November 14, 2019
A year ago, startup company Hookle patented its user-friendly mobile social marketing tool for small businesses and partnered with technology giant Google. Within a year, the Hookle®App has developed into a commercial product and a fresh brand with worldwide appeal. Kolster continues as the company’s partner in brand protection.
“Our progress has been fast-paced, and Kolster’s involvement has been invaluable on the path to growth, profitable business and international markets. Over the course of the year, we have renewed our entire corporate look, with the Hookle®App undergoing a complete transformation,” says Jere Seppälä, CTO at Hookle, describing the progress of brand work.
With the Hookle®App, even small businesses are able to easily manage different social media channels and publish content and images with a single click on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and the map-based Google My Business company profile. The next social media to be added is Instagram, with Pinterest and YouTube set to follow at a later date.
The mobile app has been developed and redesigned based on user feedback and is available for download from Google and Apple app stores since this October.
Before launching the commercial product, the brand’s key elements were protected by trademark registrations.
Maria Ojala, IP Lawyer responsible for the trademark protection, describes Hookle’s brand work as a textbook example of systematic and risk-aware brand building.
“Before making the final call on protections and launching the international protection process, we investigated whether the new logo could be protected. With so many icons already protected, there is always a risk that another company has trademarked something very similar-looking. However, the preliminary search found no obstacles or risks to registering the logo,” says Maria Ojala.
After this, the logo was first submitted for a EU trademark application. No competitors came out during the opposition period to attempt to block the trademark’s registration. This was another clear indicator that the logo was truly unique and therefore a distinctive commercial symbol on international markets.
Both the Hookle word mark and the new logo are registered EU trademarks. Expansion of protection to key target markets outside the EU, particularly North America, is progressing one step at a time in accordance with discussions on prioritization and resources.
“Now that we are gaining visibility and traction, competitors may soon come knocking – hopefully with a business proposition or buyout offer instead of infringement charges,” Seppälä says, describing the importance of preventive IPR risk management.
Currently, the main focus is on protection. In the future, a broader IPR strategy that includes the defence of rights and evaluation of licensing opportunities will become increasingly important.
Alongside trademark protection, the patent application for the mobile app has progressed at its own pace in the international process.
“Around two years ago, Kolster filed the patent application to protect Hookle’s core technology on a nearly impossible schedule right before the Slush startup event and since then, we have been somewhat awestruck by the collaboration. Now that Hookle is starting to have several international IPR processes underway and in the works, we have wanted to concentrate our IP portfolio management to Kolster. This way, we get to focus on growing our business,” Seppälä says.
Seppälä tells that professional and systematic IPR management is also important to investors and to increasing the company’s value in the long term.
“Putting IPR matters in order with the help of professionals from the get-go inspires confidence in the eyes of investors. Kolster’s 145-year-old brand is credible and trustworthy. For us, this is also an important factor.”
Seppälä says that for a mobile technology company such as Hookle, the brand is the most valuable asset. Patents are important, but before those are granted, investors greatly appreciate if the company has a protected brand.
“Investments into brand design and protection are only a fraction compared to what we aim to achieve: millions of users across global markets. We believe that the investment will be repaid many times over.”
Hookle’s collaboration with Google, which began as a technology partnership, has grown more tight-knit over the past year. Integrating the Google My Business platform with the Hookle app is the first concrete step to expanding the partnership into a mutually advantageous advertising collaboration.
“We are currently in discussions with Google’s advertising department on determining the best practical way forward. The goal is to create a business model that brings Google adverts in the Hookle app in a way that is transparent to all parties,” Seppälä explains.
Seppälä believes in the value of the Google My Business advertising platform for small businesses. It offers a free company profile displayed on the map, where it is already possible to publish content and images for free with the Hookle app. In the future, businesses can enhance visibility with paid and locally targeted advertising.
“Small businesses such as hairdressers can gain significant local visibility even on a very small marketing budget. Google identifies where the people move, and business owners can target mobile advertising and campaigns cost-effectively only to customers within a particular shopping centre, for example.”
Before releasing a commercial product, Hookle spent a year actively collecting user feedback at international trade expos and events.
“The basic idea is to make everyday life easier for small businesses. Our goal was to create the world’s simplest and most modern and user-friendly social media management tool that can be easily used on a smartphone. This separates us from our competitors whose tools are geared towards big businesses and for desktop use,” says Seppälä, describing Hookle’s key competitive advantages.
The app’s visual ball-shaped element, Social Splash, grows and shrinks depending on how much social traction is generated by the publications. The Magic Wand tool set for release at a later date uses artificial intelligence harnessed to assist business owners. It tells which follow-up measures the business should take to gain the most benefit. The Magic Wand can, for example, suggest republishing or advertising content that gained high popularity, and the user can respond to the suggestion simply by choosing yes or no. The AI also displays information and interesting articles specific to the line of business, which the business owner can comment and share.
Until now, the world’s largest advertising platforms such as Google and Facebook have mainly catered to big businesses. Their own advertising tools are far too complicated for small businesses and not optimal for mobile use. For this reason, even giants like Google and Facebook need third-party partners offering user-friendly mobile apps that allow advertising across multiple channels with a single tool.
The masses of small businesses around the world form a ‘long tail’ that no-one has so far been able to seize as a market.
“At Hookle, we are now focusing on building a profitable business in order to take a hold of the long tail. To succeed in this, we must convince small businesses of the added value offered by Hookle®App.”
More information about Hookle: www.hookle.net
CTO Jere Seppälä, Hookle, and IP Lawyer Maria Ojala, Kolster. "For a start-up company, it is important to plan and prioritize the steps of protection, and then to carefully carry out the actions planned. Preliminary searches and ensuring freedom to operate are important in this evaluation" reminds Maria Ojala.
“The brand of today is a story that reflects also in its protection”, writes Maria Ojala in her blog.
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