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News Goes Forward

As someone who doesn’t have cable TV, I usually catch up on the Daily Show via computer on the weekends.  This weekend while hiding inside from the winter storm, I learned that Jon Stewart recently did a segment on The Daily Show about the national news networks’ new FORWARD taglines:

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In short, MSNBC recently adopted a new tagline:

So, in response Fox adopted a new tagline, one-upping MSNBC by moving:

Not to be outdone, CNN adopted a new tagline making clear what it was moving forward:

Silly, isn’t it?

Interestingly, only FOX thus far has applied to register its new (MOVE FORWARD) tagline.

What FORWARD followers FOX and CNN have done isn’t as cunning as it may seem.  In fact, it doesn’t make a lot of sense from a trademark legal perspective.  The strength of a trademark depends in part on the relationship (or lack thereof) between the mark and the products/services it’s being used on, as well as on the number of other similar marks that are out there.  A “crowded field” exists when a term is commonly used as a trademark — the more crowded the field, the weaker the mark.  (This is another reason why fanciful marks are the strongest types of marks, as they exist in the opposite of a crowded field).  Thus, ideally you should steer away from marks that are already in use by others.  This is especially true of competitors’ marks, as choosing a mark that is too similar to your competitors may subject you to liability for trademark infringement (a post for another day).

Brand Geek TakeAway:  When choosing a mark/brand you want one that is, and will remain, unique.  Brands are like people’s names.  When you walk into a crowded room and yell, “John” or “Tom” or “Joe,” lots of guys will turn around.  But if you yell, “Quayle,” or “Chander” or “Sebastian” the number of responses will be far fewer.  Your brand should stand out like the Chanders of the world.  If you choose a mark that’s descriptive, you will have to work to acquire brand recognition.  The more descriptive the mark, the harder you will have to work to prove “secondary meaning.”  On the other hands, if you are first to market with a product or service, you have to be careful that your brand does not fall subject to genericide, but that is the subject of tomorrow’s post.

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