Mixed Chicks is a hair products company catering to multicultural women.  When a larger competitor (Sally Beauty Supply) began selling a new product line called, “Mixed Silk,” with many similarities to the Mixed Chicks’ product line, owners Wendy Levy and Kim Etheredge had to make a serious decision: Should they take some form of legal action to protect their trademark and brand, or should they adopt a more tangential approach?

Opinions on this situation will vary.  Some people prefer to be as legally aggressive as possible, citing the serious need to protect all aspects of the business.  Others will quickly react to the high cost of attorneys, and adopt a laissez-faire position.  Some will go for an in-between approach and initiate some limited legal action in the hopes of scaring off the competition.  Each approach has merit.

In the Mixed Chicks situation, legal action could easily cost hundreds of thousands of dollars over many years.  The outcome is not guaranteed.  A judge could even rule in favor of the larger competitor and Levy and Etheredge could lose all they have worked to build.  Perhaps the in-between legal bluff maneuver might bring positive results.  But if it doesn’t, then that is still money and time wasted.

An alternate approach would be to get aggressive, but not in the courtroom of attorneys.  Rather, get aggressive in the courtroom of the marketplace.  Mixed Chicks could choose to ignore the larger competitor.  We’ve all heard the saying, “love me or hate me, but don’t ignore me!”  Mixed Chicks could play the distinguished, aloof, superior product position—confident in its standing.

In spite of the fact the larger competitor priced its products lower than the Mixed Chicks’ products, this could backfire favorably right into Mixed Chicks’ market strategy.  People tend to ascribe more value to a higher priced product.  That can create a draw.  Not every consumer shops purely on price.  Consumers also look for value, quality, and reputation.

Although I am not afraid of a good fight on principle, my sense is Mixed Chicks will do better in the long run to go with the latter approach.  And after all, what do we hear from any market leader?  “There are many imitators, but only one genuine article.”

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About James Meadows

Currently I serve as a training team manager for Johnson Controls at a customer-care center in Kansas City. Additionally, I am a business consultant, a freelance corporate writer, an Assembly of God ordained minister, a Civil Air Patrol chaplain, and a blogger. I believe we are living in the most fascinating times of human history. To maximize the opportunities these times present, I have a passionate interest in leadership development and organizational success, both of which I view as inextricably linked.

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