Research Now to Avoid Headaches Later


“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Benjamin Franklin

Developing and creating a marketing campaign can be a very time-consuming and expensive process. They can be months or years in the making and can carry large budgets on the creation and execution sides. After they have launched, the last thing anyone wants to read or hear are the words “cease and desist.”

Therefore, it is important that before any campaign launches or even gets very far in the process, you take the time to research any potential issues. Companies like Disney are often in the news for the lengths they go to protect their trademarks. From a legal standpoint, if companies do not protect their identities from the beginning, they will have a harder time doing it later. So often, even the most innocent of mistakes can result in a harsh letter being issued, or worse.

However, legal troubles may not be the only issue by launching a campaign without doing some research. For example, is your tagline similar to another organization’s? Does it have any meanings that could be misconstrued as a whole or to a particular audience? Is it designed for the right audience? Is everyone in the organization on board with the marketing campaign?

Here are a few tips to help head off any initial problems when developing a campaign.

Investigate potential trademark issues

While you may or may not be interested in trademarking your campaign, another organization may have already done it. The United States Patent and Trademark Office has an online database that you can search. It provides information on logos, words and phrases, down to the typography and color used.

Do an internet search

It may seem an elementary concept but taking a few minutes to Google your idea can help you determine if it exists in any form already out there. No one wants to launch a campaign only to find out that a similar one exists already. However, don’t just search for the tagline. Try adding words like geographic or industry terms that relate to your organization. For example, “close to home” is an exceedingly popular tagline in relation to healthcare and other industries. Adding “healthcare” to the search brings up pages of results of organizations that use it. While a situation like this may not get you into legal trouble, do you really want a campaign that doesn’t set you apart? You may also discover that while another organization is using something similar, they may be far away geographically or industry-wise and not cause any issue.

Involve the right people

While I discourage getting feedback from too many people, it is imperative to involve the right people from the beginning. If you don’t know who those people are, take the time to find out. We often end up in a silo when working creatively. We know what the idea is, what it means, how it can be used, etc. Then someone else comes along and all of a sudden, emails are flying, phones are ringing and you’re pumping the breaks on the project or even throwing it out entirely for any number of issues.

Know your audience

Who is this campaign trying to reach? It should be assumed that you know already, but do you? We’ve all seen an ad and thought, “Wow, they really missed the mark on that one.” Make sure you’ve taken the time to determine who your organization’s audience really is. A strategic facilitation is a great way to help determine this and the answers may surprise you. This will help you zero in on the exact message you’re trying to share. This has the added benefit of usually involving the right players from the beginning.

While there’s no way to predict every issue that can arise, taking the time to do a bit of research before you get too far down the rabbit hole can save major headaches later on. If some of these tips seem a little daunting, Chartwell can help.

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