Panama: Exposure, Influence And Trademark Protection In The Era Of Social Media

Last Updated: 6 August 2018
Article by Monique Ferrer

Through the years, different generations of consumers have witnessed the evolution of marketing and advertising strategies of trademarks, regardless of the nature of the goods and/or services that these trademarks identify.

What years ago was considered a highly successful and efficient advertising campaign, may nowadays cause more of a loss of the money invested in traditional mass media, than the profit resulting of such campaign.

Not so long ago, in order to give exposure to a brand, the trademark owners ought to to invest considerable amounts of money through their branding, marketing and advertising teams to handle advertising campaigns that consisted mainly in TV commercials, publication in printed newspapers or magazines, billboards, radio publicity and related, which costs were high. Even though these exposure and diffusion methods for trademarks are still being used to this date (and still efficient), it is not a secret that since the advent of the Internet and the social media phenomenon, the marketing and exposure of brands have had to be reinvented in order to reach certain consumers.

Within the last two decades, when access to online information in real time became essential in our daily lives, its influence has not only transformed the way in which the consumers receive the information in the sea of possibilities and alternatives to search for products or services of their interest, but the way that is now perceived that information also changed completely, to a point that perhaps 30 years ago would have been considered unthinkable.

Social media in general has not only made us more consumerists, but has also granted us access to products/services/information, which would have not been received by us before, and certainly not in real time like today.

Given this evident change, companies and teams in charge of branding, marketing, publicity and diffusion of trademarks have found themselves forced to enter the trend (that actually is no longer a trend but a reality that came to stay) of offering products and/or services through social media, in a completely different fashion than what before would have been the logical or traditional way.

Currently, IP holders –from an artisan that works and designs from home, to the big multinational companies-, regardless of the size or capacity of the businesses and their respective budgets for marketing and advertising, have infinite possibilities to publicize and share their products or services and give their brand the desired positioning and direction, without having to incur in exorbitant amounts of money in the process.

In this article, more that addressing the typical online advertising and ads though different websites and online magazines, I want to address the surprisingly effective alternative that the trademark owners have to expose their brands through "figures" of social media. In this case I am not referring to famous Hollywood artists or Grammy® award winning musicians, nor to worldwide known sportsmen and athletes, but specifically to other figures of this new social media era such as bloggers; it girls; health coaches; fitness coaches; image consultants; make-up artists; chefs -only to mention a few- that have been named 'influencers' which have a great and unprecedented strength and influence in the consumer.

Influencers do not necessarily have millions of followers or fans as artists do (or at least not all of them); however, those who follow them are truly loyal to their advice, recommendations, products and/or service reviews and critics.

Logically, if we see Beyonce's® photo in a network such as Instagram®, in which she is putting on perfume of some particular brand, is most likely that the brand's owner paid several thousands (or millions) of dollars for that publicity and surely the cost-benefits of that "investment" is very good. However, -and since not all trademark owners have a millionaire marketing budget that could afford Boyonce's fare-, they now have the alternative of offering their products or services to other kinds of influencers for them to expose in their social media and have them known by the targeted consumers. These kinds of deals may consist in gifts, exchanges or even a traditional payment for the advertisement.

For instance, let's imagine the case of a fitness coach from a Latin American country which has a considerable (in proportion to the size of his country's population) of followers, conducting a blog in which he shares tips, advice, recommendations and information regarding nutrition, exercise, workout routines, supplements, etc. to improve one's physical health. This fitness coach is approached by the owner of a gym/fitness center whom offers the coach to use the center's facilities free of charge to train, and also to film his blog videos showing exercises and workout routines. Even though there is no 'payment', the gym owner get the coaches' followers to know the center with the "seal of approval" of the fitness coach and therefore would be inclined to register and try it our but, most importantly, the BRAND is exposed.

One of the most positive aspects of this form of advertising a trademark is that it gives its owner the certainty that his/her message, his/her BRAND is directly reaching the target consumer for which the product/service is meant for, and not only in one country but worldwide.

It is undeniable that the social media has completely changed the marketing game and the possibilities of promoting brands, particularly domestic trademarks that today –thanks to the social media- can have a great local, global and even international exposure. For this reason, the scope of use and exposure of the brand is magnified and therefore so is the necessity of protecting it properly.

Consequently, and as a conclusion of the above, I consider it to be a fair recommendation to trademark owners that are interested in this kind of advertisement through social media influencers, to be aware that it is not only the product or service being exposed, but also and mainly the brand, which requires protection through registration, not only in the country of immediate short-term sales target, but also in those markets (countries) where influencers have strong reach.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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