The Dohne Breeders Association recently trademarked their sheep breed and, by implication, branded it as a product.
The reason for this seems obvious. It is, however, more complex and one must understand the initial goals at the time when the idea was first conceived. A more purposeful and profitable sheep breed was probably envisaged. Dohne sheep is a leading breed, utilized all over South Africa and the world today. By branding and trademarking, it became a product with a wider purpose and value, as was the situation in the past.
The difference between brands and trademarks:
A brand is an overall concept marketed to customers as a promise to address particular needs or problems. Its value is based on opinion.
A trademark is an infinite value based on factual financial information and projections.
As a brand and trademark, it opened itself to consumerism.
This brings us to the definition of a consumer. A consumer is a person who purchases goods and services for personal use or consumption.
Let us discuss where the Dohne sheep finds itself in relation to these concepts and definitions.
Who is the customer or consumer of the Dohne breed?
If it is agreed that it is a sheep breed, as a variant of all sheep breeds in the world, with maybe certain distinctive traits, then it is a specifically developed breed. If such a breed promises to address particular needs or problems for its supporters, clients, customers or consumers, then it is a brand. If the breed and brand have an infinite factual financial value to its owner, then it is a trademark.
The current status of the sheep industry in South Africa is to provide material, items or a product to mainly the service industry active in the supply chain. There is no or very little distinction from other breeds as a final product at consumer level.
It can be argued that such service providers are in fact the customers and not the consumer. Same can be said of those involved in husbandry (the care, cultivation, and breeding of animals) to whom stud breeders sell.
The industry is currently light-years away from the real consumer which is where the final monetary value eventually originates. The service industry operates and deals with all aspects of sheep related issues as if it is homogeneous. In doing so, they cannot, on behalf of the Dohne brand, promise to address the needs or problems of the consumer.
By the time meat or wool from the Dohne breed eventually reaches the consumer for purchase, all evidence of its unique qualities is lost.
What does it do to the trademark?
It dissipates the infinity of value in factual financial reward and future growth and projections. It has lost its value of choice to the consumer, rendering the trademark almost worthless.
Breeds do find some value in the production side of the industry, but no value in consumer-driven branding or trademarking.
The factual nature of the product, to formulate an opinion of the product, is therefore lost to the consumer and subsequently also to the breed.
Currently, no consumer asks the very important question as to what breed of sheep related product they are buying for consumption.
The exorbitant costs incumbent to the service industry hijacks the price structure to the consumer resulting in sheep meat to be the most expensive meat protein on South African retail shelves.
This is, however, the only and predominant structure used in South Africa for moving livestock from farm to consumer.
This creates an opportunity to forward thinkers on how to rescue the breed or the industry in an ever-changing consumer landscape with all the technological advances made. The Dohne brand could endeavour to elevate itself for exclusivity and long-term survival, as is the case for all other sheep breeds in South Africa.
The sheep industry should rethink its impact in the marketplace as it is losing ground to poultry, beef and pork on retail shelves. Its cost to the consumer does not reflect favourably to the income of the farmer. It became a niche product only available to a few.