There’s a lot of talking out there as to how brands belong to consumers, and not to marketers any more: google it, and this is just a sample of what might come out: “Marketers don’t build brands, consumers do“; “3 year old gets it: brands belong to you“; “someone should tell the folks at Lego that a brand belongs to consumers“.
I don’t know how to say this, so let’s keep it simple: guys, you’re wrong.
And while I’m saying this, I know that marketers are eagerly waiting for a world where consumers are the real brand managers: it’s a paradox, because it’ld deprive them of any responsibility on their job, but that’s exactly what they’re looking for. A brand that is built by consumers so that, if it fails, consumers will take the blame. (“Hey boss, it’s not my fault: I read the blogs, have the product designed by a panel of consumers, let anyone do their own packaging, gave it away to a number of early-adopters and relied on buzz and social networking. I’m not the one to blame if we’re not selling!”)
Truth is, successful brands are not built by consumers.
They are used by consumers, loved by consumers, promoted, played with, they engage with consumers. But not built by.
Brands are loved by consumers when they are inspiring, appealing, seducing, interesting, charismatic…
And people are inspired by stimulus that inevitably come from outside of them; they are seduced by something or someone who is “other” from them; they are interested in something they don’t know and own yet.
That’s not just how brands work. That’s how humans work: we find “out there” things and people that we want to get to know better, interact with, be changed by, grow with, own, share our life with.
Should we build all our sources of interest by ourselves, the world would only host a multitude of lonely autistics.
Think at the true cult brands: Apple, Ferrari, Ikea, Mtv, Diesel, Google, name others… All of these brands have been built, and are strategically managed by their company, and sometimes you can even name the one person who’s actually building the brand (Jobs for Apple, Renzo Rosso for Diesel, Page&Brin for Google…). What’s less “brand belongs to consumers” than that?!
All these companies build and manage their brand with a strong vision, and subsequently share their vision, start conversations with consumers, and cooperate to further improve their products. But it all starts from the brand-owners within the company. (Or was it consumers that decided that Apple would have to step into the music business?)
Final Burp: Yes, if you retain brand ownership, taking the right path is much more complicated and risky. But we can at least get rid of the temptation to follow wrong shortcuts.