Marketing departments have tried to control brand identity with years of research and oceans of ink (and pixels). But the concept that a company can control its brand is a myth and it always has been. At best a company can contribute to its brand identity, but in reality that identity is created by the market. That identity includes not just the nice polished stories pumped out by Marketing, but all the crappy and in between stuff that happens when product meets customer.
This topic was brought home in a lively discussion at the Austin Social Media Club breakfast this morning. Bryan Person led a conversation about how to lead people to Web 2.0 who are outside of the technology bubble. One theme that surfaced was marketers’ reluctance to give up controlling the message. That “control” is a total conceit on their part.
With Web 2.0 customers can talk to each other about the things they always talked about, but now Marketers can see it. This is hugely disorienting for a tribe that thought they “controlled” and “managed” their brand identity. But all of us as consumers are gravitating to this new way of interacting with each other. For companies that can adapt it will result in much more authentic conversations with their customers. We need more focus on contribution and less on control.