As we all know, the core competitiveness of enterprises lies in two aspects: products and brand. More and more enterprises are aware of the importance of brand. Brand has become the main source of corporate profits and survival basis, and it is also the power source of market innovation. Consumers' impression of corporate brand stems from their understanding and feeling of the brand value. Through product promotion and sales by enterprises, the brand image is deeply rooted in the heart of customers so that the purpose of guiding demand and promoting consumption can be fulfilled.To achieve rapid development, enterprises must establish the sense of brand and manage their brands.
1. “Trademark” is the external manifestation of “brand”
Objectively, “brand” must be shown as “trademark”1. Trademark, as an intangible asset, has an incomparable advantage over other characteristics of the product, and has a great impetus to the development of the enterprise. First of all, the trademark is the symbol of a product,it indicates the source of the product, transmits the information of the new product to consumers, and plays the role of creating consumption, stimulating and guiding demand.Secondly, the trademark represents the inherent quality and standard of the specific product that it is attached to.To a certain extent, it shows the producer or operator's responsibility for the quality of the product. Consumers can choose and identify the product via the brand among the competing ones of the same kind. Therefore, the trademark is a type of information resource and can create value. Once the trademark is well known to consumers through broadpropaganda, the market can be opened up and benefits be brought to the enterprise.
The enterprise displaysits image and reputation to consumers through the distinctiveness, novelty and other specific features of the trademark, deepensthe impression of consumers on its products, attractstheir attention, stimulatestheir desire to buy, and ultimately achieves the goal of expanding product sales.At the same time, a good brand image can also enhance consumers’ loyalty to the trademark, prompting them to buy repeatedly. Therefore, the higher the popularity of trademark, the better the image and reputation of an enterprise.
For multinational corporations, the trademark portfolio
should be well managedfrom the historic perspective at the beginning of establishment.
2. Trademark transnational application requires considerations of multiple aspects
2.1 Establishing an omnibearing protection system
The most effective way to achieve transnational protection for the trademark is to take preventive measures to avoid potential risks. Enterprises should formulate and adjust their protection strategies in a timely manner and have an expanding perspective. They should designedly register the trademarks in batches in some countries or regions with potential markets and constantly pay attention to the changes in theseplaces so as to prevent major troubles by spendinga small amount of money. According to the list of export countries and the types and nature of the products, enterprises shouldfocus their attention on trademark registration in the key countries or regionsby selection with emphasis, thus avoid the waste of resourcescaused by overextended registration.Overseas trademark registration can be carried out in stages and batches.
In addition, enterprise should pay attention to registering trademarks on the product/service categories to which it may extend in the future or may cause confusion with its current product/service. In this way, they can prevent others from taking advantage of the enterprise’s reputation and also leave room for theoperation of intangible assets in the future.
2.2 Be careful with trademark naming
As for trademark naming, the enterprise should be far-sighted and take into account the cultural differences in different target areas in order to avoid violation of the taboos in particular countries or avertundesirable meanings in local languages; Try not to use the widely used English vocabulary which will be eventually rejected due to the lack of distinctiveness. Therefore, in the trademark design stage, the enterprise should carry out trademark search in the main target areas, anddetermine the application schemebased on the prospects oftrademark granting inthe target areas.
2.3 Developing strategies based on the characteristics of different countries
For the countries with the principle of application or registration first, such as Japan, Korea, Italy and so on, registration should be done as early as possible. Otherwise, it will leave opportunities for others to register first. For the countries with the principle of use first, such as the United States, Canada, Singapore and so on, the trademarks should be put into the commercial use as soon as possible2. In these countries, it is also crucial to preservethe evidence of use, including product sales website, sales contracts, advertising materials, product specifications, packaging, product propogandamaterials, sales invoices, etc.Even if others register first, the trademark right can also be recovered through opposition action, invalidity action and other procedures based on the evidence of actual use.
2.4 Timely use in the registered countries
If the trademark is registered successfully, it must be used in time in the registered country. According to the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), “if a trademark is required to maintain registration, it can only be cancelled without being used for at least three consecutive years, unless the owner of the trademark is justified on the basis of the obstacles to the use of the trademark.” In practice, the countries in the world generally stipulate that a registered trademark can be revoked for three or five years without use. Therefore, after registration, the trademark must be activelyusedand the relative evidence should be retained as much as possible. Maximizing its use is the best protection for the registered trademark3.
2.5 Do a good job of Monitoring and protection
Trademark registration is only the first part of trademark work for the enterprise, that is, the confirmationof the right. After obtaining the right to a trademark, the enterprise should maximize its interests within the validity period and avoid the third-party infringement or hitchhiking. The real function of a trademark is to create a brand effect through extensive use, so that consumers can accept and be loyal to the brand. If a third party infringes upon or conflicts with the trademark rights, the enterprise should reasonably take various legal measures to prevent it from infringing or registering the trademark.
3. Corporate brand management strategy
Brands are much richer than trademarks in terms of maturity and connotation/extension. Brand is dynamic, which includes a series of actions, such as production, scientific and technological development, follow-up investigation, after-sales service, building brand personality, cultivating brand culture and so on.Products are specific, which can be touched, felt, heard, and witnessed by consumers. Theyhave certain specific functions that can meet the use required by consumers.The process from the appearance of the products to the creation of the brand is the process of the formation of consumers’ brand experience based on their experience of product use andis the process of thecoherence propagation of the product information for a long time. It is also the process that operators, designers and planners always pay attention to the consumers and the process of continuous interaction and communication between brands and consumers4.
In the course of transnational operation, the enterprise should not only manage the layout of trademarks, but also formulate a brand management strategy for itslong-termdevelopment.
3.1 A harmonious brand portfolio
To have a harmonious brand portfolio is the basic condition for modern enterprises to effectively participate in international market competition.In the early 1990s, Barwise et al., the prominent marketing professors at London Business School, predicted that brand portfolio would dominate the marketing in the 1990s (Barwise andRobert son, 1992).
A sign of brand management maturity is the separation of brand management from product management.Similar to product portfolio, a brand portfolio composed of many brandsalso exists in large enterprises. The so-called harmonious brand portfolio does not mean the simple accumulation of many independent brands, but their organic combination. Different brands play different roles and support each other so that a synergy effect can be created5.
In order to build a harmonious brand portfolio,the following strategic actions can be taken:
3.1.1 Streamlining the number of product brands
Excessive brands not only results in the scattering of enterprise resources, but also leads to a disadvantageous position in the international market competition due to the lack of the main brand. Therefore,the enterprise should concentrate on cultivating the flag brand. The focus of brand building should be on cultivating flag brands with international influence.
Famous strategic management experts Hamel and Prahalad vividly compared the structure of a future enterprise to a house in their book the Great Competition of the Future: the core competence is the foundation, the core products and core technology are the pillars of the house, and the roof is the corporate brand or flag brand. They believe that flag brand is an important source for enterprises to gain lasting competitive advantagein the future.
The so-called flag brand refers to the main brand of the enterprise which possesses a higher place in the brand portfolio, plays a core role and is the focus of the marketing investment of the enterprise. Generally speaking, theflag brand has a high reputation and good image. Its customer association is abstract with strong extension ability, which can be used in a variety of products at the same time, playing a role in annotating and promoting product sales.An enterprise may have only one flag brand, such as Body Shop, Intel, Nike, Virgin and so on. Their flag brand is the cooperate brand; it can also have several flag brands at the same time, such as Gillette Company's Gillette, Sensor, Gel, Series, etc.
3.1.2 Paying attention to collaboration and cooperation among brands
In brand portfolio, different brands in different levels have different functions.The flag brand is the most well-known. It can convey the management idea of the enterprise to the public, reflect its strength and reputation,and help to attract the attention of consumers and enhance purchase confidence; product brand can easily express the specific functions and characteristics of the product and convey its unique selling point.If we combine the characteristics of different brands skillfully and establish appropriate links between flag brands and product brands to achieve mutual support and promotion, we can get twice the result with half the effort.
There are two main ways to establish collaboration and cooperation among brands: first, co-branding, that is, two brands are used at the same timein promoting sales.Gillette Company is a typical example. It sets the theme of the company's flag brand Gillette as "Men's Best Choice" and prints it and the name Gillette on all its product packages. When advertising a product, it highlights the meaning of its flag brand "Gillette" and relies on its reputation to help its product be successfully accepted by customers.This co-branding strategy has madea great success when Gillette launched the Sensor series, and soon helped Gillette gain a good new image around the world. Second, the flag brand is included in the product brand. For example,Nestle adds the word "Nes" to many product brands, such as Nescafe, Nestea and Nesquik, etc. In this way, Nestle can make use of its popularity and good reputation to promote product sales, and also strengthen the market position of Nestle brand.In the middle of the 1990s, Nestle has become one of the top 10 most valuable brands in the world.3M Company also adopted this approach in its new strategy by introducing products using 3M plus a generic product name or an existing product brand name. Corporate brand and product brand support and complement each other. In recent years, some enterprises have also made use of external resources to establish brand strategic alliance5.
3.2 Fostering the concept of international brand
The success of multinational corporations in implementing their brand strategy in the Chinese market is inseparable from their concept of brand globalization. As far as Chinese enterprises are concerned, fostering the concept of international brand is the primary foothold for implementing brand internationalization.Only when entering the international market and successfully develop their own brands, canthe Chinese enterprisesbecome famous international brands.To this end, the Chinese enterprises must first develop the concept of international brand. Only in this way, the implementation of thebrand internationalization strategycan be really promoted.
3.3 Consolidating the cornerstone of brand internationalization
The core competitiveness of enterprises refers to the most basic competitiveness, which can help to keep long-term and stable development and obtain excess profits for the enterprise.It is the basis to gain long-term and stable competitive advantage, and the organizational capability which combines skills, assets and operational mechanism organically6.Most multinational companies have unique core competitiveness, like APPLE, which knows how to use brands, ideas, and excellent design to demonstrate its value.Brand is the external manifestation of the core competitiveness. Brand positioning is a value positioning based on the marketfrom the customer's point of view, which persuadesand wins customers and strives to meet the psychological needs of target customers and generate consensus. Therefore, brand is the most valuable asset of Apple Inc.
Core competitiveness can not only help the enterprise gain superiority in the main business and form its own distinct brand characteristics, but also provide support for the enterprise to open up the relevant product market and expand the dominant field. In contrast, the Chinese enterprises lack such necessary core competitiveness. Therefore, there isstill a long way to go for them to enter the international market, and tamping the core competitiveness is one of the important prerequisites.
At present, the Chinese enterprises are devoting themselves to the great cause of creating state-owned famous brands and world-class brands and have achieved initial results in brand building. But in general, the brand management of Chinese enterprises is still in its infancy. Problems such as confused brand portfolio, lack of detailed strategic planning for brand construction and imperfect brand management system are still quite common. Therefore, they should learn from the successful experience of world-class companies in brand management, actively digest the successful experience of foreign countries, create a brand management model suitable for themselves, speed up the process of brand internationalization, and lay a solid foundation for international development.
1. The Relationship between "Brand" and "Trademark", http://www.tm91.com/.
2. Li G, Xu Y, Four Tactics for Overseas Trademark Registration, Operator, 1st Issue, 2002.
3. Liu Y, Notice of Oversea Trademark Application andRegistration, China Trademark, 4th Issue, 2015, total 212nd Issue, P. 40.
4. Gao J, Analyzing the Difference between Brand and Trademark and Product, Science and Technology Business Monthly, 10th Issue, 2015.
5. Fan XC, Strategic Adjustment of Brand Management in Western Multinational Corporations, Foreign Economy and Management, 10th Issue, 22nd Volume, October, 2000.
6. Zong YJ, Li LZ, Brand Strategy of Multinational Corporations in China and Its Enlightenment, Journal of Huaihai Institute of Technology, 3rd Issue, 12nd Volume, September 2003.