Who owns your brand?

by Kelvin Collins
Bronco - Digital Marketing Agency

Are you in control of your brand? Most of us like to believe that we are…

In my first post a few weeks back I wanted to whet your appetite a bit, stimulate a few thoughts on what you’re prepared to pay more for and whether you are influenced by brands.

This time around I wanted to explore a theory I’ve had for some time, and one that was the cause of the first falling out I had with a particular CEO some years back.

I believe that your brand is owned in the first place by your customer, then by your people (or employees) and then, in an uncomfortable third place, by the business.

If you consider brand management in that way then it takes on a whole new meaning and helps those who understand it deliver an amazing experience to their customers.

Let’s explore the thought a little:

A big business may spend a fortune on building the look and feel of its brand, creating products that it believes in. Likewise a smaller business may work really hard to deliver the product or service it considers is right.

The business may dedicate a huge effort to building its reputation, perhaps using PR, or speaking at events that are attended by those it wants to influence. It may use sampling to get to a wider audience. It may sponsor events, sports people, a community facility even.

But why go to all the effort?

Because it’s the customer who builds the reputation of the brand, and the businesses that understand that will do all they can to positively influence their targeted customer groups.

Let’s look at an example.

Probably the only brand in UK financial services that comes close to being loved by its users is First Direct.

When First Direct launched twenty odd years ago it was the talk of the chattering classes, people couldn’t wait to tell others about this new bank they’d started using. It was truly different. But what made it different wasn’t just that it was the first phone bank, it was the fact that it was created by a small group of people who were obsessed with delivering something that gave its customers every reason to talk positively about it, and did all it could to alleviate any situation that would drive negative comments. They understood that the brand is owned by its customers.

Recently First Direct started asking its customers to comment on its innovations, something called the FD Lab. Again, it acknowledges that the reputation of the brand rests with those who are talking about it, and gives those commentators something to talk about.

Another interesting example comes from Coca Cola. Coca Cola has been recognised as the world’s most valuable brand for decades, and so you’d think they were in control at least. But no. When Coca Cola changed its formula and launched New Coke in the mid 80s the customer reaction was so negative that the supposedly new coke was soon dropped, at massive cost. With the communications media we have today that customer reaction would have happened so much faster. Coke was seen as stable, traditional and something to rely on by its drinkers. Change wasn’t welcome, and they were in control.

I’m sure at some stage I’ll write about BA’s tail fin debacle too and the adverse reaction it created when it dropped the union jack from its fins.

I’ll conclude here by imploring you to consider the customer reaction of everything you do. You may be running a business that’s too small to even consider yourself a brand, nonetheless your customer reaction can still make or break you. Get them on side, and when they’re not, find out why and react to it. Putting a complaint right can often create a stronger advocate for your brand than just getting it right every time!

Next up we’ll consider the impact your own people, your staff, can have on your brand.

In the mean time – have a great Christmas!

Bronco - Digital Marketing Agency
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