Mitch Joel for The Huffington Post Consumers Control The Brand (And Other New Media Myths)

February 21st, 2012

The Huffington Post
By, Mitch Joel
February 21, 2012

Marketers don’t control their brand… the consumer does.

It’s been the battle cry of social media enthusiasts since The Cluetrain Manifesto was first published over a decade ago. If “markets are conversations,” as the book says, then we can’t be so presumptuous as to assume that the marketers can both control or lead the conversation, can we? It’s actually a myth to think that consumers now control the brand, simply because those consumers can say (and publish) whatever they want and feel about a brand in the online channels.

In the past few weeks, I’ve come across a handful of blogs that are regurgitating this myth about consumers and control. As someone who spends the majority of my time in the boardrooms of some of the biggest brands in the world, please trust me when I tell you that the marketers are firmly in control of the brand.

What? The brands now control the brand message?

Not exactly. The brands control the brand. The consumers can (somewhat) influence the brand message. Brands still choose their products and services, they decide on the pricing, placement and promotion of the brand. They work (either internally or with an advertising agency) to set the tone, feeling and emotions that they want the brand to capture in the zeitgeist of the world. I’d even argue that they’re getting increasingly smarter when it comes to social media and are doing a fairly good job of connecting and engaging in many of the online and mobile channels to give their brands a more human voice and offer consumers an opportunity to have some kind of real interaction between real human beings. When everything goes the way it was planned, it is poetry in motion. When it goes awry, it can get pretty ugly. Either way, the company still decides the brand’s path. The are firmly in control.

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