You can trademark a logo, a color, a sound and even scent, but what about emotion?

23 Oct, 2018

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Is there a future where brands would be able to protect an emotion? It’s not an unreasonable question; I’m sure the same doubt would have been raised when color, sound and scent trademarks were first suggested. Hasbro’s Playdoh trademarked their signature scent, 60 Minutes trademarked their ticking stopwatch sound and Tiffany’s trademarked their signature blue, which has been associated with the brand since 1845. After reading these examples above, I feel like I can smell hear and see them, but it’s really the emotion I feel about them that’s important.

As a marketer, I’m very passionate about branding and I’m definitely not the first to say brand is one-of, if not THE MOST valuable asset to a company. Creating a strong brand is no easy task, however for those who execute it well, it’s a complete game changer to any business.

The most valuable brands of the world seem to follow a secret branding formula. They each have a set of values that are lived out by the company and their people, they apply crafted messaging that expresses their tone of voice and they carefully select sounds, imagery and sometimes even fragrances. A brand extends far beyond a great logo or consistent use of colors and graphics, a strong brand possesses a set of meaningful elements that when combined creates a lasting memory and emotional attachment.

However, for something as subjective as emotion, one could argue that emotion is only felt by the receiver, and therefore up for interpretation. But, I think it would be fair to say that when most people look at the brand Apple, they feel the emotion of inspiration. Would that imply that against computing equipment that Apple could trademark the feeling of inspiration as much as someone can trademark a colour or scent? Could a company actually own a feeling?

Of course there’s holes to this theory, but if brands continue to spend huge amounts of capital to create an emotion in relation of their products, why shouldn’t that be protectable? Enforcing would be another issue though. Even the biggest brands get it incredibly wrong when they are trying to convey an emotion or sentiment, like Pepsi’s recent advertisement backlash or United Airlines passenger debacle last year. For the time being at least, no matter how much a brand tries to curate an emotion, it’s very much up to the consumer and how it is personally perceived.

What do you think? Will emotions ever be trademarked?

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