Last Monday, this Kat attended the 2011 Brands Lecture, organised by the British Brands Group. This year's lecture was given by Rory Sutherland, who is the Vice-Chairman of Ogilvy Group UK. The title and write-up of the lecture on The British Brands Group's website sounded intriguing: “Accountability is not enough….” - “is there a way to gain the engagement of the accountants, rather than just their amused tolerance?”
Like most IP lawyers, this Kat very much sees trade marks from a legal perspective, so that this talk gave her an interesting insight into the world of branding and marketing, even though she feels that her summary does not quite do it justice. Speaking from a marketing perspective Mr Sutherland’s talk was intriguing for this Kat as it explained the different facets of a brand, many of which lawyers rarely ever think about.
After a short and concise introduction by John Noble, Director of the British Brands Group, Mr Sutherland started his lecture by stating that there should be a change of vocabulary when it comes to marketing and brands, in particular when it comes to the question of “accountability”, which comes into play when branding and marketing experts [or indeed trade mark lawyers] interact with “accountants” and other management (i.e. people that think in numbers). Mr Sutherland then defined “accountable” as “what you try to be if you want to spend your life speaking to accountants”. He went on to say that the language of marketing and branding may sound impenetrable (“similar to astrology”) when overheard by people that do not share it. Something that perhaps just as much applies to the various legal concepts related to trade marks (“dilution”, “detriment”, “likelihood of confusion”, etc.). So what other language could potentially be used when talking about brands?
|Signalling -- or branding?|
The next concept he mentioned related to the behavioural economics idea of “loss aversion”: “satisficing” (as in: satisfy/suffice) versus “maximising”. Mr Sutherland mentioned the slogan “No one ever got fired for buying IBM” as an example of this concept. While many companies try to market their products as the best possible purchase, Mr Sutherland argues that most of the time however consumers will be happy (“satisfice”), with “a pretty good product and at a reasonable price”.
Another interesting concept was that of “framing”, how one brand (e.g. Coca-Cola) “needs” another (e.g. Pepsi) and the idea of "path dependency" and complimentary goods that are ideally sold together (cinema and popcorn). As to accountability, Mr Sutherland concluded that he had “issues” with how the term was used as it was “too apologetic and defensive”. Bearing in mind that the talk had lasted a good 45 minutes longer than scheduled and after some learned Q &A, John Bebbington closed the session just as concisely as John Noble had opened it.
At the end of this lecture, this Kat for once felt that she had a genuine idea of what the “advertising function” of a trade mark might mean to non-lawyers but still wondered whether she was now equipped to talk to accountants about trade marks.
If you are interested in hearing and watching this genuinely entertaining talk, do check the British Brands Group website: the event was filmed and will eventually be posted on the British Brands Group’s website.
Many thanks go to Adam Smith (World Trademark Review) for giving this Kat some extra note paper during the talk. To read Adam’s summary of the lecture, click here.