Brands have lost control. And what to do about it.

NEWSFLASH: BRANDS HAVE LOST CONTROL

Marketers no longer have total control over what their brands stand for. Gen Y are active participants in the brand narrative. No matter what you say to them, ultimately, they will decide what your brand means. Via Web backchannels (Twitter/Facebook/Digg) they control what your brand means to millions.

Classically, marketers would get their 4Ps in order and determine a positioning statement to set them apart from the competition. Then they would hammer their audiences with slogans and taglines that prop up their positioning. I propose that this may not be the best way to market brands today.

GOOD NEWS: YOU HAVE THE SAME TOOLS THEY DO

I’m not knocking the single-minded proposition or positioning statement. A brand should have a core “idea” or reason for its existence. What I am suggesting is that instead of forcing a one-size-fits-all brand proposition on all and sundry, marketers and advertisers should have a broader set of brand values that reveal different facets of the core proposition. Since consumers are going to expand the meaning of your brand whether you like it or not, you might as well broaden your brand territory – give them more space to play.

To do this:

  1. Figure out your Core Brand Proposition. A statement. A word.
  2. Expand your core brand definition by choosing related values, words, statements, the facets of your brand, to place within the green Brand Conversation Parameter. The green zone/parameter is where you want your brand to be or what you want it to be associated with. The red zone is the no go area for your brand.
  3. Be a shepherd. Keep all brand communications you control within the green zone. Influence the ongoing conversation about your brand by users (whom you have no control over) by being vigilant online, creating spaces for offline and online activities and interaction, helping them discover and explore new facets of your brand, and so on. “Give us the tools, make it easy for us, and we will join your tribe” – Seth Godin.

brand conversation paramsFigure 1. Brand Conversation Parameters

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