For the half-year to 30 June 2014, the IPKat's regular team is supplemented by contributions from guest bloggers Alberto Bellan, Darren Meale and Nadia Zegze.

Two of our regular Kats are currently on blogging sabbaticals. They are David Brophy and Catherine Lee.

Monday, 30 April 2007

INTA report: Day 1

This year's International Trademark Association (INTA) Meeting, ostensibly its 129th (though most of its predecessors were under the name of the United States Trademark Association), is by far the largest, with a record 8,524 pre-registrants, to which must be added those folk who just turn up at the event and register on-site. The venue, McCormick Place (right), is a vast and still-expanding facility which is as starkly and unappealingly utilitarian on the inside as it is strikingly handsome on the outside. Still, its functionality lies in its flexibility, which is just what an event like the INTA Annual Meeting needs when it has to cater for so many different types of meeting and presentation.

After registering and collecting the statutory black bag containing everyone else's registration details and an updated programme, the IPKat wiled away a couple of hours in catching up on the news with friends and colleagues from around the world. INTA is great for networking - the area just outside the Exhibit Hall being the best place to pick up on old acquaintances and make new ones.

Next on the IPKat's list of things to do was his annual visit to the Vossius reception. This involved venturing bravely forth from the McCormick to the Hyatt Regency Chicago (the Meeting's Headquarter Hotel, left) on the INTA shuttle bus. On his return, the Kat crossed numerous receptions off his "to-do" list on the basis that, given the size of Chicago and the time taken to get from place to place, it simply wasn't possible to get to them all. This is a pity: many firms go to great efforts to organise thoroughly pleasant and social events, but that effort does not always yield rewards. On the subject of hotel names, the Kat noted that eight of the nine "official" hotels contained the word 'Chicago' within its name. This is presumably to distinguish the hotel more easily from other hotels in the same group but from different cities, but for a foreigner in Chicago it tends to create the impression that all the hotels are called The Chicago Hotel.

After a brief tour of the Exhibit Hall and a meeting on the Berlin 2008 INTA programme the IPKat did something he rarely does, and even more rarely admits to doing: he attended the Opening Ceremony. The keynote speaker was James A. Skinner, Vice-Chairman and CEO of McDonald's Corporation, who spoke on the development and sustained effectiveness of the McDonald's brand. This was a remarkably interesting talk. At INTA there are no value judgments concerning "good" or "bad" brands, the organisation being premised on the notion that the protection of the law is open to all trade marks, irrespective of the economic, environmental, political or cultural impact of the goods or services sold under those marks. So, whether you're lovin' it or loathin' it, the experiences of McDonald's and its responses to both competition and criticism are well worth our attention.

Mr Skinner (left) explained the company's commitment to Quality, Service, Cleanliness and Value and its attempt to balance of interests between the company itself, its franchisees and its suppliers: only if each of the three can maximise its gains from its relationships will the enterprise truly succeed. He then outlined the fourfold evolution of a successful brand, moving from (i) the establishment of a distinctive identity, through to (ii) familiarity with the public, on the basis that familiarity breeds comfort, then (iii) the making of a set of specific and deliverable promises (in this case, "forever young"), and (iv) the building of a brand with authority - a brand that is the most trusted and admired in whichever sector it chooses to compete. It occurred to the IPKat that, while references to the consumer abounded in Mr Skinner's speech, the consumer did not appear to have a formal role within his brand development structure. That is not to say that McDonald's does not listen to consumers (the evidence is that it is increasingly doing so), but rather that the assumption is that the consumer is there to be led - not to lead.

But this is a debate that must continue on another day for the IPKat, after a failed attempt to network at the "Red Hot Chicago" evening reception at which the music drowned out his best efforts at conversation, hung up his whiskers and went to bed. After all, he has to conserve his strength for Tuesday's 5K run.

2 comments:

Peter Groves said...

INTA might not discriminate between good brands and bad ones, but I have my own values and so do we all as individuals. I noticed that the identity of the keynote speaker was revealed by email only a couple of days before the event, which I suspected might have been to avoid the possibility of critics organising themselves. I toyed with the idea of mounting my own anti-McDonalds demonstration, but in the end I made a completely invisible protest by staying away, like most people. It might have been interesting to learn how you keep a brand at the top of the charts while attracting so much flak for destroying rainforests, causing obesity, paying paltry wages and all the other things that McDonalds is alleged to do (there, that can't be a McLibel, I'm only talking about what critics say). But I'd rather feel I hadn't added to the credibility of the brand.
This posting is entirely my views. My employers would be appalled if they thought I might be holding myself out as speaking for them, though they might not disagree with my opinions.

Peter Groves said...

And by the way, did he acknowledge Bob Dylan for "Forever Young"? One of my all-time favourites.

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