The Brand Magic

What is a Brand?

There are many definitions toward the concept of a “Brand”. At the one extreme, brands defined in principally physical terms akin to a definition of a trade mark, with source identification and differentiation as the two key objectives.

On the other extreme, brands are defined in terms of intangible values primarily directed at the relationship between the consumer and the manufacturer. In part this diversity of opinion as to what constitutes a brand name can be explained in terms of the evolution of the brand concept.

Thus, the more traditional approach tend to be based more on the physical attributes associated with a brand, and the more contemporary approach tend towards its intangible values.

Professor Phillip Kotler[1] based his definition of a brand on that of the traditional 1960 American Marketing Association (“AMA”) definition which describes a brand as:

“A name, term, sign, symbol or design, or a combination of these, intended to identify the goods or services of one seller or group of sellers and to differentiate them from those of competitors”.

From the above definition, we see that one of the essential requirements of a brand is distinctiveness which can lie in the name, symbol, logo or packaging of the brand.

According to Aaker[2], the requirement for distinctiveness serves two purposes:- 

  1. Firstly, it acts as a means of identifying the source of the product (ie. It serves as an indication of origin function) and;
  2. Secondly, it acts as a mean of differentiating the goods of one provider from those of a competitor (ie a differentiation function).

Aaker goes on to state that the brand is the only distinguishing element between two otherwise identical products, articles, thus emphasizing the function of differentiation.

David Arnold[3] goes one step further, observing that:-

“The top 10 brands ... are virtually all leaders in their markets. This cannot be explained by the weight of their advertising or some inherent product superiority, or the catchiness of their name, even though they all score well on these count. [Research] suggests that the real key to market leadership is superior perceived quality. Not inherent product quality, only the perception of the quality by the consumer”. 

This “perceived quality” or “added value” as it is sometimes termed, is a nebulous concept. It can be based upon the packaging style or the appearance of the product, the advertising used, the belief that the brand is effective (as in the case of pharmaceutical products), the sort of people who use the brand (eg social status) or the experience of the brand (eg where it has been used before).

Arnold also emphasis that :-

“Branding is about the way people perceive, and not about the product in isolation”.

Mr. Southgate, an advertising executive and author of “Total Branding” also explains[4]:

“If you think of a brand only as a mark denoting ownership you can slap it on anything – and many brand owners still do. But this is to use branding in its crudest and simplest form. It is to use branding in the same way as the Wild West ranchers used itu, simply to say ‘this is mine’.

To think of a brand as a set of ‘intangible values’, by contrast, is to understand something which is absolutely crucial in the successful development of brands today. And, that is that brands do not exist, in any meaningful sense, in the factory or even in the marketing development. They exist in the consumer’s mind”.

Nilson asserts that when a consumer is make a purchasing decision, the consumer will first and foremost concerned about acquiring a product and is not concerned about emotional or intangible aspect of a brand, in his view:

“The physical purchasing action is caused by a decision to acquire a product; the brand is there to serve as a means of identifying the manufacturer. The values of the brand will reflect on the product, but one must not forget that it is the product that is bought”.

It is true that purchasing decisions are often motivated by the desire to acquire a particular product to satisfy a perceived need, buying behavior is complex and is influenced by many factors. In some situation, the physical features of a product will be the most important factor for the consumers, but in other situation, intangible factors may have an important role.

For example, when purchasing a car or technical equipment, the consumer may place special emphasis on the image associated with the particular make or style in question, its reliability or social status. The extend to which intangible factors help determine the purchasing decision will vary according to the nature of the consumer, the nature of the product, the channels through which the product is marketed and the level of advertising associated with the product.

Why register your Brands?

If a brand owner is considering extending the use of a brand name or other mark, trade mark protection has a number of attractions, not least the fact that it lasts considerably longer than copyright protection in relation to commercial items. 

A trade mark may be your most valuable marketing tool. The public will identify a certain quality and image with goods and services bearing your trade mark. If you are thinking about a new product or service and you want to establish an image for it, you should also be thinking about a distinctive trade mark under which to market.

What are the benefits to register a trade mark?

As registered trade mark owner, you:-

  1. Have the exclusive right to use your registered trade mark as a brand name for the goods or services specified in the registration; and
  2. Have the exclusive right to authorize other people to use your registered trademark for the goods or services specified in the registration; and
  3. have a registered trade mark, which is personal property and can be sold; and
  4. have a registration, which covers the whole of Malaysia; and
  5. may give the Malaysian Customs Service a notice objecting to the importation of goods that infringe your registered Trade Mark; and
  6. can stop other people from using your trademark as their brand name on the goods or services of your trademark registration.

What are the difference between trade mark and my company/business registration?

Trade mark is a letter, word, phrase, logo, picture, device, label, ticket, name, signature and numbers aspect of packaging or combination of these. Registration of the Trade Mark gives the owner the legal right to exclusively use or control the use of the mark for the goods or services for which it is registered. Registration is obtained under the Trade Mark Act 1976 and covers the whole of Malaysia.

Business name (ROB) is the name under which a business operates and registration identifies the owners of that business. Registration is compulsory for every business owners before the commencement of the business. Unlike trade mark, business names do not provide proprietary rights for the use of the trading name.

Company Name (ROC), or registered body, must be registered with the Malaysian Securities Commission (SC). If a company wishes to trade using a name other than its registered company name, it must register that trading name as a business name. Unlike Trade Mark, company names do not provide proprietary rights for the use of the trading name.

Lawrence Yip Jiun Hann, LLB(Bond)

Registered Trade Mark Agent

Registered Industrial Design Agent

[1] Nilson, Valued Added Marketing (McGraw Hill, Maidenhead, 1992) p.19

[2] David Aaker, Managing Brand Equity (Macmillan, NY 1991) p.7

[3] Arnold, The Handbook of Brand Management (Financial Time Pitman Publishing, London, 1993) p.14

[4] Total Branding by Design (Kogan Page, London,  1994) p.18

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