You don’t own your brand. Bold statement huh? It’s a little scary to think about. That brand you’ve devoted your livelihood to? You don’t own it. Your boss doesn’t own it. Your CEO doesn’t own it. Your shareholders don’t own it.
So, who does? Your customers. In a world of hot takes and a constant flow of media, perception is reality even when it isn’t true. Because of that, you can attempt to influence your brand’s perception and perceived values, but in reality, you won’t be able to own them. Your brand’s values will be based on people’s perception of it.
What shall we do then? The gut reaction by marketers and advertisers is to hold our brands tightly, like our own children in the middle of a disaster. We can’t let them loose. The world is dangerous out there, and we have to protect our brands right? Wrong. One of the most powerful things you can do as a brand is empower your customers to define your brands’ future.
As far as I can see, one of the most powerful examples of customers defining a brand is Jeep. The Jeep Wrangler is one of the most iconic vehicles of the last 100 years. It is also one of the most often customized and changed by customers. When that community of modifying Jeeps showed up, Jeep could have taken the response of many car brand by making them more difficult to work on at home. As I’m sure you’re aware, that’s absolutely not what Jeep did. Rather, Jeeps are one of the easiest cars to work on, modify, and repair on the road today because instead of running from their customers defining their brand, they actively encouraged it.
Allow your customers to truly take part in your brand’s story. Your most loyal ones are going to take your brand and push it to the limits, so why not encourage them to do so rather than trying to stop them?