Who owns brands now? 20 Nov 2014


Social media have created a power shift in the world of brands. Be it their viral effect or the marketing theorem that suggests using them to engage with clients, they now allow the public to even claim ‘co-administration’ of brands.

The ‘classic’ example is trademark crowd-sourcing. Many brand owners invite their public to vote on new product brands or even, for the boldest, to submit their own proposal. Careful design of the process is imperative in order to avoid being ‘bound’ by unwanted proposals. However, even in this case, the brand owner exposes itself to its consumers’ dismay, and potential social media viral effect, should it disappoint them in its choice of new name or logo.

 Re-branding may also come with a number of similar pitfalls. The on-line reaction of fans against plans to revamp the well known “Bob the Builder” character and brand portray an accurate picture of the difficulties that accompany consumer engagement. The brand owner may have to address the reaction of its target group, which, seems to strongly oppose the change.

One thing is certain; brand owners need to do their homework first before any major brand evolution or introduction, at least if the y want to minimize the risk of a marketing nightmare.

On a more general level, it will be interesting to see how this struggle for ‘dominance’ over brand perception will evolve. Like it or not, brand owners must familiarize themeselves with an increasingly larger volume of day-to-day ‘conversations’ with their public. Given the opportunity, sometimes even without one, will speak out and now have a lot of ways and channels to do so. Of course, consumer engagement has limits and, may, gradually balance to a less active involvement over brand development. And, finally, the advent of ‘personalized’ brand initiatives (such as the recent Coca-Cola one where first names were printed on the bottles) may just render the discussion obsolete faster than we would expect.