In the pre-digital age, companies that strategically focused on brand protection and promotion often included only those companies selling directly to consumers - typically through more limited print and radio/television media. Company lawyers and their marketing counterparts might communicate on an as-needed basis when direct legal threats to the brand arose (from customer class actions or competitor advertising claims) or for more routine trademark enforcement measures. Today, we live in an omnichannel marketing world. Brand management and equity is big money and big effort. Employees are brand advocates, legal counsel are brand stewards, and influencers are brand field soldiers. Bigger brands means bigger opportunities, but it also means bigger risks. More than ever, internal and external legal and marketing teams must work closely together to leverage these brand opportunities and monitor and protect against these threats.
These days, Corporate counsel’s involvement in brand protection and promotion reaches far beyond well-publicized crisis communication strategies. Corporate counsel must manage legal disputes for brand benefit and protection at all stages in the legal process.
Marketing savvy lawyers at Budweiser, Netflix, and Jack Daniels have in recent years used clever “cease and desist” letters to protect brands in lieu of typical lawyer nastygrams. In-N-Out Burgers recently served up a pun-filled internet favorite charming social media with its efforts to stop a brewery from using its intellectual property on its “IN-N-STOUT” beer. LeBron James’ legal team sent a cease and desist letter to the University of Alabama addressing concerns over copyright infringement after the university began its own barbershop web series called “Shop Talk.” The public is aware of these historically banal (yet necessary) legal missives because they have become brand promotion weapons in their own right. Legal communications such as these demonstrate a new dawn of legal “brand consciousness.”
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