A couple of years back, mega-conglomerate Nestlé issued strict new guidelines to all their producers of animal products. The new rules were meant to ensure the ethical treatment of any animal destined to eventually wind up in a Nestlé product. The edict affected thousands of farmers around the world who all had to adopt more humane agricultural practices. The ripple effects reached far beyond just the Nestlé suppliers. About the same time, Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus retired its elephant act. And, shortly thereafter, SeaWorld retired its orca act and vowed never to take another one into captivity. These are all examples of brands in evolution, brands that changed business models not because management suddenly joined Peta; but because their markets forced the issue.
Let’s go back to remembering what a brand actually is: a covenant between a business asset and its market. A business asset makes a brand promise to its market and keeps it. The market then rewards the business with brand loyalty. As that cycle repeats, over time, the brand – the covenant, the relationship – grows in strength and value. That’s why the title of our ebook is A Brand is a Promise Kept. It’s a book every owner and manager of brand assets should read.
But who actually owns that covenant? No one can own a relationship. Consumers of Coca-Cola can be said to “own” that brand every bit as much as Coca-Cola stockholders. Remember when Coke tried to change its formula and the market rebelled? Coke was forced, by its own customers, to retreat. So who’s the boss? Who owns that brand?
Securities markets put a financial value on a brand and that value is assigned to the books of the business. Lucky for you, if you’re the business owner. The consumer that supports the brand gets nothing of value in return, short of the purchased item itself. And for that he’s shelled out hard-earned cash. So he’s right in thinking, “I gave that business owner my money and his brand value increased, which means he gets even more money, and all I got was this lousy t-shirt.” Why would anyone engage with a brand like that?
Why do people engage with brands? Why do I love my Mini Cooper, my Fender Stratocaster or my Levi’s 501 jeans? The instructional word, there, is “love”. Business owners get brand value out of the brand covenant, consumers get emotional satisfaction.
The world can be a big, bad scary place. We need safe spaces within it where we can take a breath and let our hair down and be ourselves. Most of us are lucky enough to have a loving family and stable home. We need these things. We love them. But almost all of us need other things, touchstones, to help us define our “safe place” in the world. In my case, it’s my car, my guitar and my jeans. When I’m engaged with them, I feel at home, safe. That’s why I happily pay for these things. That’s why I engage with these brands, repeatedly.
Another thing people love? Animals. So when they engage with brands that use animals, either for food or entertainment, they want to feel they’re doing right by them. The more they learn about the animals, the more they care about them. That’s why Nestlé, Ringling Bros. and SeaWorld had to evolve. The changes came not because of any sharp business decision from management, but because of the changing values of that other owner of the brand, the customer.
So, if you are the owner or manager of a brand asset, remember this lesson. Your brand may be increasing in value and, if so, all of that value will be accruing to your books. But you are not the only owner of your brand. At best, you co-own it with your customers. Think about what they’re getting out of the deal. If all they’re getting is emotional satisfaction, you need to look, continuously, for ways to dial that up. Make sure they feel like the boss and keep everybody happy; keep the brand growing.
Best Branding Reads – Week of April 17, 2017
United Airlines Brand Blinded by Fine Print and Tangled in Red Tape
If it weren’t for those bothersome passengers, we could be running a pretty efficient airline, here.
4 Ways To Remove Friction From Your Brand
Make it easy for your buyers to glide, quickly and effortlessly, through their customer experience.
10 Brand-Related Questions That Could Save Your Merger
Brands are most at risk during times of change. And what is a bigger change than a merger?
Developing A Strong Brand Culture
Some important points to remember when engaging employees and other constituencies with your brand.
New Era. New Look for Timberwolves
Wave of the future? Online explainers for new logos.
New Logo and Identity for Paraguay
I’ve never been to Paraguay. But this identity makes me want to go there.
Brand Valuation: Missing The ‘So What?’
o you’ve determined the value of your brand. So what does that mean?