McDonald's lost a trademark battle over its ownership of the Big Mac and Adidas failed to prove it held the IP for its famous three stripes due to a lack of evidence on the origins of both designs

Digital content

Electronic archives can help protect digital content for future generations (Credit: PxHere)

The rate at which brands are producing digital content is growing exponentially but in an increasingly crowded marketplace, it’s crucial to protect investments by electronically archiving it. Jon Tilbury, CTO at Preservica, discusses.


Year after year, businesses invest huge sums of money into carefully designing their campaigns, promotions and logos to craft their perfect brand identity and convey their message to their customers.

Yet, many organisations don’t invest in properly preserving all their hard work.


Report shows problem for companies that don’t protect digital content

A recent report by analyst firm Forrester, Digital Fragility: The Ticking Timebomb within Enterprises,  highlights that vital digital information sources and assets are at risk due to link rot, obsolete file formats and media, and vendor abandonment of online services.

Preservica CTO Jon Tilbury, protect digital content
Preservica CTO Jon Tilbury

This can leave organisations scrambling to find or recreate digital assets, opening the door to loss of valuable trademarks and poor corporate governance.

For marketing departments, this could result in more than just simply having to save or recreate lost content.

Lost data can severely affect the trust and loyalty that businesses have built with their customers as well as underpin the investment that has been made in brand recognition.

In addition, that loss of data creates a gap in knowledge within the organisation that could be used in future campaigns and innovation.

From protecting intellectual property to updating obsolete formats, businesses must plan for the long-term when setting up their data storage solutions, prepare for regular data migration and updates and generally incorporate information governance strategies into their overall business goals.


Digital content archives crucial to brands wanting to protect IP

Per Forrester’s report, protecting trademarks against imitators, false claims, and counterfeits with legal action costs organisations $1tn globally.

Beyond the obvious costs, cases like these can cost a brand even more due to the negative effect to their customer experience, diluting brand reputation and loss of trust and loyalty of their customers.

For example, in a recent case in 2019, fast food giant McDonald’s lost a landmark legal battle which resulted in the EU Intellectual Property Office ruling it did not have the right to a “Big Mac” trademark due to a lack of evidence for the organisation’s “genuine use” of the term.

Similarly, in the same year, Adidas lost its claim to its famous three-stripe design due to a lack of sufficient evidence.

Today, a well-managed archive supported by the right technology does so much more than display the history of a brand.

protect digital content
McDonald’s lost a legal battle over its Big Mac trademark in 2019 (Credit: McDonald’s)

Digital preservation repositories ensure that an organisation can easily find the files needed, access the files regardless of the type, and prove that this record is original and authentic when facing a trademark lawsuit.

This access to a comprehensive collection of historic marketing and branding collateral that unquestionably demonstrates the use of branding collateral through the years, can help businesses rest assured that they are suitably protecting the value asset of their brand.


Branding, innovation and the future

Mining your corporate archive can lead to the discovery of some true marketing and branding gold for the future.

The greater accessibility of assets in a digital preservation system can also maximise potential to use accumulated knowledge from past campaigns and initiative in an organisations strategic planning.

A case in point is the UK supermarket chain Sainsbury’s. Beyond the items of importance to corporate governance such as meeting minutes, board reports and staff records, the archive houses a diverse collection of items.

In 2019, Sainsbury’s celebrated its 150th anniversary and its digital archive played a central role in the year-long campaign that brought its heritage to the forefront of the marketing strategy.

For example, packaging designs from the 1970s inspired the design of the new Sainsbury’s Bank credit card, alongside the design of Sainsbury’s own-brand vinyl records.

With large organisations that operate around the world, this cultural history becomes even more varied and opportunities to deliver value increase.

Another equally historic corporate brand is that of international bank, HSBC.

Today, the bank operates in over 70 countries and territories around the globe and serves around 46 million customers worldwide.

The HSBC Archives reflect the colourful 150-year history of the organisation with a varied mix of paper and born digital content – from letters, photographs and cartoons to films, advertising and interviews with staff.

This varied mix of content and its value to the local communities has helped to bring both value and credibility to the HSBC brand around the world.


Preserving digital content now will protect it in the future

Archives are living assets for businesses today and so need to be actively preserved and protected on an ongoing basis.

A large volume of born digital content is produced on a daily basis – much of which is too valuable to be discarded.

As much as the assets of the past provide value today, today’s assets will be valuable to the brand representatives of the future, and businesses should pay heed.