From The Golden Thread Mailbag …
Is it Legal to Use the Name of Another Company?

Hi Pat,

I am working on a spec assignment for a company. I have a question for you about that. Is it permissible to use the name of another company or brand in the copy? Or does one have to get permission from that company to use their name?

Carol P.

Hello Carol,

Great question. Since it’s always best to have any type of legal concerns reviewed by experts, we sent it to Matt Turner, Agora Publishing’s Legal Counsel. Here’s Matt’s response:

“In short, it depends! I know … I know, what a legal answer.

The question implicates a couple areas of the law. One, you can't use a company's trademark in a way that disparages the trademark, and you cannot defame the company or product.

Also, you cannot suggest the company backs your product. It's a tricky issue. Depends on the facts. In short, it's one of the reasons our copy is legally reviewed.”

Thanks, Matt.

Dear Pat:

I recently began working on AWAI's Accelerated Program for Six-Figure Copywriting, but am stonewalled and would appreciate your feedback. In particular, I'm referring to the "Ken Roberts Company" letter. This is just one example of work that, frankly, has me aghast! Is this really the "gold standard" to which we should aspire?

Allow me to share my perspective.

Firstly, it is far too long. These days, people do not have a moment's time to spare! Secondly, I find the letter vacillating between self-aggrandizement and condescension – perhaps these are two sides of the same coin.

I have to ask: What is the rationale behind such an approach? And what is the evidence to support this as effective?

I sincerely wish to continue with this program but, again, at this point I am stonewalled.

Maureen P.

Hello Maureen,

There is a very simple answer to your questions. The Ken Roberts letter has been a longstanding control. It brings in more orders for the product than any other promotion the company mails.

Regardless of what you think of the tone and length of the letter, it appealed to its target audience, and they voiced their approval by sending in their money. That is THE mark of an effective direct-mail package.

That's it for this week. Thanks to one and all – and keep those emails coming!


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Published: January 16, 2007

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