On Brands – consumers vs owner vs strategist…

The beauty of brands is that it is the confluence of consumers hearts/minds and a P&L. I’m seeing ever more discussion about social media and socialization of brands (a concept that my buddy @wolfsbayne speaks to frequently). Someone commented that there are more Social Media consultants in LA than actors – which is funny on one level and scary on another. So, I’m offering up the following POV on how all this works together. At the end of the day, for a brand to be successful in the modern era, there are likely three ‘stakeholders’ involved. First the consumer – the brand often lives in the consumers minds. The meaning and economic outcomes of the brand are shaped by the aggregate view of the all the current and aspiring ‘users’. Second the brand owner – this is the person/team/company that manufactures (weather [thanks for catching the Freudian slip @kwlow] whether physical or digital) the goods that provide the brand experience. The economic viability of the brand is managed by these folks. Third is the brand strategist – the visionary providing insight as to where the brand can go and how the ‘new world’ is impacting a brand. The strategist may or may not work as the brand owner (it’s my POV that in best case strategist and owner are one and same, but this is not always the case and is difficult to accomplish due to specialization and scope of responsibility). More likely, the strategist is a highly creative and intelligent outside resource to help the brand owner navigate the future of the brand. I say all of this having played all three roles in varying degrees on both startup brands and top global brands. So to help foster a dialog on how these things can all work together it is important to understand the difference in the three.

one SHAPES a brand – interprets the meaning of a brand – tells the owner what is good and bad (with attitude and purchase/usage) – owns the minds that influence the brand – provides the ever valuable word of mouth – a person first, brand steward second.

one OWNS a brand – manages a P&L – reports to a GM/CFO/CEO – has corporate BS to deal with – has to help create shareholder value (in public cases) – looks at brand equity second, profit margins first – thinks about metrics/drivers/pricing A LOT – a business person first, creative second (if at all).

one CONSULTS a brand owner – creates strong and compelling frameworks – is largely unencumbered by BS – creates meaning in brands – can help explain the intangibles – has a deep understanding of how consumers think – is a creative strategist first, brand manager second.

So, all this is to say, that everyone involved comes at things from very different angles. The collaboration is effective when the consumer has amazing brand experiences, the strategist provides insightful/competitive roadmaps and the brand owner creates increased economic value. From my own experience, it important for the strategists to understand that brands are about business (sell against actual business performance metrics, not marketing metrics OR put another way, speak to the CEOs concerns) and for the brand owner to understand how people think about and engage with your brand impacts your bottom line (manage against a complete consumer experience making use of the latest tools – including social things).

That’s my Saturday musing on brands – off for another coffee with one of our cool SoCal peeps!

4 Responses to “On Brands – consumers vs owner vs strategist…”
  1. Great post. I feel like such a number now! 🙂

    yes, it’s about dollars at the end of the day. But that’s not the only measurement. As social media strategists I think we need to show ROI on various levels that increase the value of the brand.

  2. Great post Chris, I appreciate your sense of balance here. You’re right that we have to do a better job as an industry (I’m not a consultant but do run up against similar challenges as I run a marketing firm) of speaking to the needs and concerns of our clients in terms that are relevant to them.

    It’s also important that the people who are in charge of brands on the corporate side understand that although they may have lost a good deal of control over their brands, they still ultimately have the power to guide it in one direction or another.

    I would argue though, that no one truly owns a brand once it enters the socialverse as it instantly becomes democratized, socialized and influenced by everybody.

  3. gammill says:

    Robert, I couldn’t agree more. What I experienced is that it is about a series of metrics. I have observed too many folks missing some of the business performance metrics. I think it really helps to set up the conversation that shows how the social and/or brand metrics contribute to better business (because WE know they do).

  4. gammill says:

    Thanks Jackie. I think the challenge ultimately becomes showing folks how they can guide the brand in the current social environment and how social factors into their bigger picture. One very positive implication for brand ‘owners’ is the acceleration and enablement of word of mouth, the original form of marketing.

    Who owns the brand is one of the more fun conversations. To me, consumers ‘own’ the brand equities and companies ‘own’ the brand business. But I’m a little rusty on this debate ; )

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