South Africa: The Trade Mark Legacy Of Brand Guru Wally Olins

Last Updated: 27 May 2014
Article by Waldo Steyn

Most Read Contributor in South Africa, September 2018

There was a fascinating article on the late Wally Olins (brand guru and co-founder of the firm Wolff Olins) in The Economist  recently. The piece brings home just how much Olins's thinking has shaped trade mark law and practice over recent years. Here are just a few examples:

'G.K. Chesterton got it half right: when people stop believing in God, they don't believe in nothing. They believe in brands.  Companies spend as much time thinking about their brands as their products.'

It may be an uncomfortable fact for some, but there's no denying that, in an increasingly secular world, brands play an increasingly important role for consumers.  For some, brands are aspirational, for others, the brands they use say something about them – "I'm cool, I'm rich, I'm on the way up, I'm a maverick, I have a sense of humour". Companies, of course, recognise this fact, and they understand that their brands are often their most valuable assets. They also realise that a commercial value can be placed on brands, which is why brand valuation is now an important specialism, one that's practised by lawyers and various other professionals.

Brand valuations are now commonplace, and top brands like Apple  and Google  are valued at US$70 billion plus - The Economist might think that some of the valuations are 'a bit spurious'  (we would have to disagree!), but it does acknowledge that the Millward Brown consulting firm estimates that the top 100 brands worldwide were worth some US$2.6 trillion in 2013. The publication goes on to say that 'branding's footprint is unlikely to be downsized soon'.

The trade mark is not the brand itself, but simply its identifying feature. The Interbrand firm has defined a brand as 'a mixture of attributes, tangible and intangible, symbolized by a trademark, which if managed properly, creates value and influence.' To put it another way, if the brand - which should, of course, promise consistent quality - is the 'promise kept', the trade mark is the 'badge of origin'.  Companies understand this very well, and they're prepared to invest heavily in legal protection for their badges of origin.

'He told his clients they needed to think more seriously about the collective identity of their organisations: if nurtured, this would provide them with a unique selling proposition in a crowded market, and an emotional connection to their customers.'

The 'collective identity'  of an organisation! Yes, this can cover anything from telephone manner to response times, but it certainly covers all those weird and wonderful things that we now like to think of as trade marks, and that companies love to go to court about. Things that go way beyond product names.  Things like:

  • Logos - Apple's  Apple Device, the NIKE  Swoosh, the Adidas  three-stripe motif.
  • Slogans - Everywhere You Go, Connecting People, You Always Get Something Out.
  • Signatures and photos of individuals - usually celebrities. 
  • Product shapes – the KitKat  chocolate bar; the LINDT  bunny.
  • Colours - MTN's  yellow, Cadbury's  purple, Christian Louboutin's  red-sole on its shoes. 
  • Trade dress - the Apple  store layout.
  • Gestures - Gareth Bale's  slightly weird goal celebration.

And nurturing?  This involves a number of things. First, registering the trade mark, and registering it fast – SAFA forgot to do this with the Bafana Bafana  trade mark and it eventually had to buy Stanton Woodrush's registration in the all-important clothing category.  Second, policing the trade mark - making sure that no one causes consumer confusion, that the trade mark isn't diluted, that it doesn't become a generic word.  Whilst maintaining some perspective and keeping the PR dimension in mind - in other words, enforcing intelligently. Third, controlling the authorised use, making sure that all authorised users like licensees are doing it right, maintaining consistent quality.

'He also applied brand thinking to an ever-wider range of institutions from individuals to NGOs to museums to cities to countries.'

Witness how everyone now registers and enforces trade marks. Sports teams like Manchester United, individuals (particularly celebrities) like David Beckman, the new-born offspring of celebrities (Blue-Ivy, the child of Beyoncé and Jay-Z, had the good sense to register her name as a trade mark within a month of her birth), NGOs like Amnesty International and WWF, political parties (both Cope and Agang have been involved in trade mark disputes), old men with ponytails and Harleys (Hells Angels), even cities and countries!

'Olins recognised two great truths about the modern capitalist economy. The first is that the most precious resource in a noisy, crowded market is people's attention. The second is that consumers are not just looking for utility in the things they buy. They are also looking for meaning. "In the absence of a spiritual mentor" he once declared with his signature nonchalance, "the idea of what a brand stands for – Just Do It, or whatever it is – is a substitute".'

Getting attention, what better way of doing it than by creating a distinctive trade mark!  One that will also be easy to register, because distinctiveness lies at the very heart of trade mark law. Perhaps a made-up word like Xerox  or ooba  (so much better than the old name, SA Mortgage). Perhaps an ordinary word used out of context, like Sahara  or Blackberry  or, of course, Apple. But not one that will fail to set you apart from the rest, and that you'll struggle to register and enforce – like perhaps American Airlines.

And then how about a distinctive pay-off line as well, one that captures the spirit or meaning that consumers look for in your brand.

JUST DO IT!

Wally Olins was certainly an influential figure. But it's worth bearing in mind that his thinking wasn't all new.  A century ago the CEO of Quacker, John Stuart, said these now-famous words:

'If this business were to be split up, I would be glad to take the brands, trade marks and goodwill, and you could have all the bricks and mortar – and I would fare better than you.'

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Authors
Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
ENSafrica
ENSafrica
ENSafrica
ENSafrica
 
Some comments from our readers…
“The articles are extremely timely and highly applicable”
“I often find critical information not available elsewhere”
“As in-house counsel, Mondaq’s service is of great value”

Related Topics
 
Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
ENSafrica
ENSafrica
ENSafrica
ENSafrica
Related Articles
 
Up-coming Events Search
Tools
Print
Font Size:
Translation
Channels
Mondaq on Twitter
 
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
 
Email Address
Company Name
Password
Confirm Password
Position
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Accounting
 Anti-trust
 Commercial
 Compliance
 Consumer
 Criminal
 Employment
 Energy
 Environment
 Family
 Finance
 Government
 Healthcare
 Immigration
 Insolvency
 Insurance
 International
 IP
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Litigation
 Media & IT
 Privacy
 Real Estate
 Strategy
 Tax
 Technology
 Transport
 Wealth Mgt
Regions
Africa
Asia
Asia Pacific
Australasia
Canada
Caribbean
Europe
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
U.K.
United States
Worldwide Updates
Registration (you must scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of www.mondaq.com

To Use Mondaq.com you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.

Disclaimer

The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.

General

Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions