Combine that word with the name of a product, (such as Apple Computer or Apple Records) and you’ve got a trademark.
If Entrepreneur made, say, smartphones and had a product called the Entrepreneur Phone, they’d have a defensible trademark. Likewise, if someone else started a company using the name Entrepreneur Magazine, they could sue over that as well. But just the word “entrepreneur”? Not a chance.
Though it remains to be seen what will happen with Entrepreneur Magazine’s threats, trademark law is pretty well defined in this area (though well-paid lawyers can make defending a trademark ultimately not worth the effort for small business owners, so it remains to be seen how this plays out).
Though you don’t need to register your trademark in order to have it protected, it’s a good idea to do so, as registration brings benefits that common law use doesn’t. By registering your trademark, you create a public record of your trademark, a nationwide “legal presumption” of ownership, and exclusive rights to use the trademark for goods or services defined by the registration.
If there’s a business out there called Entrepreneur Consulting (or Entrepreneur Bicycles, or Entrepreneur Bar & Grill for that matter), their legal defense against something like those cease and desist letters would be substantially easier if they’re registered.
It’s a good idea to trademark your business’s name as soon as possible if you want to protect it and prevent other people in similar lines of business from using the same name, logo, or other identifying characteristic. The trademark registration process even includes an existing trademark search that will ensure you’re not infringing on an already established trademark, and to ensure that the word, phrase, logo or other mark you’re trying to register doesn’t already exist.
If you are running a company already named something like, say, Apple Records and you later find out that there’s another (much more famous) Apple Records in existence, you not only have to change the name of your company (and all of your stationary, letterhead, and etc.), but you have to stop selling products or services under that name—and recall any products already on the market with that name attached to them. That could get expensive.
If, on the other hand, you spend years of effort and untold resources making your company a success in its field and another company comes along with the same or very similar name? You can protect your trademark (and your exclusive ability to sell goods and services under that name) by filing a lawsuit against the newcomer.
As long as you have a trademark that’s specific to the kind of product you’re selling, you should be protected (which is why Apple Computers wasn’t able to make Apple Records change its name).
If you’re trying to get your name out there, whether it be to promote your business or your blog, you will need to decide between building a personal brand or a business brand. Both of these choices come with pros and cons, and learning the differences between the two of them might make a world of difference to your project! Read on to learn more.
A personal brand is built around you as an individual. Your name is the focus, meaning people will associate you, as a person, with your products. Celebrities, authors, and professional speakers frequently use personal brands.
If you’re a one-person business, personal branding is a great way to make your services or products more relatable. People will feel more connected to your work, because they will feel as if they know you as a person. Personal brands are also very flexible; if you ever want to change the direction of your project or business, it’s much easier to do with a personal brand. People will understand it as you making an individual choice rather than a business suddenly changing its focus.
It can be difficult to scale your personal brand. If you want to expand, you’ll have to find a way to hire people (and all the different ideas they’ll bring to the table) while still maintaining your image as an individual. Similarly, it can be very hard to sell a personal brand, because it won’t make any sense being operated by someone other than you!
A business brand does not have one individual face. Corporations or companies that unite under one logo are considered business brands. If an individual were to start a business brand, it would not use their name, but a company name that either a team or individual would work under.
Business brands are often more immune to scandal or criticism. When one member of a company commits an offense, it is much easier to deal with than when a company centered around one individual suddenly has to address that individual’s mistakes. Business brands are also more sustainable. Because they are run by many people, or can be passed on to other people without confusion, business brands tend to be longer-lasting than personal ones.
Business branding generally requires more organization. Because what you’re promoting won’t be immediately obvious (compared to a well-known blogger, for example), you’ll have to put more work into raising awareness as to what, exactly, your brand does. You will also have to make decisions like what your company does and who you want your audience to be fairly immediately, and once you’re locked in, it can be difficult to change.
“Experiential Marketing”, also called Engagement Marketing, is a strategy that encourages active engagement from the consumer. It’s not a new concept, it’s become larger and more creative over the years, thanks especially to Instagram. We’ll explain the idea behind it and three examples.
Modern customers have become more savvy or even somewhat immune to blunt, directive messaging. It’s everywhere, and the mind has to filter somewhere.
In response, brands have picked up on ways of actively engaging consumers in their creation, personalization, and experience. Creating something gives customers something to own, to take pride in, and, importantly, to show off on social media.
The key is striking a balance between providing an experience for the customer and creating something they truly invest in and share. Here are three of our favorite recent examples.
29Rooms is the oft-cited example of experiential marketing. It’s an interactive art installation Refinery29 created in celebration of their 10th anniversary. Refinery29 is a digital media company with a mostly young, mostly woman audience, and that audience (generally speaking) loves sharing content visually through Instagram.
This exhibit brings visitors, but also brings high-profile collaborators like Kesha and Lena Waithe. Because of this, the primary audience has a sense of being a part of something with their heroes and brings them closer to feeling like potential peers.
On a more lighthearted note, Cheetos put together the Cheetos Museum as a playful repository for the different shapes customers find in their snacks. Fans won prizes. The exhibit itself mimicked other art installations, like the Cheetos infinity room. If you’re already a fan of Cheetos, there’s nothing like having your own discovery on display in a hall composed of 128,900 of them.
Luke’s Diner is a location featured in beloved TV show Gilmore Girls. When the show came back on the air, marketers created the idea of having fans literally interact by going to visit a pop-up version of the location. With decor and accessories from the show, it creates a mini version of an experience like that of Disneyland — a moment where you can pretend to be part of your favorite show.
Has your brand tried any kind of experiential marketing? We’d love to hear about it.
Audience engagement isn’t an exact science. We talked about target audience last week — why it’s important, how to do it, and a little about our own. But now that you know who they are, let’s talk about how to keep your audience engaged.
Above all else, people hate feeling like they’re talking to a full-service marketing machine. Take the time to develop a consistent voice to use in all engagements, from web content to social media management, to other customer service functions. Be sure your team understands and uses your voice.
Marketing a two-way street. Gone are the days where simply suggesting, directing, or compelling an audience is effective. If something doesn’t spark joy in 2019, you’re going to lose your audience. Just saying “like, comment, share” isn’t going to cut it. You need to…
Time is a valuable resource and today everyone is more aware than ever of what it means to their OWN brand to endorse a company or product. Even further, the people who endorse you are an extension of your own brand. If they’re not your target audience, this can actually scare off audience engagement.
So do something that encourages the right kind of interaction. Ask real questions. Give away products and services with real (and enviable) value that your clients will truly be excited to receive.
You’re sitting down to write copy for your website, blog, or newsletter and… nothing. You’re stuck. Writing can be a drag, and the hardest part is getting started. So where do you go when you need copywriting inspiration? Here’s a hint: not where you’d think.
Seems logical to go see exactly what your competitors are doing, right? Nah. You know what the competition looks like. What you want is to write in character, with vivid description. You want your audience to salivate.
Let’s go through a short list of places you can go to for better, more descriptive, more resonant writing inspiration.
So hot right now. There’s no shortage of astrology-related memes, Instagram accounts, blogs, and sites dedicated to telling you exactly who you are based on your star chart.
The brilliance of horoscope writing, though, is that the writer writes to an archetype. Geminis have two sides and you’ll never know which one you’re going to get. Taurus is stubborn. Earth signs are grounded and reliable, fire signs are, well, fiery. And horoscopes can range from beautiful and elegiac to carefully crafted and comprehensive—but to those who dutifully read them, they are speaking directly to their very essence.
This is a goal the very best copy fulfills, too, which is why horoscopes are a surprisingly good place to turn for copywriting inspiration.
The deeper you get into food documentaries, food writing, user-generated reviews of cannabis and craft beer, the myriad ways to describe the taste of wine—the closer you get to your audience. “That’s not my audience,” you say? Fair, but you want your audience to feel the same level of connection, the same passion, the same level of expertise the most outspoken sommelier uses in speaking about their favorite orange wine.
Satire is an exercise in writing as if something was true, and sites like The Onion, McSweeney’s, Reductress do it so well you’ll sometimes see headlines like “How To Value Your Man Even Though He Is Not Terry Crews” shared as if they were real.
What these publications do right is take a concept so intensely relatable you barely think to fact-check—the feeling is the same as fact.
Even if you’re someone who feels the book version is always better than the movie, hear us out. Writing plot summaries can be a single sentence, but they can also be incredibly descriptive. It’s a challenge: how do you best describe what you see, what you feel, what you experience—without actually seeing the thing? Which secrets do you keep? How much is too much to share (do you want to convince the person you’re talking to to see the movie)? These are all choices you need to make as well, which is why they make such great copywriting inspiration.
Celebrities are characters, especially in profile. Because we want to know more, the interest is naturally there. Did you love Cardi B before Caity Weaver’s GQ profile came out? Well, you’re in luck—Caity’s as much of a fan as you are, and details every second, describes her obsession with presidents, her truffle mac and cheese, her glittering manicure, her tone and inflection.
“‘He was the 15th president,’ [Cardi] says, and her tone is as neutral as if she were reciting types of weather. ‘Buchanan is the only president that was a bachelor.'”
Maybe you weren’t really a fan before, but the description, the relatability, the passion—after that article, you are a Cardi B. fan.
So where do you turn when you need copywriting inspiration? This isn’t even close to an exhaustive list, so let us know in the comments!
Something you might not know about us at BRANDING FOR THE PEOPLE is that like many entrepreneurs, freelancers, small business owners, and other similarly free-spirited folks, we work mostly virtually. It can seem like the ideal setup—but as any work from home veteran will tell you, it’s easy to go off the rails.
So we have a quick list of things to watch out for if you’re leaving the corporate world and it’s offices, rules, and structure behind. This post is for the individual—managing a team remotely is a whole other post.
If you do a basic Google search, you’ll find a lot of opinions out there on this topic. Not going into an office saves you the time and stress of a commute—but if you’ve grown accustomed to using that time to read, listen to podcasts or audiobooks, call family and friends—you might notice you miss having that outlet. Going into an office can sabotage your healthy eating efforts with office snacks and having to grab fast food because you forgot lunch—but being at home can mean sitting in front of a computer all day with endless access to your own snacks.
Ultimately, it depends on the individual. What it comes down to is identifying what positives you got from going into an office, and what you’ll need to be mindful of when those things are no longer built into your day. If most of your socialization is through work, you’ll need to figure out other ways to meet this need—Meetups, social media interaction (especially with groups and spaces oriented toward your interests), or reaching out to someone in your field to get lunch or coffee—these are all great ways to both socialize and network. What’s great about working from home is that sure, you have to put in some effort—but you can really curate your interactions to be the best for YOU.
This happens to the best of us, office or not. The upside to being in an office? Lots of other folks around to talk through the blahs. The upside to work from home? The entire world is your inspiration. And so is your space.
Similar to socializing intentionally, when you’re at home, you can plan your space however is most inspiring to you. Even if you’re not likely to have clients or coworkers in your workspace, you don’t want to be stuck staring at institutional-looking walls all day, so be creative! The sky’s the limit, from painting everything Baker-Miller Pink to any number of sophisticated options. Try adding productivity-boosting music (check out this list from HubSpot). There’s no shortage of home office porn online, so have fun with it!
Coworker chit-chat is almost definitely curbed when you can’t just walk into your neighbor’s office (although instant messaging can work similarly). We suggested social media for productive networking and socializing, but of course there’s the risk of finding yourself three years back in your cousin’s Instagram feed to find a picture of an impressively-sized squash for… reasons.
We all know that sitting in front of a computer for eight hours (or more) per day has major health drawbacks. There can be fewer “natural” interruptions when you’re in your own home, so if you’re feeling distractedly stir-crazy, get up and get out! A quick walk or a change of scenery can help reinvigorate you and improve focus.
There are lots of other strategies you can incorporate into your day to break up time AND get moving—the important part is that you do it.
What stress? I work at home!
But of course some stress is unavoidable. A big source when you aren’t in an office can be time and project management—you have deadlines, timelines, etc., but the only person really monitoring progress is YOU. In fact, sometimes you can spend a TON of time on a project, only to scrap it and change direction—but if nobody sees the original work, did it even happen?
The solution, for the most part? You need to plan and track, and you need a strategy for checking in. We’ve all had the experience of being incredibly busy last week, and then trying to document what exactly you were busy doing. Which is stressful in itself! Do yourself a favor and investigate options for setting and tracking goals—whether using apps or manually with tools like Bullet Journal or or BestSelf.
And finally? Have fun! Enjoy the benefits your work from home setup offers.
Thoughts or insights? Let us know in the comments!
Facebook has long been the juggernaut of social media advertising, but if you feel like you’re not seeing the growth you want, it may be time to re-evaluate your brand’s relationship with social media.
You probably have an idea of who your target audience is already (and by the time you’ve completed our Branding Intensive, you know exactly who your audience is). With this information, you can make more informed decisions about how you use the social media options available to you and your brand.
But, as humans we often stick with the biggest and most familiar, which is and has been Facebook. We’re not advocating for a mass exodus from the platform, but encouraging you to branch out while keeping your audience in mind.
Here are some of your alternatives, and reasons to give them a shot:
If you’re new to Twitter or do not use it personally, it can be intimidating. What do you even say in 280 characters? (Turns out, not much more than when the limit was 140 characters.)
What Twitter truly excels at, especially for small businesses and entrepreneurs, is engagement. There’s nothing quite like getting a notification that one of your favorite personalities or brands liked or even replied to a tweet. Think about this from a customer perspective: how much more loyal does personal attention make you feel, especially when the internet can feel like an endless void?
The same principal goes for customer service. Twitter presents an opportunity to address customer complaints publicly, rather than one-on-one. Sound scary? Your bravery will be rewarded with a reputation for strong customer satisfaction.
Not everybody is on Twitter the same way seemingly everybody is on Facebook, but if your target audience is college-educated, above-average income millennials, you need to start taking advantage of this channel.
Instagram has over 800 million active monthly users you could be getting your brand in front of. Even better, they’ve added the ability for users to follow specific hashtags the way they would follow individuals. Plus, with expanded geo tagging, users who posted using locations saw 79% more engagement than without.
Where Facebook and Twitter and feel like a wall of text, Instagram is a more curated, inviting experience—and its user base is growing. 65% of the best-performing posts feature products. If your target audience is women or between 18 and 64 and you’re not on Instagram, you’re leaving money on the table.
Maybe you’ve written off Pinterest as too limited—it’s just moms and brides-to-be, right?—but chances are, it’s more diverse than you think. More importantly, it’s an effective way to drive traffic to your site, even if you’re not selling a physical product (although it’s a great way to market physical products, too).
While it falls under the heading of social networking, unlike Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, Pinterest is really more of a search engine. If you have a blog with valuable, niche-targeted content, there’s a good chance there’s an audience for it on Pinterest. Additionally, it’s a good way to conduct market research on who’s pinning and re-pinning your content.
If you’re an entrepreneur or thought leader, there’s a good chance you as an individual are already on LinkedIn. The platform was at one time much more utilitarian— essentially an online resume that people might only log onto to update.
If you have a personal profile, you might have logged in recently and noticed some of the changes the platform has made, specifically with respect to helping small business grow. It offers a level of transparency beyond what you might have on your own website. Things that didn’t necessarily have a home before, such as insight into individual employees and company culture are at home in this new format.
Some key things you can use these new features for: really highlighting your company’s brand and culture in a public way, attracting business, giving or providing advice, driving traffic, and, unlike most other networks, hiring talent. If you are in any way a thought leader in your field or if you’re looking for talent, LinkedIn is essential.
If you’ve been ignoring these social media platforms, it’s time to take a closer look! Your audience might be hiding in plain sight. If you’re unsure where to start, we can help you identify your brand’s position and audience—what you need to make your online presence as effective as possible.
Building a company blog is a great tool for getting the word out about your company, you can use this content for a lot of things, including…
However, you should never, ever ever start a blog that you can’t continue! Too often we see blogs that just… stop. It is the same old story for everyone… You get off to a great start, and then all of the sudden your last post is from 2016, and every new visitor to your website thinks you are dead or out of business.
Why do people stop?
Maybe it’s because they didn’t use the blog posts to generate traffic like they should have with ideas 1 through 4 above.
Maybe it’s because they forgot to put a Call To Action (CTA) at the end of every blog post, to turn those words into LEADS!
Maybe it’s because they did all of the above, and simply got too busy!
Maybe it’s because they didn’t have a good blog writer that they could call when they got busy?
What we do know is that these are simple problems!
The first step is to follow our 3 part plan…
Decide on a theme for every month. If you run a pet supply business it might look something like this:
It allows you NOT to have to think up ALL of your blog articles at once, you can just file each blog topic idea under the appropriate month as they come to you, and gives your creative mind the freedom to come up with interesting blog topic ideas as they come to you, knowing all the while that you have “just the right month” to cover it in.There are a few reasons to plan out a theme every month, including…
Once you’ve got your monthly topics all sorted out, now you can start brainstorming specific blog topic ideas. For example, let’s say that the pet supply company publishes a blog once per week, on Thursdays, in the month of March. Their calendar would look like this…
If you don’t come up with all of the ideas all at once, that’s ok, you have time, just make sure to record the ideas as they come.
Each blog has a lot more parts than just the words that you write. Make sure that you or your writer clearly stipulates exactly what every blog article should include, including…
That’s it! Follow this 3 part plan and you will be a blogger before the ink dries on a post-card. Just remember, if you don’t like to write, or read, you might be better off with a video blog, rather than a written one!
Thinking about a brand refresh for the New Year? Maybe you actually need a full brand overhaul instead.
In this post, I’m playing Judge Joe and weighing in on some common scenarios.
Pretend, for a second, that your company is a home.
Performing a brand refresh would be like making over the house. Maybe you just need some fresh paint; maybe you want to tear everything down to the studs and rebuild. Either way, the frame of the house still stands through it all.
Tearing the house to the ground and building something different—or moving to another house altogether? That’s a brand overhaul.
As you can imagine, one takes a lot less time, effort and money than the other. But which is appropriate for you?
We get it—things change, and no brand stands still for long.
If you’ve moved into consulting and away from products, for example, you may feel you need a clean break from what your business was in the past.
But take a look at your customer base—perhaps they’re willing to change right along with you. A full brand overhaul here could confuse your current buyers, and cause you to lose a lot of potential converts. A brand refresh is more in order.
Perhaps your founder has been involved in a scandal, or you’ve had a major client very publicly threaten to sue you, or you’ve fallen victim to any one of a thousand other things that can destroy a reputation in today’s fragile online age.
When all other hope is lost, rebranding is often the only hope left. Here we’d recommend picking up the pieces and starting again fresh.
Business owners often have a hard time looking at their own brands. As we’re fond of saying, “You can’t see the label on the bottle when you’re INSIDE the bottle.”
And this means that they’re often the last to know when a brand is outdated and in need of a refresh.
However, if those twinges of intuition DO come, it’s important to listen to them—but it’s also important not to make too much of them.
If your gut is telling you that there are too many fonts on your home page, too much going on in the logo, and too little clarity in the message you’re putting out to customers… Fine. It’s probably time for a rebrand. But don’t get carried away; you wouldn’t move to a new town just because your house needs a new coat of paint.
There’s a lot to be said for knowing not only which way you’re going, but also where you want to end up.
Ask an airplane pilot… Author Brian Tracy often talks about how, 99% of the time, airplanes are off-course. The job of the pilot, he says, is to constantly make course corrections to ensure that the passengers reach their destination.
But what kind of course correction do you need to make if you’ve been feeling LAX—but headed for JFK?
It’s not often that a simple refresh will help you out of a crisis of purpose. You may need to take all the baggage off the plane—pun intended—and chart a new flight plan entirely.
It can be hard to make a name for yourself in a sea of identical competitors.
And while competition is healthy—it shows, at least in theory, that other people are willing to pay for what you’re offering—that doesn’t make it any easier to deal with. ESPECIALLY if you look the same and talk the same as everyone else in your space
If you’re finding yourself constantly competing on price, and not on anything that you feel makes you different from all the rest, then it’s time to think about overhauling your brand.
Going through each of the 7 points in our 7-Point Brand Audit and consciously differentiating yourself is the first step toward rising up and claiming the position that should rightly be yours.
Not every brand needs a complete overhaul. In many cases a brand refresh would be sufficient—at least until it’s actually time to remake your brand.
But the flipside of that is also true. Sometimes a simple refresh just won’t accomplish what you need and more drastic measures are in order.
If you’re having trouble making the call, then call us instead.