Your customers own your brand

You may think that your company owns its brand. As intellectual property, if you will excuse the pun, that’s patently true.  But while owning the IP of a brand offers some advantages, it provides little real control over the ability to generate or maintain value. A fundamental principle of brand strategy is that a brand is cared for by the company and is owned, at least in part, by the customer. This recognises that the value of a brand is a derivative of its customers’ opinions. If those opinions decline then so does brand value and firm profitability. Making customers’ needs the core of your organisational purpose puts ownership of the brand in your customers’ hands. Firms’ that take this approach allow their brand to grow to its potential.
This idea has become increasingly important as more firms participate in social media. Companies that have used the ‘customers own the brand’ principle as a useful intellectual exercise and little more are being forced to rethink, and very quickly.  In the social web you can direct, participate and engage in conversations about your brand. But so can your customers. It is a level playing field. Social media has given your customers more control of your brand than ever before. Customers that believe that their needs are not being met will let you know, along with everyone else.
Customers’ relationship with a brand is an emotional one. Every touchpoint your customers’ interact with will shape that relationship. Understanding how your market interacts with your brand, and the personality your brand conveys at each of those interactions is vitally important. Think of a time you rang a utility provider and encountered someone on the end of the phone who was rude. For most of us the emotional response to this is “I don’t like this company”. We look for other information to support this view. We talk to friends and share experiences. The emotional connection with the brand has been assigned. Changing this type of entrenched negative view is no easy task.
But social media as a touchpoint is different because your customers’ views are visible. And you can respond. Social media platforms allow customers to interact with your brand in much the same way that they do with their friends. They treat it as a person. If your social media strategy recognises that, you can make sure your brand has a personality with clear emotional cues. If you don’t then your customers will assign a personality for you. And it may be not be the personality that you want.
So remember, a brand is more than a just a logo. Take the time to build a brand strategy that incorporates interaction in the social web. Define the personality and make sure your business understands it and can express it – particularly online. Opting out is much more risky than participating in social media. Get it right the rewards will be easy to see.

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