Like many of you, I have followed brand trends and ideas on a daily basis for years, and have witnessed the growing consensus among brand managers, strategists, internal company stakeholders, large agencies, and the very chic boutique branding agencies. They all sing in chorus:
Although we are seeing a shift in terms of brand awareness, I believe the successful brands still need to embrace solid traditional tenets. To an increasing extent, companies are beginning to shape their own brand by selectively listening to individuals and tribes of consumers who have a stake in those brands. But is that the same as consumer ownership of a brand?
Does Everyone Own The Brand?
Let's play devil's advocate for a moment, and say we tend to disagree that everyone "owns" the brand. What about psychopaths, the socially outcast, or people with just generally bad ideas you don't want to associate with your company's brand ? Do they own the brand and shape it too? Or do competitors own your brand in their fashion? If they do, then the company's brand is in for some real trouble. Instead, I believe the brand needs to become a model of best-in-class product, behavior, and communication.
Yes, we are seeing the successful companies truly engage their customers. We are seeing companies become more aware everyday that in order to be successful, they need to live up to their brand expectations—whether derived from internal values or external values, or some combination thereof. As Patrick Newbery (Method, San Francisco) pointed out, companies need to deliver value, listen to consumers & partners better, understand problems, and diligently work to fix things that are not working. In that sense, the company necessarily needs to OWN (or take the ownership of) those brand values. It's what I like to call integrity.
Brand integrity. For most companies, it may no longer be sustainable to continue the ivory tower approach. Call it "cleaning up your act" as Sara Batterby (WORD Messaging Strategy, San Francisco) declared. In fact Sara hit the nail on the head—the method, tone, and approach to communicating brand values, and engaging customers needs to become more communal, engaging, and participatory.
What Inspires Brand Engagement?
However, the brand still needs to stand tall in front of it's audiences, stick to the core values that work, discard the values that do not work, and embrace positive stakeholder (customers, partners) values that inspire engagement.
After all, people will always look for something greater than themselves to believe in. And what better way to convince consumers there is a reason to believe, than the company brand walking the walk?
What do you think?