It’s important for any business to have its own ‘brand’ and identity – and to protect that from copying or infringements.

Stephens Scown recently hosted a dinner for food and drink producers at the fantastic Old Quay House Hotel in Fowey, where Lucy Andrews from JKR design agency gave the audience an insight into the core elements of a brand and what these mean to both the business and consumers.

Guinness has the harp. Hovis has the boy on the bike. Heinz has the 57 varieties, and so on. The absolutely key element of all of these brands is the trade mark – the badge of origin that, in the beginning, serves to distinguish one producer from the other and, in time, serves to drive customers to that brand.

Locked within the trade mark is ‘goodwill’, or the reputation and value of that brand. It does not matter where Heinz produces its ketchup; it is bought the world over because it is Heinz ketchup. It has all the appropriate connotations and denotations that a Heinz customer looks for. Beyond the trade mark, the colours used, the shapes of the bottles and the layout of the labels all reinforce the brand; protection can be sought for those elements too, where they act as a distinguishing element. Coca Cola bottles are an obvious example.

Recent changes in legislation governing the labelling and identification of allergens has pushed many food producers to revisit their packaging. Lucy’s focus on core brand message rings true when you look at what food and drink producers have done with their packaging. It’s a very simple and effective step – increase the prominence of the key trade mark on the labelling.

Trade mark registration

So long as the trade mark is protected by way of registration, this is a safe way to continue growing value in the brand of the business. Where a trade mark isn’t registered, the risk is run that the mark (or something similar) is in use by another party – perhaps not in the UK but elsewhere in the EU. Even worse, the mark (or something similar) could be registered and owned by a third party. Infringement of a registered trade mark can lead to an injunction, the offering up or destruction of offending items, and an award for account of profits (financial settlement) – or a mixture of all three outcomes. Unfortunately, the argument that you’ve used your brand for many years does little to protect you in this circumstance and the ’least worst’ outcome would be that your business is restricted to its current trade, stifling chance of future growth.

Because of the power a registered trade mark has, it is sensible to ensure that your business has registered rights upon which it can rely. Otherwise, as your brand presence increases, you could also increase the risk of reputational damage that can’t be mitigated. Where you don’t have registered rights, checks should be run to ensure that you are not infringing a third party – and if you don’t, filings should be made as soon as possible. This is especially relevant where your brand is growing; the cost of redesigning packaging will always certainly be less than wiping the slate clean and starting afresh with a new brand.

What makes a strong brand?

Meanwhile, if you are yet to create a distinctive brand for your business, or you are considering refreshing your existing brand, what should you consider?

Perhaps the key thing is to think about what your business ‘stands for’. What values or qualities are you trying to portray? How do you want the customer to feel about your business? What do you want their first impression to be? From here, think about how that could be reflected in your brand in terms of your logo, your colours, your strapline, packaging and labelling, website etc. Try to make it all consistent too – it will only confuse customers if, for example, you have quite traditional and conservative packaging and then a very bright and bold website.

It’s often helpful to look at your competitors’ branding as well and consider what you like and don’t like about it. This can give you some useful pointers for your own business.
Ultimately branding comes down to creating something that gives you an identity that is different to everyone else. So try to identify what makes your business unique or special and develop from there.

At Stephens Scown we are proud of the work we do to help our food and drink clients manage their brands and reputation, create and sustain trade mark portfolios and enforce against infringing parties. If you’re concerned about the protection you have for your brands, contact us on or phone 01392 210700 / 01872 265100.