Marketing organizations no longer get to define their identities. These meanings to a large extent are crowdsourced. Consumers share in the process of co-creation as they put their own spin on the company’s messages, and in many cases literally create the messages themselves regardless of what the company desires.
That’s why today it makes more sense to manage for anarchy. Companies—whether they acknowledge it or not—no longer own their brands. They make them; they distribute them, and they promote them, but ultimately consumers decide what they mean. Rather than issuing “cease-and-desist orders” and hope for the best, perhaps it’s time to plan proactively for a communications strategy that syncs with the horizontal revolution.
In the “Mad Men” days (and lasting for a few decades beyond) where large advertising agencies ruled, an enormous amount of power was concentrated in the hands of a relatively few organizations such as Ogilvy, Leo Burnett, Young & Rubicam, Doyle Dane Bernbach, etc. Many of these companies or their successors such as Publicis and Saatchi & Saatchi are still around and going fairly strong, but the competitive landscape has changed dramatically since the days when a “campaign” for a client with deep pockets consisted of a series of clever television commercials that were strategically placed on large broadcasting networks over a period of time.
Even these august mega-agencies fully recognize that today a client expects them to touch customers on a huge variety of channels in addition to tried-and-true paid media. The problem is that many of the places that people go to learn about the world – and about what to buy – don’t work on the paid media model. That means that communications are not so much controlled in a “top down” manner by huge companies. Instead they are “bottom up” and horizontal, as everyday consumers decide what, where and when they will tune in.
These fundamental shifts in the marketing landscape contribute to the new reality, where corporate identity gets crowdsourced.
So how does a brand achieve breakthrough? Through brand meaning.
Even after decades of brand equity research, most measurement systems capture only a small set of fairly objective brand characteristics (such as favorability, top-of-mind salience, and uniqueness) to describe the market value of a brand. These qualities are important, but they fall a bit short when they try to explain why an Apple devotee will camp out in front of a store for days to await the release of a new iPhone model, or why thousands of people have their favorite brand logos burned into their skin as permanent tattoos.
For customer-facing products, a brand obtains marketplace significance as it embeds itself in consumer culture. Strong brands “matter” to their users and the worlds in which they reside; they provide meanings that people need to make sense of their lives. The raw material for these stories often emanates from events in mass culture that are well beyond the brand’s control. Harley-Davidson, for example, benefited tremendously from the famed riots in Hollister, California, in 1957, which the movie The Wild Ones starring Marlon Brando made famous.
Contributed to Branding Strategy Insider by: Michael Solomon, author of The New Chameleons: Connecting with Consumers Who Defy Categorization
The Blake Project’s brand equity measurement system is comprehensive, measuring each of the five drivers of customer brand insistence – awareness, relevant differentiation, value, accessibility and emotional connection – along with other factors such as brand vitality, brand loyalty, brand personality and brand associations. Contact us for more on brand equity measurement
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