Do you really own your brand?

When writing or talking about brands, I often find myself using the term ‘brand steward’, which I admit some folks find puzzling. The reason is that I feel uncomfortable with the phrase ‘brand owner’.

When a ‘brand’ is sold, for example, what is actually transferred? It may be the business in terms of premises, or means of production or delivery, but most usually it is the intellectual property – the brand name and all that goes along with it.

There are a lot of intangibles associated with the IPR including reputation, customer expectations and a brand promise. But I suggest these intangible assets are not owned. Nobody created the emotional values and connections – they emerged from the interaction between the public and the brand.

Of course there is a lot that companies can do to help manage, steer and nourish these intangibles, but they certainly don’t ‘own’ them: hence my use of the term ‘brand steward’.

If the company does not own the brand, then who does? Well, if we accept that the brand, the intangible assets emerge from this interaction, then the public has as much claim to ownership of the brand. Without either of these two parties – the public or the company – the brand would not exist.

It’s up to all the brand stewards to ensure the brand flourishes and that is by being sensitive and authentic to your partners in ownership – the public.



  1. Hiya

    My take on this is that CMOs/COOs/CEOs etc don’t own the brand – a brand is a construct held within the mind of the consumer, formed by the sum total of all interactions with that brand (whether direct – e.g. customer support – or indirect – e.g. WOM).

    In fact, the consumer probably has a bigger share of ownership than anyone else and ‘brand owners’ can merely try to influence and direct that mental construct.

    I like the ‘brand steward’ idea. That works for the subtle combination of influence and direction that’s needed to allow a brand to take root, grow and gain relevance within the consumers’ minds.


    1. Thanks for that, Neil. I wonder how many CEOs see it your way though? I guess this means that you see the brand as a social construct (which is a neat summary)?

      1. Probably very few!

        The more I think about it, the more I think that ‘brand’ is a social construct. Brands have meaning socially and social capital attached to them. They form social currency for individuals and communities as well.

        I’m going to think more about this. Might explore it with a post too… Thanks for summarising my thoughts so thought-provokingly!

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