Francesca Witzburg of Loza & Loza: “Invest in finding a good product or products to launch your brand”

Invest in finding a good product or products to launch your brand. First impressions are everything, so if you release a poorly made product or one that doesn’t reflect your values, your target consumer will not trust you and it will be much harder to win them back or to build a lifestyle brand based […]

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Invest in finding a good product or products to launch your brand. First impressions are everything, so if you release a poorly made product or one that doesn’t reflect your values, your target consumer will not trust you and it will be much harder to win them back or to build a lifestyle brand based on loyalty. Lululemon’s high quality products are a great example of this.

As a part of our series called “5 Things You Need To Know To Create A Very Successful Lifestyle Brand”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Francesca Witzburg.

Francesca Witzburg, Esq., is a trademark celebrity-branding specialist when it comes to IP law who helps high-networth clients legally protect themselves and their brand. Francesca’s practice centers on all aspects of trademark, copyright, and brand protection matters, as well as commercial transactions. She helps individuals and businesses in entertainment, fashion, beauty, luxury, technology, and consumer products industries protect, enforce, and monetize their intellectual property assets. Francesca has counseled top businesses, celebrities, artists, athletes and influencers including Prada, Versace, and Drew Barrymore. She also advises an array of clients from Fortune 500 companies. Francesca received her law degree from the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law in Manhattan, where she was the Editor-in-Chief of the top ranked Cardozo Arts & Entertainment Law Journal. Francesca is passionate about intellectual property and frequently writes, speaks, and teaches on the subject, with academically published pieces in The Trademark Reporter, Women’s Wear Daily, and Pepperdine Journal of Business. She’s also been recognized as New York Super Lawyers Rising Stars and as Best Lawyers: Ones to Watch. In her spare time, she loves to read, write, run, and Peloton.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a bit about your “childhood backstory”?

I grew up in the suburbs of New York City with no lawyers in my family. I read voraciously, held leadership roles all throughout my childhood, would stand up for anyone who was picked on, and was a good debater. My family engrained it in my head that I would make a good lawyer. I went to Villanova University and then right to Cardozo Law School in Manhattan after that!

Can you tell us the story of what led you to this particular career path?

My first year I discovered fun and glitzy law practices such as entertainment law, fashion law, sports law and the thread that wove them all together: intellectual property law. I learned that intellectual property (IP) laws protect creations of the mind, and by learning to practice IP law, I could help people by protecting their names, creations and businesses using the law. During law school I worked at Prada, Tory Burch, and Diamond International where I learned the ins and outs of retail and luxury businesses from the legal side. After law school, I worked at a boutique IP firm, and then the world’s largest law firm. I am currently a partner at the nationally-ranked IP law firm Loza & Loza representing top celebrities, entrepreneurs, businesses, brands and talent.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

One of my trademark searches was for a big celebrity. On the phone she mentioned her real legal name, which I had incorrectly thought was the trademark name because it was very unique. I ran the search and sent it to her and noting my mistake, we made a joke about it because it sounded like a good trademark. Then she clarified the actual name of the trademark she wanted for her product. Side note: celebrities, talent and entrepreneurs register their names all of the time, so it wasn’t too left field.

Is there a particular book, podcast, or film that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

I read “Never Eat Alone” by Keith Ferrazzi as a junior lawyer. I always had an extensive network of friends, acquaintances and colleagues even before entering law school. I quickly learned that networking is the secret to a successful business. Since I was young, I understood the value of building authentic relationships in life, and it turns out that in business, it is no different. “Never Eat Alone” reminds us all of that importance. The book’s takeaway is to eat your meals with others as frequently as you can and make those connections while you’re on breaks. Taking friends and colleagues out to lunch was something I always loved to do and found value in, but it was nearly impossible to do consistently while working at a big law firm. Although I do not eat lunch with people everyday, the central theme of this book, to network and continue meeting new people and building relationships, is fundamental to my daily routine. I schedule virtual coffee calls, check in calls, and now that life is opening back up, I look forward to in person lunch meetings in Manhattan.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Fail early, fail often, fail forward” — Will Smith. No one sets out to fail. So when failure happens, we’re disappointed, discouraged, and sometimes give up. But giving up is the death sentence, not failure. Most entrepreneurs and businesses understand that failure is a natural part of the growth process, and it means you are one step closer to reaching your goal because you at least found one way NOT to do something. I underwent a challenging time in 2019 positioning from a mid level associate to a more senior role. I was beyond the point of burnout, and just trying to push through each day. Rather than giving up, which would’ve been the easiest thing to do and the path of least resistance, I began journaling and wrote out my skills, passions, and the things of importance. I still loved being a lawyer, I just needed the right environment to thrive. I found a firm where I could set my own hours, be my own boss, and build my own book of business. Riding out the storm allowed me to put my life into perspective and reorient it so that I could thrive personally and professionally. I am now the happiest I’ve been professionally, with a busy client base, and grateful for Will Smith’s quote as it reminds me to use failure and struggle as opportunities to adapt and make changes for the better.

Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the primary focus of our interview. For the benefit of our readers, let’s define our terms. How do you define a Lifestyle Brand? How is a Lifestyle Brand different from a normal, typical brand?

A lifestyle brand embodies culture, values, aspirations, emotions, attitudes and interests of a particular group of people. These brands have the mission of inspiring people. In sum, it’s more than just a product — when a customer wears the product, they make a statement about who they are and what they represent.

What are the benefits of creating a lifestyle brand?

Lifestyle brands build loyal customer bases because they focus on more than just whether a customer will buy the goods. They know who the customer is, their values, interests, hobbies, and in turn, customers like this because they feel like the brand is serving them.

In your opinion, what is an example of a company that has done a fantastic job building a believable and beloved Lifestyle Brand? What specifically impresses you? What can one do to replicate that?

Lululemon has built a loyal customer community around yoga, fitness, wellness, and looking and feeling your best. They offer well-made, stylish athleisure. Lululemon has done a great job of serving their customer by closely tying in their mission with their product — making the best product reflects back on customers being their best selves. Lifestyle brand owners need to always remember that fundamentally they are selling something, and they must first make an amazing product, and then build out all of the rest of the attractions for customers. But if focus is lost on the quality of the product, it may be hard to keep a loyal customer base.

Can you share your ideas about how to create a lifestyle brand that people really love and are ‘crazy about’?

Creating an amazing product that in and of itself reflects the values of the target customer is number one. Once you have your high quality product, businesses can focus on the second most important aspect: the brand story. A captivating and evocative brand story attracts customers and builds desire as it makes them want to be a part of it too. You have already proven that you make a great product, and with a great brand story, you can build that emotional connection that is critical for lifestyle brands. And lastly, have your social media, branding and marketing reflect your story.

What are the common mistakes you have seen people make when they start a lifestyle brand? What can be done to avoid those errors?

I have seen businesses lacking the high quality of a product (skipping the first and most important step) and try to build a lifestyle brand with a story and good social media and branding. Maybe this could work for businesses looking to sell a product with a short lifespan, but for lifestyle brands, at the core is building strong, high quality products that consumers know will always meet that standard of high quality. If you do not get this right early, your consumers may not trust you and it will make it very difficult to build that loyal following.

Let’s imagine that someone reading this interview has an idea for a lifestyle brand that they would like to develop. What are the first few steps that you would recommend that they take?

I would focus on finding reliable manufacturers. Ask around, do your diligence and find manufacturers who you can trust to help you create a high quality product or product line. Before you enter into any talks where you may disclose confidential information or prototype specifications, have a lawyer prepare a Non-Disclosure Agreement for you which you should have any third party sign before entering into business discussions. Once you decide on your factory and manufacturer, have a buttoned up agreement in place. It’s all too common of a story that without a contract, a manufacturer begins to use someone’s trademarks on other products or use product specifications to create the exact proprietary goods under a different brand name. Invest early in the proper legal protections in place to protect yourself and your business and you will thank yourself later.

Ok. Thank you for all that. Here is the main question of our discussion. What are your “5 Things You Need To Know To Create A Very Successful Lifestyle Brand” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)

  1. Start with a high quality product that reflects the values you represent.

Invest in finding a good product or products to launch your brand. First impressions are everything, so if you release a poorly made product or one that doesn’t reflect your values, your target consumer will not trust you and it will be much harder to win them back or to build a lifestyle brand based on loyalty. Lululemon’s high quality products are a great example of this.

2. Build an evocative brand story and mission.

Everything starts with a story. Succinctly articulate a captivating story and engaging mission — both of which should highlight your values. Now your customers know what you stand for and can connect with you if they share the same values. Prada does this well — their brand is rooted deep in heritage and the story of the inception in 1913 Milan, through to Miuccia Prada grabbing reins of the company up until the global fashion house it is today.

3. Have your branding and marketing reflect that brand story

Whether it is a graphic designer, branding team or you that are going to build out your branding, this is the piece that puts the story to life. Restoration Hardware is excellent at exuding it’s minimalist, modern style, even down to its RH logo.

4. Have the right IP protections and contracts in place every step of the way

Once the idea has left your head, you are likely creating what’s known as “intellectual property.” Whether it’s sketches of the prototype, your brand name, or a logo, these are all intangible assets that should be protected early. To begin with, have a lawyer run a proper trademark search to make sure there are no major issues, and file the trademark. If your business involves an invention or unique design, you can do a patent search and potentially secure a patent. You can file a copyright to protect your designs, artwork, content, etc. You should also have contracts in place between you and anyone you are hiring, working with, disclosing your information to, or selling to / purchasing from. Before entering into formal deals, you’ll want to have a Non-Disclosure Agreement signed by whoever you engage, particularly the manufacturers or potential investors. Once you’ve decided to work together, you can have a lawyer draft the formal agreement. As you grow, there will be more contracts you’ll have in place. Strong lawyers are the secret weapon behind profitable businesses.

5. Engage with the right partners

Trust your gut. If you get a bad vibe from someone, don’t give that person access to all of your secrets, financial figures and specifications. Find partners who you can trust and rely on. One of the reasons why partnerships go south is because of the lack of strong agreements. Good lawyers will push the parties to think through all of the details and the worst case scenarios, and set plans for how things would play out if the worst case scenario had happened. Being clear up front about a deal and having it in writing will help prevent ambiguities and conflict. Heinz and McDonald’s had a partnership until the former head of Burger King became the chief executive at McDonald’s. A simple clause in the partnership contract could have prevented this, or at least clarified that such a hire was acceptable to give the parties an opportunity to think it through.

You are an inspiration to a great many people. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

I recognize a gap between businesses and lawyers. Many businesses only go to lawyers when they have problems — in other words, when it’s too late. My mission is to close the gap between entrepreneurs and legal and give business owners the legal tools they need to be protected and profitable. It’s why I’ve created my Concierge Legal program — to give entrepreneurs and businesses the legal protections they need to protect their businesses with ongoing support and education.

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.

Jaclyn Johnson, founder of Create & Cultivate. The business itself empowers women-owned businesses to thrive and give them all the resources to do so. Her story is one I resonate with — finding a gap and creating a program to help others thrive in business. I also think their website and social media pages are a great example of intentional, clear branding.

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.

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