Partnering for Change: An Interview with Amazon’s Fiona Scott
Published: August 11, 2021
“Building a Better Society Through Brands” is one of five thematic tracks of INTA’s 2021 Annual Meeting Virtual+ educational program. As part of this track, Fiona Scott (Amazon.com, Inc., USA) will moderate a session titled, “Partnering for Change: How Brands Help Grow Minority and Women-Owned Businesses,” which takes place on November 15, 1:15 pm–2:15 pm (EST).
Ms. Scott is a member of INTA’s Brands for a Better Society Committee and an Annual Meeting Project Team member working on the Building a Better Society Through Brands educational track.
In an interview with the INTA Bulletin, she sheds light on the challenges facing minority and women-owned businesses and offers some advice for brand professionals who would like to get involved.
Starting a company is no small task. All SMEs and entrepreneurs face a number of challenges, most often defined by competing priorities and limited budgets. What, in your view, are the most important things that business owners should know before they launch their brands and use their intellectual property (IP) in the market for the first time?
Having a memorable brand that a business can make its own is essential for businesses of every size across every industry. One of the key things a business owner can do is establish a relationship with an IP practitioner who can help not only to determine legal risks, but also suggest how to build crucially important brand equity.
That being said, if we, as brand professionals, are going to be one of the first stops for a new business, we need to be ready to add value. Our [Annual Meeting educational] session will point out some of the ways brand professionals can become force multipliers and dramatically increase the value they bring to companies or business groups just starting out, by thinking big and going beyond the nuts and bolts. Understanding what new business teams need and anticipating the next step in their journey is a value-add that can help build trust and keep IP on a new brand’s radar.
As part of the Annual Meeting Virtual+ session that you’re moderating, panelists will discuss what minority and women-owned brands must do to overcome the barriers they face. How can brand professionals help here?
New businesses have a ton of potential gaps they need to bridge early in their journey. For a small business just starting out in a rural area, for example, there could be a distance gap between the business and capital. On the other hand, for a startup with a great product in a crowded market, there could be a discovery gap.
We know that for minority and women-owned businesses, these challenges can be greater and the resources to address them can be scarcer. As brand professionals, we tend to be “connectors” who bridge gaps fairly regularly, so we actually have a lot of tools in our toolkit to help women and minority-owned companies make meaningful connections.
What trends do you see in established brands supporting SMEs as part of an overall diversity, equity, and inclusion program?
Following the murder of George Floyd last June, we saw several companies in the retail, beauty, and tech spaces pledge to empower underrepresented employees and donate money to groups that address anti-racism. They also vowed to increase visibility on their shelves of brands owned, operated, or designed by underrepresented groups. This allows minority and women-owned brands to break into established spaces, which ideally helps these brands as well as increases customer choice and healthy competition. We’ve also seen new business incubators crop up, which can bridge new companies to contacts with industry expertise and social capital.
What can established brands do to support minority and women-owned business ventures in their communities?
The data shows that if we can help these minority and women-owned businesses, there could be a huge economic benefit. In the United States, 2021 Census data shows that over half of all minority-owned and women-owned companies employ between one and four people. These small to medium-sized companies are usually employing people in their communities and fueling local economies.
We also know that in the U.S., before COVID-19, between 2014 and 2019, women-owned businesses increased by 21 percent, while all businesses increased only 9 percent. Businesses owned by women of color grew at 43 percent during the same time period. That’s an incredible amount of growth that large businesses can help foster.
Established brands can get to know some of the minority and women-owned businesses in their community and figure out where they can leverage their unique business experience and brand value to bridge gaps identified by those businesses.
What advice do you have for brand professionals (who may not work for an established brand) on how they can get involved to help support minority and women-owned businesses?
Pro bono assistance can make a huge difference for a start-up. Definitely sign up for INTA’s Pro Bono Clearinghouse and help spread the word about its existence in your own communities and networks. In addition, check if your company or bar association has a pro bono workstream where you can volunteer your time. If not, maybe you can be the first to start one and make a difference!
Numerous studies today show that consumers have come to expect brands to play a role in addressing the major issues facing humanity and the planet, and brands are stepping up. How can—and why should—brand professionals contribute to their brands’ corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives?
As brand professionals, we know that brands are more than just IP assets in a docket. We don’t just protect registrations: we protect brand reputation. What we’re learning now is that CSR is one of several data points customers collect when they’re figuring out what a brand’s reputation means to them. Simply having a great product isn’t enough. It needs to be good for the customer, good for humanity, and good for the planet. Brands need to authentically stand for what they believe in. As stewards of our brands and experts on brand value, we need to encourage our clients and business teams to think about how a company’s CSR efforts—or lack thereof—can help or harm their brand.
The Building a Better Society Through Brands educational track covers a range of topics related to CSR, consumer trust, brand’s role in society, etc. What will Annual Meeting registrants gain from attending this track of programming?
The Building a Better Society Through Brands track is all about empowerment and creating change. We’re going to learn how to look around new corners. We’re going to learn more about what our clients and our clients’ customers are concerned with, and how we can adapt to meet them where they are. We’re also going to learn how CSR doesn’t have to begin and end with our clients. We can all make a difference when it comes to building a better society. I really hope registrants take advantage of this fresh and crucially important educational track.
Registration for the 2021 Annual Meeting Virtual+ is now open to INTA members. Premium Access, with the best price and best experience, closes on August 13, 11:59 pm (EDT).
Although every effort has been made to verify the accuracy of this article, readers are urged to check independently on matters of specific concern or interest.
© 2021 International Trademark Association
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