This month we gave our vocal cords a work-out as we serenaded ourselves with the world’s most famous song, “Happy Birthday”, as we rung in our 14th year. Little did we realise, we narrowly skipped a hefty royalty fee!

Unbeknownst to many, the “Happy Birthday” song is copyrighted and has been raking in over $2 million per year in royalties. The original version of the song, “Good Morning to You” was composed as a children’s song in 1893 by Patty and Mildred Hill. It is unknown who changed the lyrics, but the melody was copyrighted and subject to royalty payments each time it was played for commercial purposes. There’s been some controversy around who owns the copyright over the song’s lifetime, but it looks like it is due to expire in 2030.

While this fun piece of birthday trivia made for stimulating conversation over birthday cake, it got us thinking about the importance of owning what’s yours. Your brand’s equity is one of your most important assets, and all the elements that comprise this equity should be fiercely protected.

The drastic change that we’ve seen to commerce in response to COVID-19 has made it clear that brands have more value than ever. While businesses have struggled to stay afloat, we have seen a rise in consumer loyalty as shoppers scramble to prop up their beloved brands.

Consumers are far more conscious about where they spend their precious dollars right now, so they are thinking not only about the short term benefits of their purchase but the long term – will the brands I really love be around in six months’ time? What am I doing to make sure they are? Rather than looking for the best price, despite the economic pressure many of us are facing, consumers are willing to spend a little extra if it means keeping jobs in the community or supporting someone local.

This conscious form of consumerism where customers actively buy products from brands they feel deserve their support is known as ‘buycotting’ and unlike the word’s counterpart, it’s something you want to encourage.

As purse strings tighten and we become more aware of the fragility of small business, people are more thoughtful than ever about where their dollars are really ending up and if the recipient is worthy of their hard-earned cash. The brands who are benefiting from this buycotting culture are those who have nurtured relationships, who invoke an emotional connection with their customers and who clearly communicate who they are and what they stand for.

Owning your brand is a crucial step to achieving this deep level of loyalty from your customers. Having a strong image of what constitutes your brand and everything that it represents is what helps customers form these emotional bonds. Your brand’s equity is made up of more than just your logo and website – it’s all about how you do business. It’s the warm smile at the cash register, the handwritten note you pop in with deliveries, it’s remembering the names of your regulars and demonstrating that you share their values. It is important to tie all of these intangible assets to your tangible ones (like your logo and website) so that people can easily make the connection between their positive feelings towards your business and your actual brand when making purchasing decisions.

To achieve this, it is critical that you not only have a strong brand, but you have control over all the elements of that brand and have ownership of them, be it trademarks, social media handles (and their associated login details!) or owning associated domain names wherever possible. Take a leaf out of Patty and Mildred’s book and recognise what you’ve created, and guard it with your life!