The holidays are swinging into full gear, what better time to… reminisce? Every year, it seems there is a new “hot” item on the shelves that our children, family, and friends have on the top of their wish lists to Santa. I will never forget the Ty® Beanie Babies phenomenon, the holiday season when people of all ages were frantically hunting for Tickle Me Elmos, or those Tamagotchi keychain games that flew off the shelves faster than you could say “Tamagotchi.”
All of these hot-ticket items were wildfire brands – they launched onto market and became overnight hits with consumers.
And though product makers are thrilled with such rapid-fire consumer hits, there are a number of brand protection concerns that they must work to address while the sales ratchet up in order to protect the brand’s increasing value.
The Way I See It
- I see new and innovative wildfire products and brands continuing to be launched onto the market through a variety of marketing channels, but especially through viral videos and social media marketing. As in the past, many of these wildfire brands will become a symbol of a generation and instant pop culture hits.
- When the products begin flying off the shelves, I see brands working to protect their product and intellectually property from counterfeiters, and other potential threats to the brand – those trying to take advantage of the hit item by trying to produce something similar at a lower cost in order to benefit from the brand’s increasing value, or trying to pass off their goods by using similar trade dress or marks.
- I see marketers working to launch creative ads and campaigns to continue the sales momentum of the initial brand proliferation period, ensuring the product’s long-term sales growth in addition to its short-term sales spike.
The perfect recent example of a wildfire brand is the Snuggie®, which sold over four million units in three months. Its launch to market was an interesting one, with a single TV ad, launching the Snuggie® to become an instant pop culture phenomenon.
The Way the Industry Sees It
I sat down with Scott Boilen, President of Allstar Marketing Group, the company behind many high-profile consumer brands, to discuss brand proliferation and protection.
You’ve seen wildfire success with a few leading consumer brands. In your experience, what is the most critical precaution to take before launching a product to market in order to ensure brand protection?
As a company, the single most important thing we can do to protect our brand is to make sure all trademarks are applied for and all materials are copyrighted prior to debuting a product. We also seek patent protection when feasible. When launching brands with an aggressive “As seen on TV” campaign we build mass awareness in a very short period of time. If all pre-launch legal items are not buttoned up, we are leaving ourselves open to companies trying to piggyback off our success with similar marks, logos or other materials in an attempt to create brand confusion. Right after launch, we also begin to monitor the market and aggressively do what we can to stop the marketing of any infringing product as well as halting counterfeits from coming to the United States from overseas.
The Snuggie® was launched in October 2008, right at the height of the economic downturn, yet sold over four million units in three months. With a brand as popular as Snuggie®, are there particular obstacles and challenges that arise during the initial time period of the few months during which the brand is skyrocketing?
The launch of the Snuggie® blanket created tremendous consumer awareness. It was critical that we ensured we were using our marks in a way that was consistent and protectable. We had many companies attempting to bring out similar products with marks or logos in an attempt to confuse the consumer. We were successful in shutting down every violator. This was made possible as our marks were registered and used in a consistent way as to make them defensible. Ensuring that our own employees, agents and representatives used the marks correctly was integral to the education we also provided to folks in the media when the brand was discussed. While there is a fine line between getting as much exposure for the brand as possible and making sure the marks are not diluted when not used properly, we did a great job of maintaining a strong brand along with a great product in the United States and abroad.