They notice a product, such as a pair of rubber boots, is selling well on Amazon. So, they want a piece of that pie and say, "Me too!"
Next, they buy generic boots off of Alibaba, stick their own label on it, and ship it to Amazon’s fulfillment center.
They "private labeled” their product in the most literal way possible.
And...they get zero sales.
There was a time when shortcuts like this actually worked. But not anymore. And because of that, some sellers claim that Amazon is saturated. "Private label doesn't work on Amazon anymore," they say.
That's just plain not true. They're being defeatist and looking for something or someone to blame.
I have launched literally hundreds of successful private label products over the last couple of years alone. Just One Dime's Done For You program is continuing to launch insanely profitable products on Amazon for investors.
Those defeatist sellers are just private labeling the wrong way. They are not giving the customer a reason to buy their product over competitors.
Private labeling is so much more than slapping a label on a product and calling it a day. Private label, when done right, also involves your product’s ability to solve a problem that no one else is solving. You need to make your product stand out.
When you make your private label product differentiated, you expand your label’s reach and grow your business. Then, your private label becomes a brand.
Today, I’m going to show you 8 steps to building a private label brand that can increase the value of your Amazon business more than 10x.
Step 1. Choose a defendable brand name.
Your brand starts with your company's identity. That identity starts with a brand name.
Your brand name is the name you choose to show customers—which is not necessarily the same as your company name.
For example, M&Ms is a brand name. The name of the company is Mars Wrigley Confectionery division of Mars, Incorporated.
One company can also own multiple brands. For example, Frito-Lay, Inc. (subsidiary of PepsiCo), owns Fritos corn chips, Lays potato chips, Cheetos cheese-flavored snacks, Doritos and Tostitos tortilla chips, Ruffles chips, and more.
Many brand names are similar to the company name except that they drop the official sounding "company," "corporation," or "LLC" from their title.
But you're not obligated to have your brand name and company name sound similar to each other. For example, your company name could be "Kniep Inc," and your brand name could be, "TreePeaks."
Whatever you go with, you need to be able to defend your brand name from competitors' legal challenges whether you plan to trademark your brand name or not. The more defendable it is, the less likely you will have to change it in the future or pay litigation fees.
Pick a brand name that does not describe the product too closely.
If it too closely describes the product category, then it is less likely that you can successfully defend it.
This is because other companies need to be able to use generic terms for their product without infringing on your brand.
You couldn't name your brand "Surfboard" and sell surfboards because other companies in the surfboard category need to be able to use that term to describe their product.
Therefore, the more descriptive and generic a brand name is, the less likely that you can defend or trademark it. The less descriptive or more fictitious a brand name is, the more likely that you can defend or trademark it.
This range of trademarkable brand names goes along the trademark spectrum:
- Descriptive: closely describes the product. Descriptive brand names are unlikely to get trademarked, but it's possible. For example, “KitchenAid” closely describes the brand's product category. However, it is not too generic. It is as if you named your surfboard brand "OceanBoards" instead of "Surfboard."
- Suggestive: does not describe the product but uses wording that evokes the idea of the product. Suggestive brand names are more easily trademarked. For example, “Ray-Ban” is a suggestive brand name for sunglasses. It sort of describes the function of sunglasses (banning UV rays from reaching your eyes). However, no one would use the term "ray-ban" to describe a pair of sunglasses unless they were talking specifically about the brand. If you were selling surfboards, a suggestive brand name could be "SaltWater."
- Fictitious: does not describe anything remotely related to the product category. Fictitious brand names are the easiest kind of brand names to get trademarked. For example, the term “Kodak” has nothing to do with cameras, film, or camera equipment outside of its association with the brand itself. In fact, "Kodak" doesn't really mean anything.
Other types of fictitious brand names include proper names, like "Jones" for a soda, and terms that have a meaning but are not associated with the product category, like "Apple" for computers.
Pick a brand name that matches your product category.
You should choose a brand name that matches the product category that you sell in. It needs to feel right.
For example, the brand name "McGee Giggles" wouldn't work for a sports gear company. But it might work for a brand that sells gag gifts.
If you're not confident about what kind of product you will be selling, choose a brand name that could apply to anything. For example, "Autilak" could apply to just about any product category because its name is not suggestive of any type of product. It doesn't mean anything.
To come up with a set of possible brand names, use namelix.com.
Type in a keyword term that describes your product category. For example, type “cat bubble backpack.” Tap Generate.
For Name Length, select Short names and Medium names. Then, click Next.
Select Brandable names. Then, click Generate.
A smorgasbord of options will pull up. Choose one you like that goes well with your brand category.
For example, "tigeona" is a good choice for a cat bubble backpack and other cat products because it feels close to "tiger" but has a cuteness to it.
Pick a brand name that is available.
If your brand name sounds similar to an existing brand in the same product category, then it is less likely that you can defend it.
For example, the World Wrestling Federation (legally known as Titan Sports, Inc.) went in and out of litigation for years with the World Wildlife Fund for Nature over the brand name "WWF." Eventually, the wrestling company very publically rebranded itself as the "WWE" for "World Wrestling Entertainment."
"But," I hear you saying, "those companies are in different product categories." That's true. However, if you choose a company name too similar to an omnipresent brand, then having the same brand name might create confusion even if you sell in a different product category. For example, if you named your brand "McDonald's" and sold something as unrelated as cat bubble backpacks, then you might still be confused for the fast food chain.
If you are selling fast food hamburgers, the constraints get even more tight. You could not, for example, name your restaurant "McDowell's" because it sounds too close to McDonald's. However, if you sold cat bubble backpacks, then there is no reason that a customer would confuse McDowell's with McDonald's because their similarity only becomes recognizable when they are in the same product category.
On the other hand, "Delta" is a brand name used peacefully by both an airline company and a water faucet company.
Here's the key:
If your brand name is likely to create brand confusion, then your brand name is not defendable or trademarkable.
If your brand name is unlikely to create confusion, then your brand name is easier to defend and trademark.
Now, the WWE survived and even thrived after the rebranding because it had a dedicated fan-base. But if you operate a smaller brand, then you will have trouble building a loyal brand following if you suddenly have to change your brand name.
Search the internet to find out if there are any brands that already have your brand name, or a similar name, in the same product category.
Use namecheckr.com for quick, free results. Type in the name you want to brand and click on the search icon. Namecheckr will search web domains and social media handles for your brand name and mark hits as "unavailable."
You are looking for two things:
- Make sure that none of the domains and social media handles you want to use are taken by a brand in your product category.
- Make sure the domains and social media handles that are the most important for your brand are available.
In your namecheckr results, check each domain and social media handle that is taken for the name you want to use. Look for a brand selling in your product category.
If any of your results are for a brand selling in a similar product category, do not use that name even if the competitor has not trademarked the brand name.
For example, when you search "tigeona," it is taken on Twitter but otherwise has an open field.
Let's investigate Twitter.
The @tigeona handle owner is likely not a brand because they are not following anyone, are not followed by anyone, and they have not tweeted at all.
If your brand name is taken on social media, but you want to use the brand name anyway, then you can add a suffix to your brand name such as “official” to the end of the social media handle. For example, you could use "@TigeonaOfficial" on Twitter if you want to use Tigeona as a brand name.
You don't need to get your brand name as a handle on all possible social media platforms. Instead, focus on getting on platforms where brands in your product category thrive. If you sell clothing, for example, then you should be on visual platforms like Instagram and Pinterest. Go where your target customer lives online.
However, you may still want to pursue other brand name options if your term is being used by people other than brand names selling in your product category.
For example, when you search "popzie," the .com domain and several social media handles are taken.
If you're absolutely in love with a brand name where the .com domain is taken, you can still make it work by adding your product category at the end of the domain (as long as it isn't taken by a brand selling in your product category). For example, you could use "popziecats.com." However, you have a ton of brand name options, so it is best to choose one where the .com domain available.
Do you have to get a website to build a brand on Amazon? No. But it helps.
Now, does that mean you can 100% use that brand name if namecheckr says that it's available on every platform?
If there is a brand in your product category that sounds similar or is a few letters off, then the pre-existing brand could dispute your brand name and win. For example, if there was a "tigerona" brand selling pet products, then you would likely lose in a dispute over "tigeona."
Pick a brand name that is not already trademarked.
Go to USPTO.gov.
Hover your computer mouse over Trademarks.
Under Application Process, click Searching Trademarks.
Click Search our trademark database (TESS).
Under Select A Search Option, click Basic Word Mark Search (New User). Your brand name is known as a "word mark" in business speak as opposed to a logo/design mark or a slogan/tagline. It is far more important to trademark your word mark than a logo or slogan.
The USPTO website will bring you to this page. Leave the default options selected.
Type in your term. For example, type “tigeona.”
Click Submit Query.
If you are greeted with a page saying there are no results (I.E. no "TESS" records found), then you're good to pursue the brand name. If there are records, investigate to make sure that none of the trademarks are for a brand selling in your product category.
However, even if there are no records that match the term you search, this does not guarantee that you can trademark that term successfully.
Step 2. Trademark your brand name.
Do you really have to trademark in order to build a private label brand on Amazon?
No. But a trademark does give you several advantages. A trademark:
- Adds credibility to your brand
- Gives you exclusive rights
- Gives you remedies for unauthorized use
- Can raise the value of your company
- Can increase your earning potential
- Can protect your products at shipping ports
- Can make it easier to apply for a trademark in other regions
- Allows you to apply for Brand Registry for your brands on Amazon
But a trademark is not 100% necessary if all you want to do is use and keep your brand name.
You will have rights to your brand name under common law first rights use in the region where you sell your products. As long as you made sure that you are using that brand name first, then you will get to keep your brand name even if someone else successfully trademarks that brand name.
The US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) says:
"...Rights, known as 'common law' rights, are based solely on use of the mark in commerce within a particular geographic area. Common law rights may be stronger than those based on a registration, if the common law use is earlier than the use that supports the registration. Therefore, it is critical to learn whether superior common law rights exist, by searching the internet for websites and articles that reference similar marks that are related to your goods and services."
Additionally, you can scare off would-be hijackers by adding the superscript ™ to your brand name, which means that you intend to trademark that brand name. The ™ superscript has the fortunate confusion where most people think that ™ means the brand name has already been successfully trademarked. Once a brand name is registered, the proper symbol is an R with a circle around it ®.
There are various ways you can go about getting your trademark registered. You have four options to choose from.
No matter which option you choose, it will take 6-18 months from the filing date to get your trademark approved. Additionally, you have to be actively selling your product before you can get trademarked. However, you can file before you start selling your product. Your application just won't get approved before you are selling.
Option #1: File for your trademark yourself.
When you trademark, you don't get trademark protection across all product categories. Instead, you trademark within specific classes.
The cost will usually be $250 per class and may occasionally be $275.
For example, if you are trademarking leather boots, there are certain classes that cover boots and other classes that cover leather products. In other words, you could trademark your brand name under multiple classes as long as they are relevant to your product.
Be aware that trademark classes do not line up one-to-one with Amazon product categories.
If you want to trademark for one class and then trademark another in the future, you will need to re-file a whole new application and go through the entire process again. So, if you want to trademark multiple classes, it is best to file for them together.
Trademark in all caps in your application. For example, file as "TIGEONA" instead of "Tigeona," "tigeona," or "TiGeona." If you instead file for "tigeona," then you won't have trademarked the all caps version of your brand name. However, when you file your word mark in all caps, then all capitalization and lower case versions are covered in your trademark.
Your chances of making a mistake are higher if you try to trademark by yourself. But if you are low on funds and rich in time, then this may be your best option. Make sure that you pay attention to detail as you file your application.
Option #2: Hire a service to file for your trademark.
On top of the fee for trademarking per class, you will pay a service such as Legalzoom a fee of about $250-$300 for them to file for you. In total, this will likely cost you from $500 to $575.
Your chances of a mistake happening are lower than if you file yourself, but they will not be as thorough as your next option. Services like Legalzoom are set up to scale and therefore try to get their services done as quickly as possible.
Legalzoom also has a reasonably priced option for working with an attorney.
Option #3: Hire a lawyer to file for your trademark.
This is where you will spend more. On top of $250 per class, you will pay approximately $1,000-$1,500 for a total of $1250-$1575.
However, experienced trademark lawyers are far more reliable than filing by yourself or with a service.
Option #4: Use Amazon IP Accelerator.
This is the best option for Amazon sellers. One of the best reasons to get trademarked is that you need to be trademarked to get brand registered.
When you are brand registered with Amazon:
- You get to add A+ content to your listing—helping you to convert better.
- You get to see Amazon shopper search volume with analytics tools.
- Amazon will be more likely to help you if and when you have a seller piggybacking on your listing.
Here’s the best part: instead of waiting 6-18 months for your trademark to get approved before you can get brand registered, when you apply for a trademark through IP Accelerator, you can get brand registered before your trademark application is approved. This is the only way to get brand registered before you’ve started to sell your product.
You will get an Amazon approved lawyer to file for you. Even though your trademark won’t get registered any faster, you will get access to Brand Registry in as soon as three weeks.
Plus, you won’t spend that much more money (if any) versus using a lawyer that you found on your own. So, it's a no-brainer.
Choose an IP Accelerator lawyer who has good star ratings but not a lot of reviews. They will be hungry for more business and will work faster and harder for you.
Step 3. Design your brand.
Create the first draft of the brand design yourself.
If you’re thinking, “Seth, I don’t know Photoshop or how to design anything,” then I have good news for you.
You can use Looka to easily create an excellent design draft by yourself in minutes.
Enter in your brand name and click Get started.
Type in your industry. For example, "Pets."
Looka will offer you some logos for inspiration. Skip this part.
Pick one or two colors to represent your brand. Looka will tell you what kind of feeling each color will emanate.
Type in a slogan.
Pick a symbol or skip this part.
Scroll through the results and click on a design you like. Pick one that matches the feel of your brand. You can customize and alter it later.
Click Preview to see how your logo will look in practice.
Looka will show you how your brand logo will look on business cards, phones, t-shirts, and more.
You will now have an active link from Looka. Here is the one for Tigeona, adventure together.
Hire a professional to finalize the design.
Looka gives you an excellent start. But your design will not be unique until you enlist the help of a professional. When you invest in your brand, it will bring you better returns and last longer.
You can find amazing professionals to complete one-off projects for you at Fiverr.
On the Fiverr.com home page, click on Logo Design.
From here, you can select a logo style to filter for the kind of graphic designer that would be a great fit for your brand.
Choose a logo designer whose work looks similar to the style that you want.
Once you have found a designer, send them the Looka link to the design you created.
Get them to create a vector version of the logo that they design for you so that it can be scaled to any size. In other words, when you have a vector version such as an .ai file, your logo will be able to be blown up to any size and not look pixelated.
This will help you build your brand story.
Step 4. Weave a story into your brand.
Your brand is not a logo.
Your brand is not a trademark.
Your brand is a story.
The best brands today all have a great story. Think about any paper towel commercial. They don't just say, "It cleans up." Paper towel commercials usually have a pet, child, or clumsy husband knocking over a drink. But don't worry; Branded Paper Towel Rolls are here to save the day. The spill was barely an inconvenience.
Shoppers do not connect with logos or trademarks. Shoppers are emotional, and they connect with an emotion-driven story. Without a story, your brand will come off as bland, and you won't stand out in the noisy world of marketing and social media. But once shoppers know your brand story, every time they see your logo, they will remember the story.
Build a brand that tells a story about the company you’re building and, most importantly, about your customer. The most important thing about your story is that your customer can connect to it.
Customers don’t really buy things.
They buy into your company’s story and what you stand for.
When someone buys Nike shoes, they aren’t just buying athletic shoes. They’re buying Just Do It!
When someone buys on Amazon, they are not just buying a product. They’re demonstrating trust in a platform that covers everything from A to Z. (Notice the arrow!)
Every great story has three elements:
- Where you’ve been
- Where you’re at today
- Where you’re headed
Use those elements to build a brand story that your shoppers can connect with.
Now, build branding into your product.
Step 5. Build a product that solves a problem.
There are two kinds of problems you can solve:
- Perceived problems: shoppers don’t like the look of it.
- Real problems: shoppers don’t like the function of it.
This does not mean that "perceived" problems are fake problems. Any problem matters as long as it matters to the shopper.
For example, if a shopper wants yellow rain boots, but Amazon only has black rain boots, then that's a perceived problem you can solve.
Yellow color doesn't help the boots keep your feet any dryer. But they might want yellow rain boots because it makes them feel nostalgic for Paddington Bear.
If you’re short on funds, perceived value is easier to fix.
If you make a pair of rain boots that keep feet even dryer, then you would be solving a "real" problem.
Find a problem, solve it, and weave it into your brand story that you will then present to your customers.
Step 6. Build a listing that removes objections.
Anticipate your customers' wants and objections.
Show your customers that your product will solve the problem. Don't just tell them, "This is what you need." Show them with images, and let them imagine using your product.
For an example, let's take a look at an Amazon listing for a cat bubble backpack that does so many things right.
First, shoppers will notice the cat. The cat is helping to model the product. It is making an experience shoppers will relate to. This will influence how they feel their cat(s) will experience this product. The owner and cat can go out and "adventure together," as the slogan of Tigeona would say. 😉
Second, the first line in this listing's bullet points says, "Ships From US Warehouse." This seller knows that too many other sellers are selling it from China. They anticipated and removed this objection.
This listing is making me feel an experience where I want to say goodbye to my money and hello to my cat bubble backpack. We can teach you exactly how to make a listing like this in our Amazon FBA Mastery membership, where we show you methods that we find work over and over again.
Now, let's check out a poor listing example so that you know what not to do.
First, there are no pictures that include a cat. Not even a drawing of a cat. How are customers supposed to imagine their cat in the backpack? Even though there are measurements, there's no sense of scale. Shoppers aren't going to break out a tape measure, walk over to their cat and say, "How will you fit in there?" When you build a listing, make it as easy as possible for shoppers to vicariously experience the product.
Second, the white background of the main image doesn't even match the white space on the page.
Third, the images for variations on the bottom right don't even look similar.
Fourth, there are misspells and poor grammar. "ingle-hand carrying?"
Everything about this listing shows that it's a Chinese seller looking for a quick buck—not someone who understands their audience and is building a brand.
Shoppers will gladly pay the extra $13 for the cat backpack on the good listing. How do I know that for sure? The good listing has 1,631 reviews and appears at the top of page one when you search Amazon for "cat bubble backpack." The poor listing doesn't even have a single review. That listing is not giving shoppers a reason to buy that product other than price, and it's losing...
Focus on benefits over features in your copy.
Lead with a benefit such as "BREATHABLE SPACE" for the shopper's cat. Then, explain the feature that enables the benefit such as "Extra 9 vent holes."
This seller knows that cat owners aren't searching for a "9 vent hole backpack." They are looking for one with enough air flow for their cats.
Strong, persuasive copy engages emotionally with what shoppers care about most.
Design a professional description with A+ Content.
When you get brand registered on Amazon, you get access to A+ Content, which helps your listing description look more professional and eye-catching. You have tons of formatting options and can put images in your description.
This a great place to tell your brand story.
The Amazon listing for a cat bubble backpack once again provides an excellent example. It tells the story of their brand. Plus, they included more pictures.
One picture with two cats at a park enables shoppers to imagine themselves taking their cats to local parks. That could be me and my cats at Zilker Park in Austin. I can imagine a fun day out with my furry felines.
Step 7. Build a follow-up that delights your buyers.
Ask yourself a simple question:
How can I add over-the-top value to my customer’s experience when they buy my product?
Once you find the answer, you are ready to create a lead magnet.
Lead magnets are usually small cards that prompt buyers to enter their email into a website in order to receive a free gift such as a digital booklet.
Lead magnets serve two purposes:
- They delight buyers.
- You get to add their email to a mailing list.
Once you have their email, you can keep them engaged with your brand with follow-up offers and information important to them.
For example, YETI, an outdoor tumbler-based brand, includes a QR code with each product shipped from Amazon. Once buyers scan the QR code, it leads them to the YETI website, and buyers can enter their email to register their product for a warranty. That is value.
A warranty ensures outdoor-enthused buyers that they don’t have to worry if their gear breaks. More importantly, the warranty builds buyers' confidence in the company’s ability to create a durable product.
Step 8. Treat your first 100 customers like royalty.
Shoppers don't leave reviews solely based on product quality. If that were true, no cheap product would get five star reviews. Typical reviews for cheap products say, "Best for the price!"
Shoppers leave positive or negative reviews based on if expectations were met.
To get positive reviews, exceed your buyers' expectations. How? Treat them like royalty.
Include unexpected in-package gifts.
Picture your buyer. They open your product packaging. Then...
What's that? A free gift? They didn't expect it because it wasn't described in the listing. They don't think of it as having paid for the gift too because they bought the product not knowing about the gift. Now, that customer is delighted.
For example, on top of a warranty, YETI also includes stickers in each product. They know their audience. Have you ever seen a hardcore camper's gear? Stickers everywhere...
YETI didn't just throw in stickers because it was cheap (probably less than $0.01 per sticker). They knew their audience would appreciate stickers.
A gift does not have to be expensive to delight buyers.
Talk to your customers like friends.
You can do this on your "Customer questions & answers" section on your Amazon listing.
Shoppers trust questions answered on Amazon even more than reviews. Some shoppers understand that reviews can be manipulated.
Some sellers ignore this section. Don't be like them. Instead, show how engaged you are with shoppers by answering questions before anyone else answers them. This shows that you are a seller who cares.
What question for labeling a brand do you have that still needs answering? Let me know in the comments!