On the Relationship Between IP and Brand

What is IP?

IP is the abbreviation for intellectual property, and its literal translation in Chinese is “智慧財產” . In the early days, it referred to the products created by people using their intelligence and spirit, such as: novels, movies, cartoons, plays, television programs, and others.

As early as in the 20s of the last century, Disney has created a large number of characters: Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, and others are famous IP characters. Japan anime has also released the popular Pokemon series. Hollywood has further filmed the Avengers movies series for a consecutive tens, sweeping the globe.

The Rapid Rise of IP Culture in China

In fact, IP is not emphasized in particular in nations which already have powerful IP cultures, such as Japan, Europe, and the US, but it is different in China.

Wu Sheng points out in his book “Super IP” that “IP started from the pan-recreational expression of movies, television, video games, manga, and anime, further expanded to the advanced element of a new business model, to become a method of online connection between various fields.” The unique rapid growth of IP in China has widely applied to texts, people, and elements with potential entertained developing value in various areas. IP application has already been abused prior to its development of maturity. “Street Dance of China”, “The Rap of China”, “Files of National Treasures”, “Ne Zha”, and others are all well-known IPs developed in China.

Brand Becomes IP vs Brand IP Creation?

For a brand, IP is a mean to build the brand. When we give a brand a distinct character, to use this character to interact with consumers, and the brand is liked and followed by the customers, that is true brand IP. This means, not all brands are IPs, but a brand can create an IP. If we go this question further, how do we inspect our own brand for a complete potential to become an IP?

1. How much efforts are the brand willing to spend on content?

IP is the world where content is the king. The so-called “content” here is neither the social media content often mentioned today, such as posts or stories nor a brand story that an article posted on a webpage could suffice the whole brand story, but a world view. In the case of the “Avengers”, it has created a uniquely marvelous world view that is three-dimensional and unexpected in many ways. The era, the key treasures, the good and the evil, and the action are all configured by IP. Those seemingly solid preparations in the movies are in fact the charms of IP content.

The previous custom of a brand would be to establish a viewpoint with a commercial AD, which, this old habit, cannot accumulate IP content. In other words, if the brand’s internal marketing organization still follows these old operation models, it cannot truly create IP content.

2. How many resources are the brand willing to spend on for a character?

From the narrow perspective, “character” must be a living person with real personalities, so that it doesn’t give off the feeling of a fabricated mask. Later on its development, people will gradually realize the concept of “the author is dead”in a brand, and the consumer knows better than you what kind of reaction will be enacted, what things will be said, and what actions are to be done by the IP character. Only this level of the organic IP character can be called a true success.

Thus, the resources to build a character should not be limited to money, but rather very flexible talents that can respond to change. A brand must invest in talent, trust the judgment of these talents, and offer them space to shine so that the IP character can improve with time passed by.

3. How much time is a brand willing to spend on consumer interaction?

If a IP is willing to be organic, it cannot stay behind closed doors. It does not like the social media that should respond to all consumer demands at all times, but it has to take every step to consider how it will be perceived by the consumer. Will it be a surprise or a shock? Will they related to it? IP has to be characteristic and also to be comply with the need of the consumers. How a brand handles an IP is a huge study.

After giving honest answers to these three questions, you should be able to decide whether you want the brand to become an IP or only use an IP as a mean to built another dimension for the brand. If the latter is your answer, then you can reference Burger King, who has been aggressively building its brand character in recent years. Burger King used wild ways to develop its key brand IP and also established a distinct character for their IP.

Starlux Airlines, From Brand to IP

▲ Chang Kuo-wei personally flies the company’s second aircraft back to Taiwan (from Starlux Airlines’s Facebook page)

Starlux Airlines attracted public attention a while back and has continuously surprised the masses. The airline not only held a uniform fashion show and released a logo design concept video, but also created Taiwan’s first flight safety film that could rival Disney animations.

You might be wondering, isn’t this series of maneuvers from Starlux Airlines just a more elegant take on traditional marketing? How does it count as becoming an IP? If you still remember the heart and soul of the Starlux Airlines, Chang Kuo-wei, there is a chance we could take a look from another perspective.

▲ Chang Kuo-wei is the best IP for Starlux Airlines (from Starlux Airlines Facebook page)

Some would consider that a brand to become an IP must involve the creation of a virtual person to represent that brand. But in the case of Starlux Airlines, I think the brand’s IP is Chang Kuo-wei without any doubt. Chang Kuo-wei is the Chairperson of the Board and also the perfect brand story himself. In 2016, after Chang Kuo-wei was cast out of EVA by his family feud, it took him merely three years to successfully create a brand, stealing all the spotlight away. Isn’t this story’s character, of which the tale is similar to Hamlet, the most enticing and enchanted character of all?

If we place Chang Kuo-wei as the brand IP, all the brand actions gain excellent motives. That is because a suffering prince is trying to create an unprecedented high quality airline brand to defeat EVA, so let’s showing the world what the meaning of the logo is first, then release a refreshing new uniform design. What is special about that is that Starlux not only showed that world that it cares about its flight attendants and the pilots, even the uniform of the repair staff was presented on the catwalk. Then the animated flight safety video that took one year to complete was subsequently released. This series of actions perfectly accentuated the final climax – Chang Kuo-wei personally flew two airplanes back to Taiwan!

▲ Starlux Airlines uniform fashion show (from Starlux Airlines Facebook page)

After the operation actually begins, it is worth continuing the observation on how Starlux Airlines expands it brand to IP ambitions.

▲ It took Starlux Airlines a full year to create StarWonderers, and then for it to applied to the flight safety film and merchandise (from Starlux Airlines Facebook page)

See the Brand Future in IP Hype

In daily life, the traces of IP licensing can be seen everywhere from tiny things like a cup to big events like an exhibition. If a brand can do is to continue buying IPs to please consumers, then there is a great possibility that it might damage its own brand’s image. But if it rashly decides to release a set of brand IP emojis, even though its developing the brand into an IP, it does not serve the brand at all.

To create a brand must have a thorough understanding of the IP economy prior to inspecting its own brand quality and resource conditions. Then a brand should make plans using a long-term vision for the chance to successfully transition itself to become an IP.

About the Author
Kenya has over tens years experiences in ad agencies. He loves observing consumer behavior and marketing trends. His left brain strategizes while his right brain writes down the copywriting. He adores creative ideas that make an impact on people’s hearts. Like a squirrel, he just “chows down” (sounds similar to “Kenya” in Chinese) on insight and creativity at all times.

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