Several years ago I started my own patent and trademark law firm. To brand the firm, I applied lessons learned from clients of all sizes in nearly 30 years of practicing trademark law. I also paid particular attention to how the Internet has changed the game of brand identity. This article imparts actionable knowledge about brand identity that can help your business succeed using the example of my law firm, Whitmyer IP Group.
Given that Google remains the de facto gateway to the Internet, selection of a logo may seem like an odd place to start in building a brand identity in 2018. But a good logo is essential for everything from establishing a favicon for your website, to a Google My Business page, to a LinkedIn site for your fledgling enterprise. The small, approximately square image file punches above its weight in creating a strong brand identity. It can be used in email signatures, press releases and to identify blog entries in the online world, and can also be used on letterhead, business cards and signage in the brick and mortar world.
A good logo is distinctive in your market and simple in design but still manages to build the basic tenets of your business into your brand identity. The Whitmyer IP Group brand identity and logo directly reflect our new patent and trademark law firm. Intellectual Property (IP) is the basis of our law practice, and a cloud-based infrastructure is the organizing principle of our business.
An initial sketch of our logo resonated with the founding group of attorneys for just these reasons. Technology is part of WHIPgroup’s DNA. We are an innovative patent and trademark law firm running on private-cloud computing and wireless technology. We operate with fully electronic files, and offer our clients an ever-expanding array of IP Cloud services.
We aren’t graphic artists. And we aren’t marketers. So, we took this sketch and turned it over to the professionals at Firstborn. They honed our little doodle into a professional brand identity and logo. There was much thought involved in converting our hand sketch. From the final logo you can see that our initial sketch was an important first step, but there were many key refinements.
The cloud shape has been simplified and married to the shape of the “IP”. The logo is presented in a very specific color defined as: Hex# 075DAA, RGB 7/93/170 or Pantone 285. The font has been specified as Museo and Museo Slab. When and wherever possible, we reinforce our brand identity by using this logo, this color and this font.
Since IP is such a large part of our law firm identity, we also wanted to use it in our name. After settling on Whitmyer IP Group, we quickly reserved the .com domain and a corporate name, Whitmyer IP Group LLC, under which we could later file our corporate papers.
Using our font color and logo Firstborn created a logotype which is the name of the company rendered with its logo. You can see the Whitmyer IP Group logotype on our letterhead, business cards, emails, website, and each of our social media accounts: Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, Twitter and Xing because it includes both our logo and our corporate name, reinforcing both.
Internet Name Selection
Having a great logo is important but it’s not enough because clients and potential customers can’t find your business based on its logo. They are going to need an Internet name to find your business, because they are going to look for it on Google. Your company name or logotype is a good place to start when considering an Internet name, but it is not always the best answer.
Recognizing that whitmyeripgroup.com is a bit lengthy for an Internet name and that the spelling of Whitmyer is not unambiguously clear, we also registered several short form domain names: whipgroup.com, whipgrp.com, and others. On Firstborn’s advice, we settled on whipgroup.com as our main public Internet name for web and email for several important reasons. First, “whipgroup” is a word with unambiguous spelling and therefore is relatively easy to remember and unlikely to cause confusion. There are shorter possibilities but they aren’t words.
Second, domain names such as “whipgrp” that are shorter but rely on alternative spellings are problematic for branding. It’s easy for potential clients to get misdirected in a Google search due to confusion over the alternative spelling. Alternative spellings that generate confusion include such things as omitting vowels, converting vowels to numbers or special characters, and using a plural or international spelling (e.g., “colour “instead of “color”). Internet names relying on such alternative spellings often face immediate confusion issues with domains based on the more regular spelling.
Third, domain names based on acronyms have branding challenges similar to those for alternative spellings. Virtually any three- or four-letter acronym has multiple claimants, making its use for branding purposes likely to cause confusion. The multiple claimants also means that the acronym you want is almost certainly no longer available. Even if you were able to obtain and have used an acronym-based domain name for a period of years, you should give serious consideration to transitioning your Internet name over to a word-based domain.
Fourth, domain names such as “whip.group” ending in something other than .com can also cause unnecessary confusion. Using a different extension requires your clients and potential customers to remember multiple words to find you online because they can’t just assume your domain ends in .com.
In addition to using WHIPGROUP as our Internet and email domain, our social media accounts reinforce this choice with custom URLs ending in WHIPGROUP. It may take a threshold number of followers or a certain period of use to establish a custom URL for your social media accounts, but the benefits will be worth the effort on any platform that clients or potential customers or employees use on a regular basis. Yes, I wrote and meant employees because social media accounts tend to be person-centric, so clients and potential customers may find your business by first locating an employee who is linked to your business.
If this seems like an excessive amount of effort at selection and protection of a branding program, it shouldn’t. We are committed to solving IP problems in a creative and cost-effective manner, and we followed the advice we give all our clients. At WHIPgroup, our clients come to us for our superior technical and legal know-how and we leverage our skills with advanced cloud-based technology to obtain quality results.
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