Tuesday, Chris Brogan hosted a webinar entitled “Who Really Owns Your Brand?” The biggest takeaway I had from the talk was a question as to whether the title captured what I thought the discussion was trying to get at. Is the question Who owns the brand? or is the question more like How has brand ownership shifted (towards the consumer/customer)?
The original business purpose of a brand was to create ownership, either through a name, a logo or what have you. Below are a few definitions you can find on the web:
There are several definitions for a brand; we have listed two below:
- A brand is the intangible sum of an organization’s attributes: it can include its name, its history, its reputation, its packaging, and the way it is advertised.
- A brand is an identifying symbol, sign, name, or mark that distinguishes an organization or a product from its competitors.
A unique and identifiable symbol, association, name or trademark which serves to differentiate competing products or services. Both a physical and emotional trigger to create a relationship between consumers and the product/service.
A product or service which has been given an identity; it has a brand name and the added value of a brand image.
These are only examples of brand definitions, you can find a ton of other ones. But I’ve included them all because they all, in some way, shape, or form, indicate that a brand has always relied on….should I say, been dictated by….the consumer. It has always been partially “owned” by the consumer. A brand could not be good, or bad, without the consumer. [please note, we're talking about the term "brand" as used in business, not cattle herding]
A few tweets from #twebinar after I posted the comment “Haven’t customers always owned part of the brand? They just now have much more sway/influence in that ownership”:
Linda Famous: agreed. customers always have a share in creating the brand, but % varies.
Christine P: I totally agree re: customers always own part of the brand. Or at least influence its life/direction.
Kerry G: yes, to a certain extent companies set the brand path and consumers decide what it actually means
In terms of the current debate about who owns a brand (beyond just this webinar), the way in which people are describing customers/consumers role in brand making has always been the same. The extent to which they are able to influence the brand (e.g. their ability to be heard by thousands instead of hundreds, or just a few) has changed. Brands may have been able to get away with having a few dissenting voices 20 years ago, but now those dissenting voices matter more.
The relationship between a customer and a brand has not changed. The concept of “ownership” that is part of the current debate has not changed. What has changed is the dynamics of that relationship, the way in which ownership is manifest and, perhaps, what level of ownership the customer actually has. And, even more importantly, how can companies best manage this change in dynamics?
A new title?
What else could we title a webinar on this topic? A few brainstorms (these are pretty paltry):
- “Evolution of Brand Ownership”
- “Are Companies Losing Ownership of their Brands?”
- “How Can Companies Share Brand Ownership Today?”
Do you have any suggestions on new titles?