What is a Branding Strategy? The key to its success lies in its trademark! [in Japan]

How are you doing with your branding strategy?

I’ve been tasked with the branding strategy for a new product in Japan, but I don’t know what to do.

I’m sorry to hear you’re having trouble.
By the way, have you identified the target and concept of your new product?

I thought a lot about those things.
But after that, I am having trouble figuring out what exactly I should do.

I see.
Then, as a first step, you should get the “trademarks” under control.
Branding and trademarks are inseparable.

What is a branding strategy?

“Branding” refers to “the marketing strategy of a company or organization to increase its value to customers through empathy and trust in its brand (from Wikipedia, Japanese version).”

Branding strategy (brand strategy) is the strategy used to implement this “branding”.

Recently, the spread of smartphones and social networking services has drastically changed the way we think about marketing.
Now that anyone can research, compare, and communicate with others, anyone can become famous and popular at once, depending on how they brand themselves.
Therefore, strategic branding is required regardless of the size of the company.

Benefits of a Branding Strategy

What happens when branding is successful?

Differentiation from other companies (other companies products and services)

When purchasing a product or service that does not differ much in price or quality, consumers are inclined to choose a brand whose name they know.
As brand recognition and trust grow, the very fact that it is the brand differentiates your product or service from those of competing companies.

Customers will become loyal to your brand

A branded product or service with a good image will make customers want to use it over and over again.
Moreover, they will not only use the product or service themselves, but will also want to spread it around by recommending it to family and friends, talking about it on social networking sites, and so on.
Also, if a new related product or service is launched within the same brand, they are likely to want to try it too!

Highly profitable pricing

As discussed above, a brand with a good image and a high level of recognition and trust will be able to sell on its own.
Of course, the quality of the product or service itself is what makes it sell, but even if the price is set a little aggressively, customers will choose the product or service with the feeling that “it must be good because it’s from that brand!”

Implementing a Branding Strategy

A branding strategy roughly includes the following phases.

  1. determining the concept:
    Identify what kind of image you want the brand to have, what its strengths and appeal are, what value it can provide, etc.
  2. target setting:
    Determine the customer/consumer segments that fit the concept.
  3. actually reaching out to the target audience:
    Advertise to the target audience with a high degree of appeal.

In practice, this pattern will not always work.
In some cases, 1 and 2 may be in reverse order. In many cases, these will also be set during the development stage of the product or service.

3 would be the execution phase to actually make customers aware of the brand.
At this point, there is an important point that must be kept in mind when implementing a brand strategy.

It is the “trademark”.

Brand = Trademark

Trademarks are like product names, right?
I thought branding was about a larger field, but is it not?

Trademarks are not limited to just product names.
The name of a product series or the name of a company is also a trademark. Besides, a single word that describes the selling point or message of a product is also a trademark.
In Japan, a product’s packaging itself or the color of a store’s signage can also be a trademark.

Even those things are trademarks!
So almost anything that appeals to customers is a trademark!

How to “do branding” has a lot to do with how to “do trademarks.”

Every product or service has a product or service name.
These product and service names are “trademarks”.

The name of the product or service is essential to introduce and promote the brand, product, or service.
Therefore, a trademark is the cornerstone of branding.

What is a trademark?

A trademark is a mark that you use to distinguish your goods and services from those of others.
And each country has its own registration system for trademarks, and a trademark registered under the system in each country is called a “registered trademark”.

Trademarks that are not registered can also be used.
However, in Japan, using a trademark that is similar to another person’s registered trademark for similar goods or services constitutes “trademark infringement”.
The use of the trademark may then be enjoined or compensation for damages may be demanded.

Therefore, be sure to register your trademark in Japan if you intend to use it in Japan.

By registering your trademark, you can use it safely.
Conversely, it will also prevent competitors from registering and using similar trademarks.

For more information on the trademark registration system in Japan, please see this article.

Trademarks for Branding

So, what should you pay attention to in deciding on a trademark from a branding perspective?

Avoid trademarks that directly represent the content and/or quality of the product.

It seems familiar to customers if the name of the product or service is used to describe the content and/or quality of the product or service.
However, one of the requirements for trademark registration in Japan is “distinctiveness”, i.e., the ability to distinguish one’s products from those of others.
Trademarks that describe the content or quality of a product or service are rejected for registration on the grounds that they do not have the distinctiveness.

Trademarks that cannot be registered are difficult to continue to be used exclusively over the long term.
Therefore, it is wise to avoid such trademarks.

Trademarks made up of words that at first glance do not have a clear meaning are difficult to convey to customers what the product or service is about, and in the short term are difficult to be recognized in some aspects.
However, once it is established in the market, it will be a strong right because it is easy to be remembered by people.

Decide on the designated goods and services in anticipation of future developments

When registering a trademark in Japan, it is necessary to specify what kind of goods or services the trademark will be used for.

In Japan, once a trademark application has been filed, it is not possible to add designated goods or services later.
It is possible to file a new application designating the goods or services you wish to add. However, a new application fee will be required.
It can also happen that when you want to use an existing trademark on a new product, someone else has already registered the trademark in relation to the new product before you.

Therefore, if you plan to expand the use of your trademark to other products or services in the future, it is advisable to designate the goods or services even if they are still in the “planned” state.

Determine the purpose of use and importance of the trademark

The degree of importance depends on whether the trademark is the name of an individual product/service, a series or category of them, or a company name.

If the trademark is just the name of one product or service, it is possible to change it if something goes wrong. But if it is a company name, it cannot be easily changed.
The company name is considered to be the most important because it is the brand for the entire business.

However, this does not mean that individual product or service names are less important.
The names of individual products and services are also the ones that attract the most attention from the customer side. This is because they are used directly in the transaction with the customer.
The popularity of a product can lead to a series of products. Thus, an individual product name may later evolve into a series or category name.
In this sense, each product or service name should be chosen with an eye toward the future.

Strengthen your branding with a trademark!

Strategically deciding on a trademark and securing the rights to it through application and registration will play a major role in overall branding.
You could say that “branding strategy = trademark strategy.”

Nevertheless, applying for and registering a trademark in Japan requires a certain amount of specialized knowledge.
However, the problem is that it costs a lot of money if you ask a trademark specialist (i.e., a patent attorney) to handle the entire process.
(*If an applicant has no address in Japan, it is mandatory for the applicant to entrust a Japanese attorney to the trademark procedures.)

We recommend “Amazing DX”!
Amazing DX is an online service that allows you to easily and inexpensively apply for and register your trademark in Japan through a collaboration of AI and patent attorneys.

Please use this convenient online tool to make your branding strategy a success!

For your branding, a trademark application is very important.

Let’s sign up and search for the trademark which would be obtained safely.

Supervisor for the article:
大阪法務戦略部長 八谷 晃典
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