How can a company protect its intellectual property when its products and services get copied in other countries?
This is the question that Milton Kotler, chairman of both Kotler Marketing Group USA and Kotler Marketing Group China, asks in the March edition of “Marketing News”. He comes up with four options.
1. Confine your business to your domestic market where the law protects you.
Easy, but this approach limits your market to a fraction of the global market.
2. Go through the rigmarole of trade protection with carrots and sticks.
Sounds like lots of work for the legal team, and cheaters will always be out there.
3. Brand your products and services so powerfully that customers will pay a higher price for them, despite the availability of cheaper knockoffs.
This is where it gets interesting. Branding has emotional and intellectual components. Business buyers hold onto higher-cost suppliers because of trust and convenience, often based on personal relationships. Consumers buy higher-priced originals because of status, celebrity and prestige. The downside is that building and sustaining a strong brand is expensive.
4. Innovate at a faster pace than your companies in low-cost countries can copy and export.
Even when new products and versions are constantly developed, marketers still have a vital role to play. The old products have to be replaced, which means messages explaining new benefits have to be crafted and promoted. The pricing has to be right, and distribution channels managed and incentivized.