Joel English, Managing Partner at BVK, presented further insight on health brand architecture at the SHSMD annual conference last week in Seattle.
Brand architecture defined. Brand architecture is how all the pieces of a brand and its value promise fits together. Healthcare brands can include many brands components. Joel provided the following example of a fictitious health brand ecosystem:
- Driver Brands: Anchor University Hospital – part of True Health
- Strategic Brands: Anchor Medical Group
- Endorser Role: True Health
- Silver Bullet: Anchor Burn Care
- Sub Brands: Anchor Health Plan; Anchor Visiting Nurses
Types of brand architecture.
- Branded House. The main, driver brand that drives other brand business units. An example is Virgin and Virgin Mobile.
- Hybrid Brands. Both the main (endorser) brand and the sub brand play a driver role. An example is Marriott, which has Residence Inn (by Marriott) and Courtyard (by Marriott).
- House of Brands. A house of brands is where there is an umbrella brand that owns several subordinate, individual brands. An example is Unilever and all of its various consumer brands.
No matter what brand architecture is selected, it is advisable for health care systems and providers to take the following steps as an integral part of its naming taxonomy.
Trademark clearance. For all names, slogans, and logos that will be used, a full trademark search should be conducted. A proper search includes a search of the USPTO records as well as common law, unregistered third-party uses. Why? Because under U.S. law, trademark rights vest at use, not registration. Therefore, a competitor could sue you for trademark infringement based on a federal registration or its own unregistered trademark use.
Apply for registration. A determination should be made whether the trademarks to be adopted or used constitute protectable trademark matter. If a qualified trademark attorney determines this is the case and that the search revealed no problematic third-party trademarks, then a federal trademark application should be prepared and filed. Note that U.S. applications may be based on either existing use or a bona-fide intention to use in situations where the trademark and associated goods or services are still in development.
Develop Brand Usage Guidelines. Proper brand usage guidelines serve two purposes: brand uniformity and legal protection and compliance. Both are equally important to the well-being of a healthcare brand.
Editor’s Note: To discuss brand clearance and protection for your health care brands, you may contact James Hastings at Collen.