Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Lady Gaga: prudent protection or brand overkill?

Writing on BrandChannel this week, Abe Sauer takes issue with one Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta (better known as megastar and fashion icon Lady Gaga) for over-egging her brand protection through the extension of her US trade mark protection into markets with which she is not usually associated. He writes:

"... last October, the artist's management moved to protect her brand by trade marking everything GaGa. However, a look at recent updates to the trademark show that GaGa, or her management, may be on the verge of ruining everything.

The documents show that the Lady GaGa trademark covers, among other things, "caps, visors, boxer shorts, headbands, sneakers, swim wear, bras, scarves, hosiery, pajamas, and robes." Oh, and Lady GaGa sweatpants. The update is more worrisome, however, as it includes vinyl covers for cell phones, MP3 players, laptops. It also claims rights to Lady GaGa "gift certificates which may then be redeemed for goods and services."

No one should be surprised that the talented singer/songwriter is lending her image to an imaginative array of endorsements, but even the most ardent fan has limitations, and saturating the market with one's personal brand brings with it the risk of backlash. ...

The branding industry is fraught with brand expansion cautionary tales (Harley-Davidson-branded cake decorating kit anyone?). The lure of profits is powerful, but it can be destructive if the brand becomes too diluted. So the GaGa brand, which communicates sever individuality and near-absolute uniqueness, is particularly at risk. ...

GaGa would be wise to look before leaping as she contemplates a "Lady GaGa GooGoo Sippy Cup.""

Fashionista wonders whether this criticism might be a little harsh. Given the frenetic rate at which she composes, performs and evolves her stage persona, it is quite possible that Lady Gaga and her management team did not actually set aside a few hours to curl up by the fireside with the latest edition of the Nice Classification. More likely they entrusted the list of goods named in her US application to a local practitioner who simply listed the usual categories ... plus perhaps a few more to be on the safe side. It may be on just this basis that Victoria Beckham's VICTORIA BECKHAM Community trade mark is registered for (among other things), windscreen and windshield cleaning liquids, instruction manuals, key-ring fobs, decorations for Christmas trees, umbrellas and parasols. If you've got the registration, you have more control over what other traders try to do with your name than if you haven't got it.

Lady Gaga's exploding bra can be seen on YouTube here. Whether she has plans for exploding sweatpants and gift tokens remains to be seen.