There is a lot of controversy in the field over who actually owns the company brand. Is it the brand ambassador, the CMO, the employees, or the consumers? Everyone can’t own a brand, and eventually a line needs to be drawn - right?
We don’t think so. At least, not necessarily. No company is the same and brand ownership varies based on your business model. Today we will explore each argument on brand ownership between employees, consumers, and the company itself, and give some advice that may help with your unique situation.
Employees own the brand
I have heard the argument that everyone in the company who interacts with the public owns the brand; in today’s social media society, that’s everyone. Allowing employees to act as brand ambassadors has its benefits. It opens up doors for employees to feel included in the brand and evolve with the company, and it serves as a diverse source for active and quick company feedback to consumers. With this model, it is important to make sure that all team members are on the same page and relaying appropriate brand messages.
LaneTerralever is a business-to-business agency (B2B). In may ways our employees are our brand owners due to the fact that the services that they provide are our product. Ultimately this makes them the most symbolic ambassadors of what our agency produces and stands for.
The public owns the brand
“The customer is always right.” Does that reach as far as to say that they are the core owners of the brand? In some cases that answer is yes. Brand humanization can be a good thing, as it allows consumers to interact and relate with a company on a more personal level. If a brand is producing a product or message that consumers don’t want or agree with, it won’t see much success in the market. When a Business-to-Consumer (B2C) company depends on product sales the public becomes an integral aspect. Recent trends show that consumers want to be more involved with brand decisions.
Gatorade is taking on the trend with their latest ad campaign “Sweat It to Get It.” This new YouTube sensation enables their consumers to represent the brand. In an attempt to shift Gatorade’s image from a typical lunch or gas station soft drink back to an athletic drink, they are encouraging consumers to engage in physical activity, display a “winning attitude,” and sweat before they purchase it. Check out their new YouTube video with Payton Manning:
The brand ambassador or company owns the brand
The CEO and CMO ultimately make the decision to invest and create the product or message. They have the ability to develop a culture focused on great service, or not. They ultimately respond to customer feedback or ignore it, decide whether to be transparent or secretive. All that the market can do is react to their moves. Consumers might hold the fate of your company in their wallets, but the company itself owns the brand. This is another common argument with validity in certain cases. Do consumers always know what’s best for them? In certain categories, it’s hard to argue with individual preferences (food, beverage, entertainment). But there are other, arguably more complicated, categories where consumers can benefit from leadership branding.
Finance, for example, is a category in which each consumer’s need is very unique, but his or her level of expertise may be all over the map.
The role of a brand’s marketing team is critical in terms of expressing the brand to customers, and the actual shaping of the brand. However, the belief and composition of its strategic components can belong to different audiences entirely. Take a look at your brand and analyze who is the most important part of your business is. Then give them a role in your brand ownership.