Her comment reminded me how both close, yet how removed, trade mark practice is from branding. Trade mark lawyers deal with issues such as likelihood of confusion, source identification, and inherent distinctiveness of trade marks. At the end of the day, however, the trade mark profession is apparently there to serve the further interests of the brand. What the brand manager wants is the assurance that all is quiet on the trade mark front, so that the she can get on with the task of developing and sustaining value in the brand.
I was reminded of this when reading an article that appeared in September 19th issue of The Economist, entitled "Small Isn't Beautiful: The Car Industry." The article described the continuing challenges confronting the automobile industry. From my IP perspective, one particular portion of the discussion caught my attention. There, the article, citing analyst Max Warburton, explained one major set of reasons why small vehicles are less profitable for car companies than are large vehicles, by comparing the small-car Fiat 500 with the sports utility Audi Q7 as follows:
"...[T]he fixed costs are nearly identical, whereas the variable costs of making the Q7 (labour, raw materials, and so on) are only about 10,000 Euros higher for the Audi. Yet the Fiat sells for as little as little as 10,000 Euros, compared with a sticker price of at least 40,000 Euros for the Audi."The article went on to list three factors that augur in favour of a permanent trend in favour of small vehicles:
(2) Baby boomers will more more likely to purchase smaller cars in their later years, because they will require less seating capacity.
(3) Stronger emissions standards will favour small vehicles.
I have several thoughts on all of this.
1. The article emphasized in bas-relief the relationship between branding and profitability, and the branding potential to leverage variable costs several times over the ratio of variable costs to fixed costs. It is no wonder that branding at the high end of a product line is so coveted. That said, the article also revealed the difficulty of leveraging brands in an environment with a clear (at least to The Economist) trend away from a consumer preference for high-end car products.