“Marketers aren’t the owners of their brands. They’re merely the stewards of it.” It’s a saying fairly well known in the marketing world, but one that can still be fairly hard to come to terms with for some companies. Of course we own our brand. If not us, then who?
Well, here’s who.
Broadly speaking, a company’s brand belongs to an imprecise and constantly evolving cross-section of its customers, prospects, employees, suppliers, influencers, partners, etc. They “own” the brand because they are the ones who, by and large, determine its success and/or failure. The more connected they feel to a brand, the more likely they are to support it. The broader and deeper the support a brand has, the stronger its sense of ownership feels. In this approach, as a recent article helpfully explains, the brand’s heavy lifting is done by its community.
As the article also suggests, perhaps the easiest and most effective ways to create a clearer and better defined sense of a brand is to think of it less as a community and more as a tribe. The examples of brand tribes within the B2C world are virtually innumerable, of course—sports teams, food brands, music acts, clothing labels, etc. Generally speaking, we’re more predisposed to join a tribe that impacts or connects to our personal lives.
This doesn’t mean, however, that B2B companies can’t—and don’t—successfully build and grow their own tribes. After all, whether it’s B2C or B2B, it’s really about B2H—business to human. Companies need to build and grow an emotional, personal connection with consumers, no matter what they’re selling. Because at the end of the day, a purchase decision is still an emotional one, no matter what they’re buying. It’s also important to remember that the purchase is just the beginning of that relationship, not the end; companies that commit to providing a positive, engaging customer experience throughout the product life cycle are the ones that most often build tribes of loyal, emotionally connected customers.
All this being said, it can still be hard for companies to see themselves not as the owners of their brands but as their stewards. The sooner they do, however, the sooner they begin understanding who the owners truly are—and how to build a growing tribe full of them.