Everyone wants to have extensive, full awareness of their brand, correct? It’s a dream we all wish for—to be the Coke® of our own little carbonated beverage world.

But, there is a fine line that some big brands need to walk while doing a mighty big protection dance around their trademark.

Let’s conduct an experiment. When you see or hear these words, do you envision a trademark symbol for a specific brand?

  • Aspirin
  • Cellophane
  • Thermos bottle
  • Zipper

These brands are now in the public domain. Bummer for them. So while it’s great to have your name associated with a specific product, don’t forget to protect it. There are many ways to protect your brand. The trademark issue is just one.

Then there’s the issue of getting your name dragged through the mud. It happens easily now with the proliferation of social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. Did you hear about the Comcast serviceman who was videotaped sleeping at a customer’s house? That went viral and Comcast did an excellent job of using social media to turn a bad situation into a fantastic customer service program.

Most of us don’t have the bandwidth to scour the Internet and find stories being told of us. But it is important to monitor your own sites and do the minimum at least. Set up alerts on Google and LinkedIn for example, that will tell you when someone is mentioning your company. But make sure that however you decide to respond, you do it with sincerity and in a timely manner.

I once had a bad experience with a certain big retail company. When I posted my annoyance on Twitter I got a response from the company. I was impressed at first—until I looked at the other Tweets the company had posted and it was as if it were (and quite possibly it was) an automated response. That just made it worse.

Now I need to segue into the topic I really wanted to discuss. Ice hockey. It’s May and the playoffs are underway. Beards are growing, hip checks are getting harder, and the Stanley Cup is one step closer to going home with a Canadian who will use it as a large beer stein or dog bowl for the few days he gets to keep it at his house. Anyway, when you think hockey, I’m sure you think fights. An unfortunate brand perception of the NHL. They’ve tried to change the rules but it’s a lasting impression, especially among fans of the critically acclaimed film, Slapshot.

And if I asked you what the machine that resurfaces the ice during intermissions is called, you’d probably say, “Why that’s the ZAMBONI, Dawn.” Would it surprise you to learn that ZAMBONI is a brand name? Who cares, you say? Well, you might if while in front of an audience of tens of millions, a competitor’s product was breaking down and being criticized and they were saying it was YOURS.

So, things to think about to protect your brand:

  • Get your brand name trademarked.
  • Use and enforce correct usage of your trademark (Check out Disney® for some ideas).
  • Provide exceptional customer service both offline and on.
  • Develop quality products and guarantee them.
  • Make sure everyone on your staff knows that every day they help create the perception of your brand in the public’s eye.

Now back to the hockey game. I always root for my home team, the Philadelphia Flyers. Some of you may know them as “The Broad Street Bullies.” We in Philly welcome that view of the brand and wear it with pride. And maybe if you watch the games, you’ll get to see the ice-resurfacing machine and sing the “I wanna drive the ZAMBONI” song. Check it out below.