How much do I believe in federal registration of trademarks and brand names? Well, this much:

I’ve always been a big fan of practicing what you preach. Actually walking the talk. Not just talk.

That mindset helps explain why we stuck with the suggestive name of this blog, even after the experts recommended

What are the odds that the signature on the cover of Taylor Swift’s self-titled debut album from 2006 depicts her actual and personal signature (she would have been 17 at the time)?

Or, could it be that the highly marketed and consistent trademark signature is more about the branding and packaging of the artist and not actually her own handwriting or penmanship?

If the above signature is not actually penned by Taylor Swift what would that say about her brand, if anything? Would it make her brand any less authentic? Or does a vocal artist get a pass on handwriting, penmanship, and personal signatures, especially at the age of 17, and even thereafter, since it doesn’t affect the authenticity of the voice (remember Milli Vanilli?) (Classic YouTube video here).

Do you suppose TS fans have an expectation that the Taylor Swift signature trademark represents her actual, personal signature? If so, would their decision to purchase goods be affected if the signature was actually penned by another? Probably not, but if so, would that subject the trademark registration to cancellation on deceptiveness grounds? Or, on the other hand, do fans assume and expect the trademark signature to be part of the artist’s professional handling, more like they would view assistance from a make-up artist, hair stylist, and/or airbrushing expert?

Now, given all that, as a trademark type, how would you answer the apparently frequent question: "How can I get a Taylor Swift Autograph"?

As we learned with the recent criticism involving Sarah and Bristol Palin’s attorney (who failed to obtain the necessary written consents at the time of application), perhaps, the best bet might be to scour the USPTO database for Ms. Swift’s personal written consent to federally register the Taylor Swift name as a trademark, as TMEP 1206.04(a) reads:

Must Be Personally Signed. When a name, portrait, or signature in a mark identifies a particular living individual . . . the mark can be registered only with the written consent of the individual . . . . The consent must be a written consent to the registration of the identifying matter as a mark, and must be personally signed by the individual whose name or likeness appears in the mark.

Just don’t be surprised if it looks nothing like the signature appearing on her album/CD covers:

The highly marketed and consistently branded trademark signature is on the left and Ms. Swift’s personal signature, as submitted to the U.S. Trademark Office, on January 8, 2008, is on the right.

Linked here are some additional written consents with Taylor Swift’s personal signature as of May 11, 2009, October 5, 2010, and December 15, 2010. Not exactly a model of brand consistency. 

More to the point of consistency, or the lack thereof, our challenge to handwriting experts is below the jump, showing a collage of photos for sale on eBay, each claiming to be signed by "the" Taylor Swift:


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Tiger Woods drives by Allison.jpg

The impact of the Tiger Woods scandal in branding can be viewed from two different perspectives. The first perspective comes from the point of view of the companies that paid Woods to endorse their products. The second perspective is how the personal brand of Tiger Woods will be impacted as the smoke clears from this series of events.

Two professors in University of California-Davis’ Economics Department attempted to measure the impact from the first perspective. They claimed that shareholders in publicly traded companies that Woods endorsed lost $5-12 billion in the weeks that followed the car accident in Florida that set off the scandal. They undoubtedly have an interesting perspective, but there are limiting factors in their research. However, an undisputable fact of the Tiger Woods scandal is that it put a lot of brand management teams in a very delicate situation. Brand managers at firms where Woods served as an endorser had to consider how their brands would be perceived by their target consumers if they were to continue the relationship. It is not an enviable position. 

When a brand chooses to link arms with a celebrity endorser, it must consider which celebrities will be effective endorsers. It is essential to select celebrities that will positively contribute to revenue growth and profitability. I believe that a celebrity endorser is most effective when the target consumer perceives them as attractive or desirable in some fashion and the product is related to the expertise of the celebrity. For example, Michael Jordan was an effective endorser of both Nike and Gatorade because of his status as an elite athlete and the fact that both brands are related to athletic performance. Gisele Bundchen is an effective endorser for Dolce & Gabbana fragrances because scent is an important aspect of appearance and she is the embodiment of phenomenal appearance. She would be far less effective as a celebrity endorser for the Toyota Camry. With regards to Tiger Woods, he is most effective in endorsing Nike Golf products and any other golf related brands. His effect is diminished for brands like Gillette and AT&T.


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