You no longer own your Brand.
That’s right. There was a coup, the end result of which was the shifting of control of millions of brands into the hands of customers. You were not consulted, although there were numerous warning bells in recent years.
You may not have even noticed the regime change. After all, you still occupy the same corner office (figuratively speaking), have the same job title, and do more or less the same things you were doing three years ago. But don’t be fooled. Dare to challenge the new owners, and you’ll learn in an instant who is in control. Brand marketing looks a little different than it did a short while ago…
Because you don’t own your brand any longer. The crowd is in control.
And that’s a very good thing.
Ownership was overrated anyway.
Think about that. How much time did you spend nursing the illusion of control, and the self-defeating feelings of grandeur it propagated? Spin is exhausting work, trying to stay one or two steps ahead of certain critical truths that, if publicly known, would cause the brand universe to come unhinged. Or so it was thought.
Entire PR campaigns were fashioned with the sole purpose of obfuscating facts and controlling the corporate messaging, assertively shoveling it like so many heapfuls of manure on the brand’s most valued asset: its paying customers. Why would we do that??
Because we thought we owned the brand, and the marketplace, and the customer. We thought we could get away with it.
The New Brand World
Today, anyone who has watched the news for half a second has seen where this old way of thinking will get you. Brands of all sizes are waking up one morning to find a mob running the corporate offices. Customers have a voice now. The internet has changed everything.
Brands who think that this sea change won’t touch them are going to be hurting in short order. Don’t like change? You’ll like irrelevance even less.
And it doesn’t matter if you are global or extremely local in your reach. The social web functions the same way for both. Brands must market by a new set of rules; one that respects the shift of power from centrally located to globally dispersed.
Somehow, larger brands have embraced this philosophy faster and more completely than a lot of small businesses. Perhaps that’s because most small business owners have to wear all the hats, and don’t have a dedicated staff whose sole job it is to keep their fingers on the pulse of the market, and adjust accordingly.
Branding with Fire
This shift away from concentrated, manageable power grids within tightly closed corporate cultures, to the wild-west, anything goes, hide-the-women-and-children kind of anarchy has no doubt caused a good number of brand managers to scratch their heads and long for the good ol’ days. But wishing won’t bring them back. The masses have tasted power, and have rightly decided that they like it better than the old defenselessness. There is no going back.
Think of your relationship with your market in much the same way as Man’s relationship with Fire. Man has never really owned Fire. But Fire, under the right conditions, will allow itself to be harnessed by Man for a nearly infinite number of useful applications.
But take care, lest you start thinking that the flame is of your own making, and as such it belongs to you. Fire can teach a very painful lesson to those that try to hold too tightly.
A Short Allegorical History of Man and Fire
If you like, download the short Branding Manifesto called Branding with Fire: Why you no longer own your Brand, and why that’s a GOOD thing, written by Carter Harkins, Chief Storyteller of Harkins Creative. It’s a quick read, and will help to illuminate (pardon the pun) the guiding philosophy that informs our work.