The term "branding" originates from the practice of marking cattle with a branding iron to differentiate them from the stock of other farms. But the concept of branding as we understand it today is far removed from those humble origins.

Brands are no longer limited to a logo or name; branding comes in many shapes and forms ranging from colours (think of the iconic Cadbury's purple), slogans (Nike's "Just Do It"), curated social media posts (the Samsung celebrity selfie), and even ideologies (Mac vs PC users). Branding also extends beyond what your company creates, because your brand depends on how it is received, perceived and shared by consumers.

The value of a brand

It is very difficult to put a specific value on a brand, yet most companies recognise that their brand is the most valuable financial asset they own. Brands now do a lot more than just differentiate; they create an identity, inspire trust and loyalty, build emotional connections with consumers, and encourage people to choose you over everyone else. Successful branding allows you to influence consumers, and with that power comes great responsibility.

Protecting your brand

While there is really no limit as to what brands can be, their flexible and intangible qualities mean that we often don't treat them like physical assets of a business. You probably take steps to insure your office or your stock, but have you thought about how you should be protecting your brand? If you don't take steps to protect your brand, you are exposed to the real risk of having your brand stolen, misappropriated and used against you. Similarly, if you don't conduct proper checks before you start using your brand, you might be in for an unpleasant surprise when you discover you have been infringing someone else's rights.

Fortunately, there are many ways that you can utilise intellectual property and trademark law to ensure your brand is legitimate and protected. For a small amount of effort and expense, you can attend to the legal aspects of your branding strategy now and avoid running into serious problems in the future.

After all, why go to the effort of building a powerful brand, if you can't brandish that power?

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.