Who owns your brand?
The answer may not be what you think.
Your marketing department probably thinks it belongs to them. Your lawyers may think it belongs to a registry in Washington. Your accountants may think it belongs to shareholders.
But consider this possibility: maybe it belongs to everybody.
We look at great product brands like Apple, Nike and Mini … service brands like Disney and Trader Joe’s … we see well-defined experiences made pervasive through sophisticated promotion and reinforced with continuous talent training … but what we miss is how much of this experience is owned by users.
That’s the core conundrum we face every time we develop a major social media campaign for a traditional marketing client. For marketers accustomed to the controls of traditional one-to-many media, social media unravels core assumptions about who owns the brand voice and channel. It turns happy marketese about “having a conversational brand” and “reflecting the voice of the customer” into a very real, often scary megaphone that can’t be shouted down or grabbed back.
We love working with social media. We advocate its effectiveness with most clients and challenges. We’ve even developed a complete methodology for productively managing this process. But we’re equally clear-eyed about its pros and cons, and the committment it requires at every level.
A great social media campaign gives audiences something to own – something credible, emotional, valuable, and elevating. It gives them the tools to express their opinions on their terms and in their voice. It incents their participation and humbly accepts their criticism. It learns and changes. Thanks to the web’s infinite memory, it lives as long as there’s one ear to hear and one voice to speak. And all of it acts to continually re-create your brand in the now.
But this remarkable impact doesn’t come cheap. It requires elevating social media management into a core marketing function, with matching talent and executive empowerment. It forces the institution to lay bare its ego and structure in an open environment where conversations are not always favorable and the voices not always friendly. It drives a continuous revisit of what matters and what happens inside sales and marketing, no matter how inconvenient.
But in the end, these continuous social interactions have unparalleled power to make brands stronger. Ones that are more resilient to change, trusted by the market, beloved by associates and partners, and valued by investors. And when a brand can be all these things for all those people, does it really matter who owns it?