You Don’t Control Your Brand. The Audience Does.

Traditional branding is dead. The days of ‘choosing’ your brand and pushing your choice out to passive consumers are gone.  Today, you have to earn your brand.

Thanks to social networking and Web 2.0 tools, you simply can’t ‘control’ a brand by saturating a market with endlessly repeating messages and advertisements.  It’s too easy for your audience to call your bluff, share their views with an enormous number of people, and create the exact opposite impression you were intending.

So how does today’s branding work?  You actually have to provide value for your audience or your customers.  If you give them a stellar experience, they will tell others.  If you give them a bad experience, they will also tell others.   The word of mouth about your content or product IS your brand.

Let’s say you upload 100 music videos and 5 comedy videos to YouTube.  In traditional media thinking, that means that you’re mostly a music service.  However, if only 10 people watch your music videos, but 3 of your comedy videos go viral, to the audience, you’re a comedy company.

The point is, you don’t get to choose. The audience creates your brand with every click of a mouse, every content rating tool they use, every comment they make about your content, and every link they send to their friends.

So forget trying to ‘sell’ people with endless hype.  Focus your energy on building a relationship with them by giving them a terrific experience first.   The days of ‘promising’ a brand are over.  The days of having to deliver on the brand promise are here.

7 Replies to “You Don’t Control Your Brand. The Audience Does.”

  1. While I agree that the audience in large part will be in control of how you ultimately will be perceived, don’t you think that paying attention to your brand and message is as important as following your audience’s perception?

    In some respects if you know your brand well enough, and your audience better, in today’s playing field you shed thousands of dollars of advertising in lieu of letting your audience pass on the message for you.

  2. While I agree that the audience in large part will be in control of how you ultimately will be perceived, don’t you think that paying attention to your brand and message is as important as following your audience’s perception?

    In some respects if you know your brand well enough, and your audience better, in today’s playing field you shed thousands of dollars of advertising in lieu of letting your audience pass on the message for you.

  3. Absolutely! I’m not suggesting that companies don’t focus their content or products around a central idea of how they’d like to be perceived, but I am saying that the idea of the company ‘owning’ and ‘controlling’ the brand is a dying idea. I see a lot of places where ‘brand’ is something separate from the content or product – almost an entity in and of itself to be managed. There’s a perception that with enough money, you can brand yourself as whatever you want and I don’t think that’s the case anymore. The audience is too smart and savvy to be manipulated today.

  4. Absolutely! I’m not suggesting that companies don’t focus their content or products around a central idea of how they’d like to be perceived, but I am saying that the idea of the company ‘owning’ and ‘controlling’ the brand is a dying idea. I see a lot of places where ‘brand’ is something separate from the content or product – almost an entity in and of itself to be managed. There’s a perception that with enough money, you can brand yourself as whatever you want and I don’t think that’s the case anymore. The audience is too smart and savvy to be manipulated today.

  5. First off Pratt, what are you doing up??? West coast man, sleep! 😉

    Second, I completely agree with your point. Because culling the opinion of the internet is as easy as herding cats. And no amount of money thrown at it, will be quicker or more gelatinous than it is itself.

    And I agree, once the audience perceives they’re being treated like audience 1.0, they turn on you, organize, and counter.

  6. First off Pratt, what are you doing up??? West coast man, sleep! 😉

    Second, I completely agree with your point. Because culling the opinion of the internet is as easy as herding cats. And no amount of money thrown at it, will be quicker or more gelatinous than it is itself.

    And I agree, once the audience perceives they’re being treated like audience 1.0, they turn on you, organize, and counter.

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