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Discussing brand ownership.

Who does your brand belong to?

Does it belong to you? Your customers? Or the general public?

There are a lot of different opinions on this and we’ll discuss many of them. In the end, is it not about ownership at all, but more about a partnership between the brand and its supporters?

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Recorded on February 5th, 2021

View transcript

Transcript

Brad Breininger:

Hi everyone, and welcome to this week’s Everything is Brand. This week we ask the question: Who does your brand belong to? Does it belong to you? Does it belong to your customers? Does it belong to the general public? Let’s explore. Alright guys, so there’s a lot of differentiating opinions on this as to whether a brand belongs to the organization that is pushing it out into the world, or whether it belongs to the people who interact with the brand. What are your thoughts?

Vincent Champenois:

I really think a brand belongs to itself, the brand doesn’t belong to people who use it, or people who buy it, or people who consume it, if you put the brand out there, you decide what impact it should have. You decide who it should address, you decide how you can change it, or make it even more relevant. So I think that it belongs to the organization. Yet, you should be able to accept the feedback and embrace the feedback of its user.

Marko Zonta:

It’s interesting, because I think that Vincent is making a really good point. There are a lot of people saying that the brand belongs to the consumer, to people who are actually interacting with it. And I would agree with Vincent, the brand belongs to the organization in terms of who created it because the organization, whether it’s small or large, is really managing their personality, how they actually want to be perceived how they actually want to be portrayed in the market. Now, sometimes they may actually get feedback or results that are not desirable. So absolutely, they can actually get that kind of response. But they still have the power to control the message and how they’re perceived out there in the market. So I think that this idea that it’s the market that actually creates your brand, or controls your brand, I think is a little bit false. And I think it’s also a bit of a cop out.

Brad Breininger:

So what about in situations where organizations have put out something into the world? And the feedback that they get says, “no, that’s not who you are, this is how we see you”, which has happened multiple times? Is it the responsibility of the organization to listen intently to that feedback? Or do they stay the course with the brand that they’re trying to create out in the world, which is it is it that organizations create the brand, but then the evolution of that brand is determined by the marketplace,

Jeremy Linskill:

I feel like it’s controlled by the almighty dollar a little bit there, it’s really interesting. And that springs to mind a lot for me in in the area of social media and social media brands, where they come out with an app, they have this idea, and then the general public takes that idea and completely flips it on its head, and then you watch that app slowly become what the people have dictated, it should be. So my answer to that is a little bit, I don’t know you guys can agree or disagree. As long as they’re making money, they’re kind of like, we’ll be whoever you need it to be. We’re just looking for a niche in the market in order to be successful.

Marko Zonta:

To that point, I think there’s a difference between the product that you’re putting out there, versus your brand and personality of your brand. And I do agree that when you’re creating a new brand, if you know your audience, and if you’re really plugged in, then you will know how to form your brand around that. Your brand should not only reflect who you are, but also if you are really connecting with your audience, you will know exactly how to create that brand and what you should sound like what you should look like to appeal to that particular audience, whether that’s a useful brand or corporate brand, or whatever type of brand it may be. If you’re really connected with your audience, you will align that just right to have that connection. And I think that if you’re actually getting really negative feedback, you probably don’t know your audience. You’re not paying attention to what’s really going on.

Vincent Champenois:

I absolutely agree. It reminds me of what happened to Gap a couple of years ago, perhaps a decade agotime flieswhen they rebranded when they recreated this tiger. I don’t know if you remember it, but the reaction was so bad. The logo got such bad feedback that they decided to go back to their old logo, but to me prove that there was a disconnect between the management or whoever decided to rebrand and the customers and the expectations from the customers. So yes, Gap brand belongs to Gap. But when they forget to listen to their customers, or when they don’t their attention to the customers expectations and needs. It’s good that their customers can remind them what they should be doing.

Marko Zonta:

It’s interesting in that case, you know, to to use that example. That’s a perfect example of an organization trying to completely rebrand themselves introducing a new logo. When the brand is really well established, you know, if they actually went and updated brands made modifications to align it with, or perhaps the company’s going to reflect maybe changes in the marketplace, that would be a very different exercise. And quite frankly, the way I think people would respond to that would be very different. They actually decided to make a drastic change. And people who were connected with that brand just weren’t going to have it because it did not connect with the audience.

Jeremy Linskill:

We’re talking about the blue square, right?

Gabi Gomes:

We’re talking about the navy blue square, yes,

Jeremy Linskill:

And that’s my point, it was it was a navy blue square, I don’t remember it. And I don’t know if you guys do. We’re talking about a brand, how much of that is past the blue square, because what I remember from that conversation was literally, they changed the font and the blue square. And that’s what people were up in arms with. I don’t know that I would call that a brand modification. That was simply, honestly, I feel like it was a slow news day, and people just got up and upset over font change in a blue square. So I don’t know that that’s really a rebrand. I don’t remember the photography changing are the messaging changing, or the strategy for the gap changing with that brand evolution, I was literally, from what I remember a logo change that people didn’t like, for some reason, and then all of a sudden, they went back to the blue square. So maybe that’s a different conversation we need to have in terms of what’s involved in a brand change. And is that a brand change? But I just feel like that’s I don’t know, it’s a strange example, in terms of what it’s actually standing for what the conversation we’re having versus what actually happened during that, that situation.

Brad Breininger:

It brings out the question: How much of the brand is tied to what an organization wants to put out into the marketplace and how much of the brand is tied to what the audience is telling them on an ongoing basis. It really becomes this yin and yang kind of thing where, you know, there has to be that balance. So it’s a little bit like when you create anything, whether it’s piece of art, or whether it’s a song, or whether it’s a movie, you go into it with this full list of intentions about what you’re trying to create. And ultimately, the artist or the director is the or the singer is the creator of that piece. But then once it goes out into the world, it’s open for interpretation, it’s open for commentary, it’s open for insight, it’s open for all of these different things. And a lot of times the intention of what wanting to be done is not necessarily how it’s received. And I think that that can happen from a brand perspective as well.

Gabi Gomes:

I’m with you on that one. I feel that while physically and creatively it may belong to the organization that have built, but the feeling of it belongs to the audience itself. If I bring up Oreo cookies, for example, we know Oreo cookies are loved in our office. That that brand may belong to I can’ teven remember, is a Mr. Christie, the name is coming to mind as to who it actually belongs to. But we all own a bit of Oreo, right? We all have a certain feeling towards it, the comfort that that brand brings us and I can go on for other brands as well. We love developing strategy and value propositions and all that when trust is always the one that most clients want to put in there. But trust is one of those things that doesn’t really belong to the brand. It belongs to the end user. And whether the end user does trust that brand. So it’s a bit of that as well, right? I’m with you. Physically, it may belong to the brand, the company itself. But I think from an emotional perspective, a feeling perspective, a decision perspective, it belongs to the audience.

Marko Zonta:

But to use your example, Gabi, if they decided to actually change that brand in a major way, then people would lose that connection. But a brand doesn’t have to completely change everything in work to update themselves. They can actually make adjustments to whether it’s their logo, their imagery, whatever it may be, and slowly make adjustments to reflect changes in the way people buy things or whatever the situation may be.

Gabi Gomes:

We’re asking if a brand belongs to the company or the who does the brand belong to right. And I think you’ve just answered the question that it doesn’t always belong or it belongs to both parties. I think we’re kind of getting to that point where it belongs to the audience and belongs to the company. And you know, you can’t ignore one from the other. You have to listen to the audience. You have to listen to what your consumers are saying and feeling about your brand. modify it. And the minute that you ignore one part of it, it can be detrimental to a brand.

Marko Zonta:

True. But it’s interesting when it comes to the word brand itself. What does it actually mean? Like, what do we mean by that? Are we talking about the logo and kind of visual aspect? Are we talking about the personality, about messaging about their overall position in the community? Because there is a lot more to brand than kind of just the visual aspect? Like if they actually go too far in terms of changing it? Yeah, sure, they may actually have some issues. But at the end of the day, they still are in control of that brand. And what they want to do with it, knowing that they’re in business to connect with their audience, which, you know, whatever that audience is, whether it’s a specific narrow niche market, or a wider audience, again, it comes down to knowing who you’re speaking to.

Brad Breininger:

Well, I think it has a lot to do with the way we look at ourselves, we talk often about brand being a personality. And we as humans have a personality and we go out into the world, and we ultimately own our personality,

no one can tell us:

this is who you have to be and this is what you have to do. That is ultimately our decision. But if all the feedback that we’re getting, or all the interactions that we’re having, are creating a negative viewpoint to who we are, who we want to be out in the world, then we have to ask ourselves, okay, am I doing the right thing? Am I putting myself out there the way I should. So I think it’s a little bit like that, I think it it really is that you have to make a determination of who you want to be in the marketplace. And then you have to listen. And it comes down to that it comes down to listening and understanding how people are interacting. I mean, the penalty or the consequences if that if you don’t listen, you’ll be alone and in for a brand, the consequences that people won’t buy your product. If all of a sudden Oreos decided that chocolate was no longer going to be part of the equation. And that only blonde Oreos would be the entire brand, I’m sure that a lot of people would stop interacting with stop eating Oreos. So there’s consequences. And there’s bad sides to what we do with that control. And without that kind of yin and yang without the brand, owning it, and judging who they want to be in the marketplace, and then listening to what the audience wants and what is important to them, then you’re kind of left with nothing. You can own a brand but if the brand’s not connecting, then it doesn’t matter. And on the other side, if you’re only ever listening to the audience and kind of following wherever they want to take you, then there’s there’s no authenticity, there’s no base of any kind. So to your point, Gabi, it really is this combination of the two and one without the other just doesn’t work.

Gabi Gomes:

What about brands such as Amazon, that is made up of a marketplace of a whole bunch of other smaller brands? Where do they fit into the spectrum?

Brad Breininger:

I think at the end of the day, as much as those brands are part of the Amazon experience, the Amazon brand, kind of trumps it. Would you know, some of those smaller brands, if they weren’t being distributed by Amazon? Amazon lives in this symbiotic relationship with other brands. So it’s not necessarily the quality of the product that I’m going to judge Amazon on. But I’m going to judge them on the delivery of it on the interaction on the distribution. I think the consumers have become fully aware of where each brand sits in the continuum, and judges accordingly. For example, if I buy something off of Amazon, and it breaks the first day, I’m gonna reach out to Amazon because they manage that relationship for me, but they’re probably going to send me to the manufacturer. And I’m probably going to accept that because I understand that there are a distribution channel more than anything. I think it’s becoming more and more complex, but I think that there is a symbiotic relationship.

Marko Zonta:

And there’s also a really good point around a brand like Amazon. What is really their brand? What we experience as their brand. Is it their logo, their website, all that kind of stuff? Or is it the actual interaction how easy it is to go online and shop is the package going to be at your door the next day that is their brand experience. They could change the logo, they could change a lot of other things. As long as it’s easy for you to go online and shop and the package is at your door the next day, you’re still going to have a positive experience with the brand. I really don’t think that people care that much about those types of visual interpretations of the brands. Again, if they changed direction completely, they’ll pay attention to that but as long as it’s not too drastic, I don’t think that it’s going to make a big difference.

Jeremy Linskill:

Yep. All I care about is that the package get’s here fast.

Marko Zonta:

A good example of that was when Walmart rebranded, you know, a number of years back, it was the complete change. The new brand was actually really well done. But are you like the actual brand itself or not is irrelevant. what the point is that they actually really knew their audience, they knew exactly how to the brand reflects who they’re speaking to write, and it was a complete change. But they got it.

Gabi Gomes:

I think they did it well, too. I think they compare Walmart coming into Canada versus target coming into Canada, for example. And one was an epic fail. And the other one was an epic success. They did listen to their audience in this instance, right. I think the reason that Walmart is loved up here in Canada is they made a point of manufacturing or buying whatever products up here in Canada. They are that lowest-price tenant of their business, and it’s still to this day saving people money. They did a lot of things right that way. And I’d be hard-pressed to find somebody who doesn’t really like Walmart,

Brad Breininger:

People choose Walmart, and they interact with that brand for very specific reasons that are different than why we interact with other brands. So if we’re in a situation where I want a low price, or I want speedy delivery, or I want those kinds of things, then those personality traits are always going to be the more important thing. And if the brand changes those things, then I’m not going to be interested anymore. From a visual perspective, there are brands that are more visual in the world, if you look at Apple, if you look at some of the luxury brands like Louis Vuitton, or Chanel or wear, these are very visual based brands, if they change the logo, or they change the look, that would be a huge, huge issue. Whereas it’s not as important for a Walmart or Amazon because it’s not as integral to the brand experience.

Marko Zonta:

No, but my points would Walmart is when they rebranded their mobile and everything else around their imagery, their voice, everything else speaks directly to the audience in terms of people know that you’re going to be at a low price. There is a particular look and feel that it actually expresses, they didn’t go for some black and white, high end look and feel field, because that would be completely wrong for their audience, right. So So that’s my point, the logo, the way it was designed, the messaging around it, all the imagery, all of that aligns with cheaper products, volume, shopping, all that kind of stuff that’s perfectly aligned with who they’re speaking to.

Brad Breininger:

Well, it creates their personality, it is the visual representation of their personality. And I think that any brand who says that the way they look and feel doesn’t have an influence on the customers that they have, or who interacts with their brand, is just kidding themselves. And even though brands like Walmart or Costco are much more geared towards the experience, there’s still an expectation visually and figuratively, and literally around how people expect those brands to sound and feel when they when they interact with them. Is anyone choosing Walmart because of the logo? No, they’re not. But if it’s not, right, if that whole brand experience isn’t right, then it’s not gonna sit well. Because when the experience and the creation of that brand out in the marketplace don’t align, it creates this conflict. And whenever that happens, it just doesn’t work. So that’s a great example of that combination of expectation. And what the organization wants to put out in the world is so crucial. And anyone who is creating a brand or rebranding or doing whatever they need to do has to understand both sides of that equation, they have to understand both sides of that about who they need to be and how they need to be out there. And what is expected of them once they are.

Christian Rosenthal | ZYNC:

And to that point. I think that instead of talking about ownership, we should be talking about a partnership. The moment the brand goes out to the market, it stops being fully owned by the company, it starts getting into this space of relationship between the audience and the company, considering that the brand should be embracing experiences and beliefs the audience has about the brand. Right? So we should be talking more about a partnership.

Brad Breininger:

Yeah, that’s a that’s a great point. And you know, you’ll see often with brands when that partnership goes out the window, oftentimes The brand is dealing with some kind of conflict of some sort. So it’s, that’s a great word Christian partnership. You know, it really is this combination of the two things.

Christian Rosenthal | ZYNC:

And a great example of that is what happened with WhatsApp. Even though we’re not trying to change their logo or anything. They tried to change the way they manage their business by including all those policy changes. What happened? Well, people started leaving the app, right, a massive migration to Signal, Telegram, because they did not work on that partnership. They just relied on what was best for their business without thinking about the audience, right?

Gabi Gomes:

Sounds like a dictatorship to me.

Christian Rosenthal | ZYNC:

Exactly.

Brad Breininger:

That’s that’s the new thing. Brand dictatorships? Yeah, no, let’s let’s not have those!

Jeremy Linskill:

It’s also too though, looking back at all the examples we’ve kind of talked about whether it was the gap logo, or the WhatsApp or Walmart, or that it’s also in the way that you modify or adjust your brand. If we’re talking back in the Gap, it was an extreme change very quickly. Right? Whereas other companies ease into things. I think we’ve we’ve kind of touched on this, as we talked today, as well. But I think that there’s something to that. And I remember, I don’t know, it’s not really a quote, but listening to Steve Jobs at one point saying, like, if I come out with the iPhone 11, right out of the gate, that would have been too much change for people. So we had to sort of ease into it and move through things at a pace that that people can comprehend and get used to change, right. And I think that that’s playing a part in all the things we’ve talked about, if we look at the unsuccessful version of brand adaptation, it really is when when you go too far too fast. And I think that that’s a big part of what we’re talking about here in these partnerships. It’s like it basically if you don’t really talk it over with your partner, before you make these changes, or you make these subtle changes, they’re not going to like it, but if you kind of ease them into it, because you can’t really have a conversation with the audience and say, Okay, what do you think about we change the logo or not, you kind of have to make that decision on your own. But you’ve got to ease them into you’ve got to get them there at their pace, not at your pace. So I just think that that’s something else that should be brought up as part of this conversation.

Gabi Gomes:

He didn’t delete the iPhone button. He took 11 versions to delete the button on the iPhone.

Brad Breininger:

Yeah, you can still download it and have it there. For those people who don’t like change.

Gabi Gomes:

Diehard fans. Yeah, no, you’re right. If I go to Walmart, and I end up walking in somewhere else and find whatever it was that I paid for, at Walmart more, then yeah, you’re breaking that rule, you’re kind of breaking that trust. And, you know, I think that impacts the brand. It’s, you’re right, it’s a partnership, Christian.

Brad Breininger:

Yeah. And whether you’re the brand, or whether you’re the person interacting with the brand, it’s always a precarious position. And if you’re not getting what you want, as a consumer from a brand, you use your money and your influence to kind of veer away from that brand. And the same way, if the brand is not getting the sales or the success that they need in the marketplace, then they might go away. And we’ve seen that happen as well. And so that partnership is so important, because like anything, it all boils down to this idea of balance. And if we’re not balancing the two elements, then it’s not going to work, it’s not going to work if the brand is totally controlled by the entity that created it, without ever listening to the consumers that interact with it. And it’s also not going to work if the consumers try to take over the brand and the brand loses all sense of what it was supposed to be in the marketplace anyway. So this idea of partnerships or symbiotic relationship is so key to ownership of the brand. I don’t think it’s either one, I don’t think it’s that the organization owns it, or that the consumer owns it, it is this really important partnership, to decide about which brands are going to be successful and how things are going to go forward. That being said, I don’t think that the consumers necessarily own the innovation of the brand, or they don’t own the research and development of the brand. But they do own an opinion, an input channel. They do own this ability to comment on what the brand is doing. And ultimately the organization has to make a decision around Is this what we want to do is is how we want to go forward. And is this who we want to be in the marketplace. So the word of the day from this one is definitely partnership Brands are partnerships betwee the consumer and between th entity that owns the brand. An with that partnership comes lot of responsibility on bot sides and comes a lot o listening and making sure tha who you are in the marketplac and what you expect in th marketplace is happening. S that’s This Week of Everything is Brand Join us next week for new topic and a new discussion And remember, everything is brand.

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