Your brand is your reputation, and your reputation determines your success. This is even more important when considering exporting to foreign nations, as the risks to brands being tarnished are harder to mitigate, and can ultimately be more harmful. A global reputation for poor products is obviously more difficult to repair than a national reputation.
In this article, we look at ways SMEs can protect their brand and reputation when exporting, with attention on exporting to China.
1. Understand The Risks
In exporting to any foreign country there are a wide variety of risks to your brand, from understanding and adapting to cultural differences, to navigating the regulations and legalities of the other nation. In exporting to China, a primary risk is that of potential counterfeiting. The UN Office on Drugs and Crime estimates that almost 70% of all counterfeits seized globally come from China. Counterfeiters there have been so bold in recent years as to not only sell counterfeit Apple products, but set up entire replicas of Apple stores.
2. Local Partners
One way to mitigate potential exporting pitfalls is to partner with businesses in the destination country, who will already be well-versed in the legal and regulatory requirements there. They will also understand the cultural points that make for business success.
3. Peer Networking
In addition to the possibility of a local partner, networking with organisations such as industry associations can also provide valuable information and partnerships. The Australia China Business Council has lots of useful information on programs and opportunities for networking with Chinese business organisations.
4. Trademark Now
The first legal step in protecting your brand abroad is to file a trademark application in whatever country you plan to do business. This is a non-negotiable in basic brand protection, and should be done as soon as you determine your key markets.
5. IP Protection Isn’t International
Intellectual property protections only apply to the country where you currently hold them. In addition to trademarks, this applies to patents and designs. Protect all of your intellectual property by applying for protection in every country where you plan to do business.
6. The AMAG Stamp
Consider using the Australian Made, Australian Grown logo stamp if your product qualifies for any of the five indicators. To learn more about the AMAG logo and the requirements for qualification, see this article.
7. High-tech Authentication
Unfortunately, surface level logos and identifiers can be copied with the right technology, even the “advanced” hologram identifiers. There are now around 94,000 hologram manufacturers in China alone. Fortunately, advanced solutions are now available which have much better ways for authentication which are next to impossible to duplicate (for now at least). One is made by the company AuthenticateIt. Another, made by YPB, inserts invisible trace elements into products which are authenticated by a handheld scanner and an iPhone app. Barcodes and holograms don’t cut it anymore.
Of course, the best defence for protecting your brand is to maintain as much control and oversight of every aspect of your business as is possible, from production to consumption. While there will almost always be certain points along the way where this is difficult, if not impossible, the most thorough control possible is through a comprehensive, end-to-end auditing system that is maintained regularly.
Compliance Experts provide clients with access to the Compliance Checkpoint Software Technology, which is complimented by our Professional Auditing and Consulting services. This is our unique point of difference. Learn more about Compliance Checkpoint here.