I know I’m not the only person that had a little chuckle at the promotional stunt Ann Summers pulled this week playing on Marks & Spencer’s advertising for the launch of its S&M Squeal Deal promotion, but brand infringement is not a laughing matter.
Ann Summers used the very successful M&S Meal Deal concept which offers a main meal, side dish and dessert for £10, to launch a mix and match bag of kinky goodies including a lingerie, sex toys and flavoured lubricant for £29.
The promo was splashed all over the Ann Summers website and it also used packaging very similar in design to M&S and a sexed up version of the old, and much parodied, M&S strapline “This isn’t just sex, this is Ann Summers sex.”
Quite rightly, M&S didn’t see the funny side and sought legal advice.
Yes, it is amusing, and someone at Ann Summers towers must be very pleased with themselves for a clever piece of faux marketing. But the flipside is that Ann Summers is ripping off M&S’s established brand identity and marketing strategy for cheap thrills.
Over the course of the day, yesterday, M&S succeeded in getting Ann Summers to pull out of the campaign “prematurely”. It was wiped from the website and staff set about removing all traces of it from stores.
That is the power of a strong brand.
Ann Summers is not the only retail brand in hot water over alleged brand infringement. Asos.com is facing legal action over the use of its brand in Germany from German menswear Ansons.
Ansons claims that the similarities between the brands will cause confusion, I don’t agree but if Ansons wins its case Asos could have to stop using its brand name in Germany and rebrand.
In the technology world, Apple has sued Samsung for copying the look and design of its iPhone apps and interface on the Galaxy range.
Trademark disputes are as old as time and it’s right for a brand to be protective of its intellectual property, products and technology, but there is a difference between deliberately plagiarising another brand’s assets and coincidentally having a similar sounding company name, or using technology that will intrinsically look the same.
Funnily enough, at the time of writing, it looks like Ann Summers has removed all mention of the campaign from its website. Has a lesson been learnt?