08 dec What was in your child’s shoe?
The most wonderful time of the year has arrived. The festive season started with Sinterklaas, the most nostalgic celebration of all. We all felt like children again, in the early morning of 6 December, when inspecting with our offspring the contents of their little shoes. Toys, lots of toys, but also tangerines, chocolate figures, and … ‘speculoos’ of course! Belgium’s favourite biscuit is inextricably linked to this children’s feast, and has been so for many generations already.
Lotus Bakeries, the largest caramelized biscuit manufacturer in the world, recently announced that as from next year, they will no longer use the name ‘speculoos’ but will replace it by ‘Biscoff’. The taste of the biscuit, which is the result of a unique recipe developed as early as in 1932, fortunately remains the same. And although the word ‘speculoos’ will still be mentioned on the back of the packaging in Belgium, we will all need to get used to the new name ‘Biscoff’.
What can be the motivation for a company to move away from such a symbolic name? Companies often pursue the strategy of marketing their successful product worldwide under one and the same name. Think of Raider, which became Twix, or – more recently – Stella Artois, which was given a new glass, bottle and logo in one swoop. The underlying reason for such a change is the conviction that this contributes significantly to the development of a unique and global brand, such as Coca-Cola, Google or Windows. This way, local products have a chance of a breakthrough worldwide, provided of course they are accompanied by a good marketing strategy and associated advertising campaigns.
But everything starts with the trademark itself. After all, the trademark needs be strong enough to become a ‘global brand’.
A trademark shall be distinctive, and not descriptive of the products or any of their characteristics. This explains to some extent why Lotus Bakeries could not roll out the name ‘speculoos’ on a worldwide basis. After all, this term is in several countries descriptive of a specific type of biscuit – in particular, a caramelized biscuit – and can for that reason not be monopolised.
In addition, the fact that the term ‘speculoos’ does not have a very good ring to it in some languages may also have played a part in the decision. The name Biscoff is an invented name (a contraction of ‘biscuit’ and ‘coffee’) and can easily be pronounced in all languages. In other words, it is a dreamed up ‘global brand’.
Before Lotus Bakeries put this name forward as a ‘premium brand’, it undoubtedly tested its distinctiveness and availability worldwide, in order to secure the necessary trademark registrations in the territories of its current activities and where these are still to be rolled out. Only in that way could it ensure its exclusive right to use that name.
When creating a new trademark or when contemplating on a re-branding, it is of paramount importance to check in advance whether the trademark is available and whether it is distinctive. Only then will the owner be able to register his trademark and to oppose infringements of its by third parties. Precisely that is, of course, necessary in order to develop a ‘global brand’.
It is also important to file the trademark as soon as possible. The strategy for this will depend, among other things, on the territory, the goods and services, as well as on the budget available to the company. Even for companies that have limited resources and are only active in Belgium, however, obtaining a trademark registration is important and very accessible.