Who Owns Your Brand?

Who does own your brand? A strange question, you may be thinking. Or, perhaps you suspect I am lobbing a trick question your way. My response on both counts is “no.” It is neither a strange question nor a trick question. I would say it is a question with a very straightforward answer. Who owns your brand? Not you!

Brands are perceptions, associations, and images held by customers and others. Thus, they are the true owners of a brand. As a marketer, you are merely a caretaker, a steward charged with protecting the value it holds with stakeholders.

Do you need proof? Take the story of Gap. The clothing retailer unveiled a new logo last week only to announce four days later that it would keep its iconic blue logo. The change of heart followed immense public backlash against the new logo.

I read with amusement different opinions from designers and other experts about why the Gap’s new logo was an epic fail. Some experts said the Helvetica font was horribly outdated and unworthy of a trendy apparel retailer. Others said the blue square that protruded above the “p” had no relevance or meaning.

These critiques of the Gap’s new logo miss the most obvious point: the Gap’s logo does not belong to Gap. OK, the tangible qualities of the logo belong to Gap. Ownership is protected by a trademark. But in reality, Gap’s customers own the logo and the brand. Those brand elements connect the company with persons who care about it. Making swift, drastic changes to this piece of the relationship with customers is a prime reason why the uproar was so ferocious.

Manage your brand; build your brand; do what you can to control your brand. In the end, it is not yours, so commit to engaging your stakeholders so that you are partners in its development. Don’t go it alone, or you may experience the same “gap” in stakeholder relationships as Gap is experiencing now.

Creativity - "What the Gap Did Wrong"

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