What's in a name?
What is in a name, really? The answer may be a whole heck of a lot!! The Best brands top 100 brands survey illustrates just this point by revealing the following:
Apple is currently the world's most successful brand, with an estimated net worth of $118, 866 million (just for the brand alone which is no reflection of the net worth of the company!). Apple being closely followed by Google and Coca-Cola in positions two and three. The top riser on the brand front for the year is 'Facebook' which has increased its rating by a staggering 86%, with a net estimated worth of $14, 349 million.
So what does this all mean and why is this even vaguely relevant within the university context? Firstly, brands are a constant in the lives of most individuals on the planet. We all use a vast number of branded products every single day, so much so, that we are probably not even actively aware of this fact anymore! A company's brand connects the products and services of that company to a name which, through reputation, becomes well known in the market place. Effective branding and marketing is therefore keenly connected to sales and success and this is precisely why a brand alone can be so valuable. How many people buy Apple products purely because they are products manufactured by Apple and branded with the Apple brand which through reputation and effective marketing has become synonymous with both quality and cutting edge electronics, not to mention the "cool-factor"? The same quality and cutting edge technology, even where it is manufactured in the same facilities as 'Apple' technologies, may not be nearly as successful within the marketplace because it does not bear the name-to-know and the reputation that goes with that name.
Given the impact that brands have in the daily lives of most people it becomes easy to appreciate how effective they can be when considering a market strategy. As part of its intellectual property strategy Wits is registering trademarks (the registration associated with the brand) and starting to associate these brands with various research activities and the research products of such activities. Irrespective of whether or not there are other forms of intellectual property associated with a research or academic activity, the brand itself will lend value and allow for a directed marketing strategy to market the research or activity. Marketing in this sense may not necessarily involve marketing directly to potential commercial partners but may also involve 'marketing' to funders in the hopes of securing further research funding. Branding is a way to distinguish your program or group from other groups working in the same space and to start developing a marketing strategy that will make your name the name-to-know in that specific area. So, even from an academic perspective, there can be a whole heck of a lot in a name. Where there are products and/or services which result from the research that are commercialisable the brand will provide a foot in the door when considering commercialisation strategies and commercialisation partners going forward. The brand may become very valuable and in some instances even more valuable than other intellectual property associated with the product and/or service, as the trademark will survive forever provided the relevant renewal fees are paid, so even when the other forms of intellectual property have expired you will still be the trusted name-to-know in the business.
Finally, and by way of illustration, brands have had major impacts in the university context: Facebook and Google originated at Harvard University and Stanford University, respectively. So, it is abundantly clear that branding can be very lucrative and very effective when coupled with products and/or services and effective marketing.
If you are interested in exploring the possibility of branding in relation to your research activities, potential products or services contact the Technology Transfer Unit at Wits Enterprise for more information.