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Content: to be free or not to be free?

 

There is a growing debate in professional (including legal) communities as to whether and how much free content professionals should provide? Does providing free content make you a thought leader? Does it make your advice more valuable? Or does it dilute the value since so much information can be had at no cost?

I am a firm believer that providing a wealth of content is good for several reasons, including:

- Establishes expertise/credibility

- Answers questions and helps people

- Improves search engine rankings

- Improves name recognition and awareness

People searching for free information are unlikely to become good clients/partners anyways. And those searching for information will find it somewhere – why not find it from me? And those who recognize the experience and thought leadership demonstrated in the content will see the value in having such a person “in their corner” advising about the specifics of their situation.  

While much of law and the world may be more and more about efficiencies and reducing barriers, there is no substitute for individual, specific advice that pertains to a real world situation. Yes, anyone can fill out a form; but that does not mean they should. I could fill out IRS forms myself, but that does not mean that I would know how to taking advantage of the rules and savings and tools that are possible. I could even try to take apart and engine and re-build it, but I might cause more damage or worse yet hurt myself.

In my field of trademarks, it is probably true that a ten year old — or a computer — can fill in the fields in a trademark application. But that application may not properly reflect the mark, the goods/services, and many other things. Can the automatic form generator analyze and determine:

Who owns the trademark? Is the trademark in use by the applicant? Is there a potential conflict? Should a logo or a standard character mark be filed? Is it is certification mark? Which description of goods or services is the most accurate? How many International Classes are required? What constitutes proper evidence of use? Should I seek maximum protection or the path of least resistance to obtaining a valid registration? Who is eligible to sign the application? Should a logo be filed in color or black and white? Do I have a system established for monitoring and tracking the status of the application to ensure it does not get abandoned? If the trademark becomes registered, when will it need to be renewed? What symbol should be used with the trademark?

These are just a handful of the many questions that can factor into representing a client for “simple” trademark application. The list of questions about doesn’t even address any of the much more complicated questions that may arise if a substantive refusal is issued by the USPTO.

I provide clients with real value because my experience allows me to advise them regarding the many issues and questions that can and do arise in the process of protecting and registering a trademark. As a result, I am not afraid to provide general information and advice in the form of free content on FacebookTwitterYouTube, theApptorney® iPhone application and this IPelton® blog.

I was recently quoted on these same concepts in an online article from SHRM Online: Should Consultants Give Away Intellectual Capital? (member only access) published by the Society for Human Resource Management. Here are a few excertps from the piece by Lin Grensing-Pophal:

Pelton, an attorney with Erik M. Pelton & Associates, PLLC in Arlington, Va., said: “Generally, my philosophy is that in today’s day and age providing a wealth of information is a good thing and is generally advisable.”

Pelton, who said he provides free information through blogs, podcasts and videos, said: “You may find something valuable in an article, but that can never replace having one-on-one, specific guidance or consultation for a real situation.” 

Pelton advised HRconsultants to take steps to protect that information through the proper use of copyright and trademark notices, something that he finds few do…. “Every time there’s original content, whether it’s an article or a video or audio piece, or even a graphic, they should use a proper copyright notice,” he said. HR consultants might choose to file a copyright notice with the U.S. Copyright Office or might decide to trademark their business name or aspects of their practices.

SHRM: Society for Human Resource Management

Do you believe that content should be free?

 

 

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Top Trademark Trends in 2010

Top Trademark Trends in 2010

By Erik M. Pelton

In 2010, many of the biggest news stories touched on the world of trademarks in some manner. Facebook and Apple were active taking steps to register and protect a variety of trademarks. But the most notable trademark story of 2010 was the release – and subsequent retraction – of a new GAP® logo. Here are the 10 most significant trends in trademarks for 2010:

1.     New logos. Many companies unveiled new logos in 2010, including Aol., Hertz, Comedy Central, iTunes, MySpace, MTV, and Kayak. Few of them were enthusiastically embraced and several bombed, such as the GAP. Customer reaction to the new GAP logo was very strong and fueled by Facebook pages, twitter posts, and websites. Within days, GAP cancelled plans to use the new logo and filed to abandon the application it had filed with the USPTO. The GAP incident reflects the strong bond that consumers and brands enjoy and the significance of a good trademark which resonates with customers. Companies looking to re-brand in 2011 should heed this message and evaluate whether a new logo is really the best way to do so.

2.     iPhone Apps.Names and logos for mobile software applications are increasingly a battleground for trademarks and brands. Apple recently registered many of the icons for its programs on the iPhone, including:

In 2010, several companies fought over app names and listings in Apple’s app store; this trend is likely to increase in 2011.

3.     Facebook.As Facebook continues to grow, so does the reach of its trademarks. In 2010, Facebook went after ‘Teachbook’ and ‘Faceporn’ and was preemptively sued by ‘Lamebook’. In addition to trying to stop those it believes are infringing or diluting the Facebook brand, Facebook filed a slew of US trademark applications in 2010 to protect terms including “Like” and “Face.”

4.     Reality TV Stars.Reality TV stars realize that trademark registration helps maximize the value of their brands. Snooki and The Situation each filed for trademark registration in 2010, and Kim Kardashian filed four trademark applications in 2010 for her brands.

5.     Social Media.Proper usage of brands and logos on social media websites is more important now that customers expect every major brand to have a social media presence. Companies that do not set up and use social media websites to promote their brands may find fans or competitors misusing their names. For example, the NFL Players Association, in anticipation of a possible lockout next year, set up a website at nfllockout.com. But someone already owned the Twitter handle ‘nfllockout’. After a formal complaint to twitter, the NFLPA was able to obtain control of the Twitter account. The ‘gaplogo’ Twitter account is controlled by someone mocking the GAP.

6.     Trademark Scams. Trademark owners are increasingly targets for a variety of scams. Worthless foreign or business ‘registers’ and ‘directories’ continue preying on owners of registered trademarks, as do a variety of domain name scams, particularly for the .cn, .hk, and .asia extensions. Trademark owners should carefully examine all solicitations regarding their trademarks and ignore those for meaningless publications.

7.     BP.The Gulf oil leak was a major news story in 2010. The BP brand has weathered the  storm fairly well due to good advertising and a strong brand. Ironically, the BP logo is very green and natural, evoking thoughts of the sun, flowers, growth, youth, and cleanliness.

8.     Stories in the News: The Tea Party & WikiLeaks. While the ‘tea party’ movement was prevalent in the headlines in 2010, the name was also quite active in the world of trademarks. More than 30 U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (“USPTO”) applications in 2010 contain  ‘TEA’ and ‘PARTY’. While WikiLeaks, another newsmaker in 2010, is not a registered U.S. trademark, in 2010 more than 20 applications were submitted to the USPTO containing “WIKI”, including WIKISOAP, WIKIGAME, WIKISHOE, WIKIPAD and WIKITUBE.

9.     ‘Bullies’ study.As part of a bill passed by Congress in 2010, the USPTO is conducting a study about overreaching trademark enforcement efforts and their effect on small businesses. The USPTO has issued a request for comments and has said that it will hold public discussions on the issue in early 2011. More details at http://bit.ly/tmbulliesstudy

10.  Trademark filings increase. As the economy rebounds from a recession, trademark filings at the USPTO are increasing, though still not at pre-recession levels. Through November, more than 256,000 U.S. trademark applications were filed, an increase of about 4% compared with the first 11 months of 2009.

What to watch for in 2011:Social media and iPhone® applications will continue to be hot areas for brand development and trademarks. Look for companies to be more cautious about launching new logos on the heels of The GAP’s disaster. As the economy continues to rebound, look for successful businesses to realize the role intellectual property plays in their success, and look for trademark filings in 2011 to increase another 5% to 10%. Celebrity trademark stories will continue in 2011 as reality stars, professional athletes, and entertainers continue protecting their brands. Finally, look for Facebook to continue expanding the reach of its brands and trademarks, but don’t be surprised if a public backlash disapproving of the company’s overreaching efforts to control words such as ‘face’, ‘wall’ and ‘like’ eventually forces Facebook to take a more conservative approach to its trademarks.

About Erik M. Pelton:  Erik Pelton is the founder of Erik M. Pelton & Associates, PLLC, a boutique trademark law firm in Falls Church, Virginia. Established in 1999, the firm has registered more than 1,400 U.S. trademarks for clients, represented dozens of parties in Trademark Trial and Appeal Board disputes, and practiced before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. In 2010, Erik presented on trademark and social media issues to a variety of audiences, including Harrisburg University’s Social Media Summit, Corporate University Xchange, and the Software Industry Conference. Erik’s blog about trademark and social media issues, IPelton®, can be found at www.ipelton.com.

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Top Nine Trademark Application Mistakes

Thinking of applying for trademark registration with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office? Of course, registering a brand name, slogan, or logo is a very good idea as it enhances your protection and value of the trademark.

However, if you plan to file a trademark application be aware of the following nine ways to make an error that could prevent it from becoming registered or limit its effectiveness even if registered:

  • Failure to search first. Without first doing a comprehensive search, you do not know whether someone may already be using a similar name for a similar product or service, or whether there is a pending application or registration that could block your application.
  • Not including the proper logo or wording as the “drawing.” The wording of the proposed trademark and the image of a proposed logo cannot be significantly or easily amended. There are procedural restrictions regarding any such amendment. As a result, errors in the wording or the image can derail an application.
  • Listing the owner incorrectly. Who owns the trademark and the application? A corporation? An LLC? An individual? A partnership or joint venture? It must be identified correctly or the application could be void.
  • Not knowing whether the trademark is currently “used in commerce.” U.S. trademark applications can be based on current use in commerce or a bona fide intent to use the trademark for the goods or services identified in the future. Stating that there is a current use in commerce when there is not could affect your rights. And stating that you intend to use the trademark when you are already using it in commerce can mean that your application will take longer and cost you additional government filing fees.
  • Improper description of goods or services. The scope of the goods or services in the application cannot be expanded after the initial filing is made. In addition, if there is a potential conflict, defining the goods or services with the potential conflict in mind may be significant.
  • Is the trademark used as a “collective membership” or “certification” mark? Certification marks and collective memberships marks are special types of trademarks that require special applications with additional information and evidence. A certification mark is used by authorized parties to show that goods or services meet certain qualifications and standards. A collective membership mark is used by the members to signal their membership in a group or organization.
  • Filing with the U.S.P.T.O. TEAS form or its TEAS-Plus form? When using the “TEAS-Plus” form, an applicant saves $50 per Class filing fee, but agrees to certain restrictions. Two significant restrictions are (a) selecting only a description of goods or services which is in the USPTO’s database, and (b) agreeing that all flings for the application will be made electronically or be subject to an additional fee.
  • Properly signing the application. For an application to be valid it must be properly signed. To be properly signed, the signatory must have the authority and/or title that meet the USPTO guidelines.
  • Make sure you receive USPTO emails. The USPTO will generally send all correspondence regarding the application, including the filing receipt and any Office Actions, to the email provided in the application. It is critical to make sure that USPTO emails are not blocked by any spam filter and can be received.

© 2010 Erik M. Pelton & Associates, PLLC. All Rights Reserved.

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Trademark Tip: 5 Free Ways to Monitor Your Trademark

To maintain and increase protection of a trademark, the owner must guard against unauthorized use or infringement. Generally, the sooner such a situation is discovered the easier it is to resolve, and the less impact it will impose upon the trademark owner. Conversely, the more money an infringer or cybersquatter has invested into his or her business, name, or website, the more likely her or she is to put up a fight against a claim of infringement. Doing nothing about a known infringement situation for a long period of time can lead to laches, a legal theory that could prevent you from later enforcing any rights you may have once had. On the other hand, evidence that you have vigorously pursued infringements can be used as evidence in future trademark disputes to demonstrate the strength of your trademark.

As a result, consistent monitoring of a business' trademarks has great value because quickly finding and addressing infringements costs less and generally strengthens your mark.

Here are 5 free resources for monitoring your brands:

  • Google Alerts: Google will grab items from all over the web - including news, blogs, and websites - and will then email you results matching your trademark.  You can be alerted daily, weekly, or "as it happens." This is a wonderful resource.  If you have a name with multiple words, consider using quotes. Also consider creating several alerts with variations of your trademark(s) in spelling and spacing (and singular vs. plural).
  • Scour the web:Search a variety of websites for variations of your trademarks.  Set a "reminder" in your task or calendar program to do this monthly. A great website for searching multiple search engines is Window1.
  • Industry search:Make a bookmark list of several main online resources in your industry. News sites, publications, blogs, etc. - any site with comprehensive and popular coverage of the relevant industry.  Search on those main sites for your trademarks quarterly.
  • USPTO:The USPTO records of registered and pending trademarks can be searched for free. Check quarterly for any new applications that might be infringements of your trademarks. Consider variations in spelling, sound and spacing in your searching to capture names which may not be identical but very similar.
  • Username search:Check for usernames containing your trademarks that are registered and used on the major social media and other websites. A free search of 400 social media websites is available from KnowEm.

Tip: Once you learn of a possible infringement, unauthorized use, or cybersquatting, consult an attorney for options to address the matter.

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Brands Make Mistakes Too- remember ‘New Coke’?

Brands are controlled and managed by humans.  As a result, brands make mistakes.   Remember Pepsi Clear and Crystal Pepsi? McDonald’s Arch Deluxe? Microsoft Zune? The XFL?  But the most notorious brand failure was New Coke.  25 years ago this month, after a fortune spent in research, testing and marketing, Coca-Cola unveiled a “new” formula of soda that was supposed to reverse its declining market share in the soda wars of the 1980′s.  The product was launched with a press conference at Lincoln Center and workers renovating the Statue of Liberty were given the first cans to take home.

Initial sales were OK.  But quickly a backlash began.  The formula was not loved despite the testing.  The new logo abandoned the decades script lettering.  The media jumped all over the story.  Widespread complaints from Coca-Cola’s core customers noted that they like Coke just the way it was.

The Change to Coke Classic

Coca-Cola did not deny the backlash for long.  In fact, they aggressively moved to un-do their error.  Within 77 days it began pulling New Coke and restoring “Coke Classic®.”  They came to understand that the brand and its connection with consumers was more important than any formula or test.  “There is a twist to this story which will please every humanist and will probably keep Harvard professors puzzled for years,” said the company President and COO at a press conference. “The simple fact is that all the time and money and skill poured into consumer research on the new Coca-Cola could not measure or reveal the deep and abiding emotional attachment to original Coca-Cola felt by so many people.”

And they embraced the decision to revert once it was made.  They didn’t hide from it.  They gave the first case of Coke Classic to one of the most outspoken purists who had formed a group to lobby for the old formula.

In the end, sales rose to numbers higher than before the release of “New Coke” and the company’s connection with the hearts of its customers was strengthened based on the way the company reacted to their outpouring and reversed their decision so quickly.

The “New Coke” disaster turned out to be the best thing for Coca-Cola.  We all make mistakes.  How a brand reacts to a mistake is critical; it could spell the end, or it could lead to better brands, better connection with customers, and more sales.

Lesson: If a branding mistake is made, recovery is possible.  Don’t run and hide from the mistake — correct it and learn from it.

(C) 2010 Erik M. Pelton & Associates, PLLC. All Rights Reserved.

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To Tweet or Not to Tweet?

Social media have totally invaded our environment. It is virtually impossible to go through a day without encountering these new techniques and technologies in one way or another—whether it’s blog posts, Facebook groups, Twitter postings, YouTube videos or more.

Many individuals and businesses are using these tools to innovate, promote themselves, or to stay close to their customers. For some, the move to integrate these techniques is sensible and straightforward and they jump right in. But many others are cautious or concerned about whether it makes sense to engage in social media, and, if so, where they should start.  Still others ask if their business would suffer if they fail to engage in these new approaches.

In other words, is it ok to be anti-social?

The answer: It depends. Of foremost importance is understanding who your customers are, where they go to find information, and how you can best reach them.  If your customers are already using Facebook or Twitter, then it make sense to be there to engage with them. However, if they aren’t there now, then your time and effort are better used to reach them where they are today.

It’s simplistic to think of social media as free. True, there may be no upfront, out of pocket cost, but the time and resources required to manage a Facebook group or make regular postings to a Twitter account can be substantial. Consider not only what it will take to establish an online social media presence but resource required to maintain an effective presence. Is this something you’re ready to fully commit to? 

Finally, make sure your marketing efforts are integrated across online and offline media. Customers see you and engage with you in multiple ways. Be sure they get a consistent message and see a consistent visual identity no matter where they may encounter your company and brand.  Be sure your online identity meshes with your offline brand.

The bottom line: Just like in real life, too much oversocializing is likely to result in burnout. Use moderation and common sense to connect with your customers and win.

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Identify Untapped Intellectual Property with a Trademark and Copyright Audit

Do you know if all your business’ brands are properly used, protected, and registered?  Are you sure that each potentially valuable trademark has been identified (such as blog and website titles, re-designed logos, new product offerings)?  Have you ensured that contracts and webpages add to your protection instead of poking holes in that protection?

An annual trademark and copyright audit is the solution to stay on top of your trademark needs. Once you recognize that your company’s intellectual property is among its most valuable assets, conducting such an audit is preventive maintenance to help avoid costly breakdowns (gaps) in protections.  A trademark and copyright audit includes an in-depth review of the legal and marketing picture surrounding your businesses’ intellectual property.

A thorough audit could cover:
- proper usage of trademark symbols in advertising and packaging
- registration and renewal of all brand names, slogans and logos
- identify new brands that can be leveraged into tangible intellectual property
- placement of proper copyright and trademark notices on website
- inclusion of proper copyright and trademark clauses in contracts with employees, contractors, clients, and more
- set up free and easy monitoring of trademarks
- placement of proper copyright notice on materials
- ensure registration of essential copyrights
- review insurance policy for intellectual property coverage
- insure proper handling intellectual property created in partnership with others
- insure proper treatment of intellectual property assets purchased from others
- protection of domain names
- create usage guidelines for employees and contractors
- determine whether protection of trademarks outside the U.S. is needed

Why is such an audit so valuable?
- prevents unintended lapses in protection
- guards against unexpected liabilities for trademark situations
- guards against devaluation of trademarks
- a failure to police and enforce trademark rights can damage or destroy the value of a brand
- useful for developing or updating strategic plans related to new products or services or extensions of product lines
- allows maximization of the benefit your company receives from its trademarks and copyrights
- helps educate employees about the company’s trademarks and copyrights

Tip: If you have never had a trademark and copyright audit performed, what are you waiting for?  Contact me for details if you are interested, or stay tuned for further posts about this new service offering from Erik M. Pelton & Associates, PLLC.

Originally published in IPelton blog @ http://ipelton.wordpress.com/2010/04/07/tip-trademark-and-copyright-audit/

(C) Copyright 2010 Erik M. Pelton & Associates, PLLC. All rights reserved.

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5 Simple Ways to Protect Your Brand

[Originally published in Dumb Little Man blog here.]

Trademarks are often some of the most valuable assets of a business – legend has it that Coke® is the second most well known word in the world after “hello.” The Google® brand is estimated to be worth more than $20 billion. A trademark is a brand name, logo, or slogan that distinguishes your business’ products or services from those of competitors. Regardless of how big or small the business, the value and protection of brands is critical, particularly in the online word of today where domain names and user names (such as Facebook® and Twitter®) can be key to connecting with customers.

To help protect your brand(s), here are five basic steps to strengthening your trademark protection:

  1. Choose Wisely
    The more creative your brand name is, the greater the odds that it is unique. A more distinctive and create name or slogan is generally more capable of standing out among the competition and becoming a brand with real value. Which sounds like a more exciting brand, a more valuable brand: “Jim’s Gym” or “Vantage Fitness“? “Cincinnati Frozen Yogurt” or “fraîche”? “Joe’s Pizza” or “Pie-tanza”? “Search.com” or “Google”?
  2. Use it
    The more you use your trademarks – brand names, logos and slogans – the stronger and more distinctive they become and the more your likely customers are to remember your brand and to use it to tell others about it.
  3. Distinguish It
    Use ALL CAPS, bold or italics to emphasize your brand as often as you can. Then the customer knows exactly what your brand is.
  4. Apply to register it
    Registration with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, a federal agency and part of the Department of Commerce, enhances the protection and the value of your trademark assets. Registration allows use of the ® symbol, provides substantial benefits and savings if you ever have to go to court to stop an infringement, and may help stop cybersquatters from registering new domain names. See http://www.uspto.gov/teas/index.html for more information.
  5. Create Google Alerts
    An easy and free way to monitor for others copying your brand or commenting on it. If you find a possible infringement, contact the offender and if unresolved, contact an attorney. www.google.com/alerts.

These 5 steps are relatively easy – and 4 of them are free. Use them to help strengthen your brand and increase its value. Maybe someday someone will want to buy it or license it from you!

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Lessons from the College Campus

Lessons from the College Campus

Several weeks ago we had the opportunity to send our daughter off for her first semester of college.

As any parent knows, this is both an exciting adventure and a scary one – it's a very strange feeling to realize your little girl is now a full-fledged adult with all the thrills and responsibilities that entails.

If you haven't been on a college campus in awhile, let me tell you things have changed.

From the college application process through applying for financial aid to choosing courses and paying bills, everything is now done online. Gone are the old room keys and meal tickets – replaced with a single mag stripe card that does everything from let you into your dorm room and the cafeteria to allow you to make purchases at the college bookstore and ride the local buses.

Dorm rooms are now wired for both internet and cable, but not for telephones. Landlines have gone the way of the pay phone – obsoleted by the ubiquitous cell phones students carry anyway. Best of all, there’s no more need for rolls of quarters for laundry machines! A swipe of the card and your laundry charges are now handled electronically, automatically deducted from your running balance.

Still, amidst all of this technology, I was struck by how much things are still the same.

Yes, you can order your books on line, but for the most part, courses still require physical textbooks, just like the old days. Yes, faculty and students interact online and through email, but classes for the most part still require physical attendance and activities. Yes, every internet savvy college student is on Facebook, but introductory get-togethers and parties still happen in person. Yes, updates on sports activities are available on the net, but football games still attract a huge campus crowd in the stands each weekend.

I'm sure some schools are more savvy than others, and there are some that are integrating bleeding edge technology none of us have even imagined. But instead of jumping on technology for technology's sake, it appears that colleges overall have done a fairly good job of integrating new technology with the old, tried and true to create a meaningful college experience.

From a business perspective, we're often tempted to jump into new technologies to show how advanced and up-to-date we are, without knowing whether or not these tools will help us achieve our goals of revenue growth and profitability.

The lesson here is not that the end justifies the means, but rather that a variety of means – old and new integrated together – are often the best way to reach the end. Rather than throwing out the old and focusing just on the latest and greatest hottest fad, there's value in keeping the end in mind – adapting those tools and techniques that make the most sense to get you where you want to be, without throwing away the stuff that still works.

So yes, you may want to integrate Web 2.0, social media, and other techniques into your marketing program, but you also want to keep the old-school programs that are still working for you today – the ones that continue to reach your target audience and deliver your message.

Think about the marketing programs and initiatives that have gotten the best results in the past. Are they still relevant now? Can you update them by integrating new technology? Given the current economy, are you still targeting the right people? How can you make your offerings more relevant to the people who are most likely to need them in today's environment? How do you combine the best of both worlds?

After all, those middle of the night dorm fire drills still happen in real-time and real life. Students can tweet about it all they’d like, but that won’t stop them from having to stand outside shivering and cold when the bell rings. And that's part of the whole experience.

What lessons can you apply for your business? Contact us for a complimentary marketing assessment. We'll evaluate your marketing initiatives and help you create a plan that gives your organization straight A's.

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New Year, New Outlook: Why Chicken Little Should Be Cooped Up

 

We just returned from a ski vacation to Colorado. We found plenty of snow and plenty of people at the mountain and in the shops and restaurants in town in the middle of the week, too – in spite of frigid temperatures with a wind chill factor below zero.

That's pretty impressive, considering that we're in the midst of the worst recession in 100 years and lift tickets sell for nearly $100/day.

What was more impressive was that in spite of the doom and gloom you hear from the media, things seemed pretty much normal.

People were out having fun, spending money, and living their lives.

This is not to demean the horrible economic environment of the last year and a half. Thousands of homes lost to foreclosure and an unemployment rate in double digits are not to be taken lightly. Many, many people are out of work or have had to downsize their lifestyles to adapt to the new reality. But, on the other hand, the stock market finished a great year, the financial system appears to have been stabilized, and all signs indicate we're on the way to recovery.

As we usher in a new year and a new decade, let's to take a few moments to reflect on what we can learn from all of this, and how we can apply this to build our businesses moving forward.

  • If it's too good to be true, it probably isn't. For years, we thought real estate, the stock market, and the economy in general could only go up. We should have known better, and we should have been prepared for inevitable economic downturns.
     
  • Too much of a good thing is still too much. Whether it's bigger homes or cars or leveraged investments, there hits a point of diminishing returns. When that happens on a macro scale, the entire economy is out of balance.
     
  • Money is still green and people are still spending it. They may not be spending as much or as often, but consumers will still spend money on goods and services that they feel are necessary or important to them. Witness the growth in pet care products in spite of the recession.
     
  • Innovation doesn't stop. Smart people love tough problems. Disruptive situations cause smart people to look at things differently and change the future with their innovations.
     
  • There *will* be a next new thing. We don't know what it is, but it will be here sooner than you think. And it's as likely to be invented by the people next to you in America as anywhere else in the world.
     
  • There's always opportunity – somewhere. Sometimes it might require stepping back and taking a different look at the situation. Many people on the ski slopes had discount tickets. But once they got to the mountain, they paid full price for food and drink, parking, après ski activities, etc.
     
  • Quality and value are still appreciated – at all price points. Whether it's a quick takeout menu or an expensive sit-down dinner, those who provide quality and value will always be appreciated. Conversely, cheap or low quality is not appreciated and won't be tolerated – even at a low dollar value.
     
  • The basic laws of marketing still work. To be successful, you need to offer quality goods and services to people who value your product and have the means and desire to pay for them. It's that simple. Everything else is window dressing.
     
  • Finally, the sky is not falling. The world is not ending. Armageddon is not here. The free world as we know it has not collapsed and imploded on itself. Chicken Little should be cooped up and sent away.
     

Given all of this, what are you doing to take advantage of the opportunities that will become available to you in 2010? How are you preparing your organization and your customers for the new reality? Is your marketing ready for the next challenge?

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