Traditional brand theory states that brands are made by the people that control them. In the past, this statement would have been referring to brand marketers as the “controllers” or “owners”. However, by now you’ve probably read your fair share of articles and blog posts about the “power shift to consumers” and the “death of brand as we know it” – it is now the consumers of your brand who own and control your brand.
How did this come about?! A few factors have contributed:
1. The increased level of choice in any product category
As competition in any product or service category has increased, this has fractured share of voice, share of mind and share of wallet. By giving consumers choice, some of the power over your brand’s success has naturally shifted to them.
2. The internet
Don’t kid yourself, consumer did have a voice before the internet, the impact of that voice was just contained to any one consumer’s personal network of family, friends, neighbours and colleagues. The internet gave that consumer voice a podium, a megaphone and an instant, global, information-hungry audience.
Consumers of brands have always been influenced by recommendations, that’s why as marketers that used to “own” our brands, we’d place testimonials in our advertising. But with the rise and rise of the internet, access to crowd-sourced opinion takes only as long as it takes to type your brand name into a search engine. That consumer voice suddenly got a whole lot more powerful, didn’t it?
3. Increased cynicism towards the ‘truth in advertising’
It’s like that old saying I used to hear a lot in high school – “it only takes one bad apple to spoil the rest” – unfortunately some brands have heavily over-promised and under-delivered and this has shaken the trust that consumers put in communications directly from brands. So instead, consumers place more emphasis on the recommendation and opinion of their peers than of the companies and brands themselves.
So when you step back from your brand for a moment, consider this : is your brand what YOU say it is (in your advertising, your website and your marketing initiatives) or is it what CONSUMERS are telling others your brand is (in their conversations, on their digital social networks, in the stories they share with friends about their experience with your brand)…?
But there are still ways in which you can retain some control over your brand, a degree of influence over what consumers are saying your brand is. It comes down to one crucial strategy : brand experience.
A brand is not a product, or a service – it is the experience someone has with that brand. That’s what consumers talk to their friends and social networks about – the experience they had as a result of engaging with that brand.
A comprehensive and consolidated approach to strategically designing and delivering your brand as an experience has extraordinary power to change the thoughts, feelings, beliefs and behaviour of your consumers and the way in which they talk about you. If you focus on what your brand does (the experience), then consumers of your brand will become custodians and advocates of your tell (advertising).