Who’s is really in control of your brand?

Last week I read this interesting post on AdAge.  It postulates that the essence of the ‘Consumers are in control’ of your brand is a fallacy and that Brand Managers are still the de facto rulers over the brand.

In it, Mike Wolfsohn, states

“The consumer is in control” has been among the most popular refrains uttered by those in the business of counseling brands on how to connect with their audience. Unfortunately, this widely embraced platitude is a predicated on a fallacy: Consumers may have a louder voice than ever, but they’re hardly in control.”

“That advertising is now subject to immediate, mass feedback does not mean marketers have given up control; it simply means they’ve lost the freedom to be thoughtless.”

“It’s critical to distinguish a consumer’s increased ability to amplify a brand’s successes and failures from his or her actual control over the story a brand tells. In the purest sense, consumers have always wielded immense influence with their wallet.”

“If brands were in “control” back when their only option was to launch expensive print, TV and out-of-home campaigns — and then wait several months to see the sales data — then, by comparison, modern media has made them practically omnipotent.”

I agree with Mike, in the sense that consumers should never dictate the direction a brand takes.  They are very much in power when it comes to voicing their opinions and/or spreading the message.  Brands can control what they say, but they no longer have the control to (a) dictate how people perceive it, or (b) ‘hide’ and disregard any feedback – positive or otherwise.

I do think though that this increase in consumer feedback and its immediacy allows for marketers to respond quicker to the public sentiment’ and act quicker if a change in message is needed – politicians and DellHell being obvious examples.

Mike also points to the GAP/Scyfy experiences.  Personally I think GAP caved in…  I very much doubt a logo would have a huge impact on people’s purchasing habits – yes, there may have been a couple of rough months but shortly after normality would resume.  I never thought they needed a new logo (after all, I don’t think it is the logo that is making it head down the drain) but that’s something for another time.

But I digress, the Brand Manager’s role is to look at the comments/feedback (or ‘buzz’ as us agency folk call it) and determine which are:

  • valid – versus just a vent/rant
  • to be actioned as being opportunities (new areas that the brand can explore – e.g. new tie-up with other brands/markets) or consistent with the brand ‘story’

A Brand Manager gets paid to make those distinctions and take those actions/decisions.   Brand Managers are still very much in control of the brand story. They just need to be aware that the path it takes will not be confined to that which they chose and act to maximise the opportunities that are presented by their customers.

Brand Managers, as they say in the posters, “Stay Calm and Carry On”.


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