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Co-Ownership—Brand Collaboration with Your Audience

Image © Gensler

We all represent the brand of “me.” As individuals, we are influenced by the events that happen in our lives, and there comes a time in adult life when we define our own set of principles and values. These values mould how we live and interact with colleagues, friends and family.

Brands are accustomed to crafting their messages and values by controlling how they are delivered to the world. Letting go of your brand seems counter intuitive to the traditional view of brand development, strategy and marketing, but it’s important to recognise that some of the most successful brands let their audience, not their marketing department, dictate the direction. And by allowing audiences to collectively dictate the direction of the product, these companies have created brands that are universally loved within their communities. As a designer, I wonder how this approach to branding will shape our role in creating co-authored approaches for brands.

Lego is a great example of a brand that lets its audience influence the direction it takes. Recently crowned as the most powerful brand in the World (Brand Finance, 2015), Lego is certainly a brand to admire. Through community engagement Lego allows customers to help shape and define Lego. They co-create it. Lego encourages its community to come up with innovative ideas and to customise their Lego sets and share their creations. LEGO Ideas is a dedicated microsite where anyone can submit ideas for a new product set. If the design gains more than 10,000 votes from the community, it is forwarded to the product development team for consideration.

COPYRIGHT: Photo: Etsy

Finding out how your audience identifies with your brand is fundamental to brand co-ownership, as it allows you to understand their views and how they emotionally connect with your product. Designers typically start with brand-prescribed attributes and try to interpret them for the intended audience. Whilst this proves fruitful in many cases, it is still a personal interpretation of how the intended customer will react.

Never underestimate the power multi-channel social media holds for better understanding your brand’s audience. While not every channel is appropriate for particular products, every brand has its place within the social media landscape. Interacting with followers on social channels and enriching their comments with responses is a proactive means of engaging with your audience. Social media conversations foster an in-depth understanding of your brand and where your audience sees it going.

Community ownership

There’s a group of emergent companies that are helping customers create their own communities. Ridesharing company Uber has minimal requirements for new drivers. The company encourages experienced drivers to help train new ones and to introduce new passengers to the system. This motivates customers to organically build and sustain a reliable driving community.

Platforms such as Etsy allow creative individuals to set-up profiles and buy and sell their crafts or clothes. User interaction is predicated by the actions and voices of other users. Entrepreneurs create an environment with a handful of guidelines, then set the brand off to be carried entirely by the hands of its own users.

As designers, we wonder how we will co-create a brand with customers in the future. If businesses constantly re-address their positioning, how far will they go to allow their audience to curate the brand they have helped build? One answer: by allowing your audience to collectively dictate the direction you take, you'll create a brand that is organically supported within your target audience.

Tony Wilks
Tony Wilks is the Leader of Gensler London’s brand design studio. His projects span from signage and environmental graphics, to print and advertising with an interest in how brands need to constantly evolve in the mediums they use and communicate in the digital domain. Tony’s passions include brand strategy, identity, environmental graphics, signage, wayfinding, and contemplating the brilliant work of his predecessors while enjoying a cup of hot coffee at his kitchen table. Contact him at tony_wilks@gensler.com.

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Reader Comments (3)

Brand is the quality. When people realize the quality, it becomes the brand. There are several brands we can see around us in dressings, daily use items etc. There are brands through online as well.
Great! Thanks for sharing the information. That is very helpful for increasing my knowledge in this field.
07.20.2015 | Unregistered Commenterhulk games
Do not know what to say, I liked your article and I hope you will have many entries or more.

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