In 2010, Philip Morris International sued the country of Uruguay for USD $25 million over the branding of cigarettes stating that Uruguay’s attempt to curb smoking by requiring standardized packaging is in treaty violation. The Swiss-based company claims the new packaging does not allow for trademark and is in violation of intellectual property rights.
There’s been very little international coverage of the battle in branding publications worldwide. Why should consumers and brands pay attention?
Branding is often held, hand-in-hand, with trademark for international brands. Sometimes, a re-brand is required to secure trademarks in a myriad of countries. The repercussions for brands that are required to remove their trademarks and/or their brand identity from their products could be significant.
The larger question remains, by changing and/or limiting branding, will that solve the issue at hand or is it curbing the ability of brands to market? What does that do to market competition and consumer choice?
Recently, Bill Gates and Michael Bloomberg joined the battle by launching a USD $4 million fund through their respective foundations to support countries like Uruguay. Australia passed legislation requiring standardized packaging in 2012 followed most recently by Ireland and the UK.
Ultimately, the question remains: who controls branding? Is it the brand itself, the consumer or the courts? Where the outcome of the case will be decided with worldwide implications.
Read more on the case.
Source: BBC Worldwide, Forbes.
Over the past year, I’ve been hard at work developing a 2-year public awareness campaign. Next week, the first ad spots for this campaign will air on national broadcast and cable channels here in the US as a second phase of the campaign. The first phase was a soft launch on social media in December. Many lessons were learned from creating the campaign plan to selling the idea to leadership and to members of the Board of Directors across the country. Many modifications were made along the way, but the vision remained the same. Here are my five lessons learned:
Stick with your vision. Establish the desired end scenario from the beginning. You can adjust how you get there, what tools you use and what audiences you reach but stay true to that initial vision.
Adjust smartly. With anything related to the field of communications, most people believe they are experts as they engage with the medium in their daily lives – from social media to advertising. However, exposure does not necessarily translate to expertise. Many will freely offer their advice – and it will differ widely – listen intently but be decisive and smart in choosing what advice to take onboard.
Never fear visibility. Creating any type of public facing campaign for an organization will raise the stakes for them both internally and externally. Such increased visibility will result in a lot of interest and a lot of conversation. What naturally follows on from that is criticism. The more public you are, the more critics you will face. Don’t fear the conversation and encourage direct engagement with those critics.
Even airtight launches falter. No matter how well you plan a launch, something will ultimately go wrong; in our case, an erroneous tweet. How did we recover? We jumped into the conversation created by the tweet and continued to reach out to those offended online and offline. And we kept the launch going. End result – we had new champions emerge and new potential partnerships (as well as more engagement with the campaign than planned – see number three above).
Stand strong. It’s your campaign. If you do not believe in it through thick and thin, no one else will. That goes for the communications and marketing team, leadership and the organization as a whole. Believe in the product and communicate about it with one unified voice.