I was attending a digital marketing conference last week and I heard a speaker talking about social media say, and I quote, ‘The value of a brand is diminished because we, marketers, have less control.’ That’s right – I did a double-take too, but he repeated the same incendiary statement. I struggled to understand what was being said. In my view, the value of a brand has nothing to do with levels of control. Its values are intrinsic, and there is more likelihood of them being damaged by heavy-handed attempts at control. There is a high measure of arrogance on behalf of marketers who overestimate their own influence upon a brand. Ultimately, a brand’s value is the product of transactions between the brand and its audiences – marketers may act as stewards and facilitators, but controllers is overstating their role I would suggest.
There are aspects of the brand, mainly in terms of communications, over which marketers may have a degree of control, but in the final analysis it is how the brand performs in its direct relationship with the public that matters.
In the early days of social media one of the biggest issues (and the greatest misunderstanding) was around ‘control’. Managers were fearful of relinquishing or losing control of the communications media. The truth was that their measure of influence was already far less than they believed. Conversations were already taking place around brands with or without their intervention. The great quality that social media can deliver is engagement, which is almost in inverse proportion to control. Engagement is about listening conversing and responding – not about control.