“The consumer is in control” is a popular marketing catch phrase these days. With the “perceived” dominance of social media, consumers can react in real-time and give their opinions both pro and con. But does that mean consumers have control of a brand? A more important question, should a brand be defined by the ever-changing whims of the public?
In my opinion, a brand is still in control of who they are and what they stand for. They still need to control their narrative to their customers. All social media has done is given consumers a louder voice. This should not be confused with directing the brand narrative. If a brand is blowing in the “public opinion” wind, then they don’t really know what they are doing. They’re clueless. It’s like someone who is one way with a group, then does an about face if they are with another group who is against their previous stance on a particular subject. Very quickly, you lose respect within both groups because you end up looking spineless and no conviction of who you are. This applies to a brand as well.
Google, for example, controls their narrative. They do extensive testing, listen to users, and adhere to the data, but they still control who they are and where they are going regardless if public opinion agrees or not. They don’t let the online chatter force them to be something they are not or limiting their vision of what Google want’s to do. Same goes for Apple. They have policies and approaches that the public dislikes, but they still keep their brand voice and narrative and are rewarded with even more loyalty and followers.
Brands that have a strategy of letting the customers tell them who they are and what they should stand for are either too lazy to do the work of developing an authentic, compelling story and living it or they don’t have a clue about what they are doing and are just lucky to have any customers at all. It’s like letting your Facebook friends and Twitter followers tell you what you should believe in, define your values, and give you your purpose in life. Too many brands are claiming to do just that when they announce that their brand depends on what their customers say it is.
Yes, you should listen and consider all of the ideas and comments from your customers and online chatter. You should not let that define the purpose and narrative of your brand, though. Reacting tactically is an appropriate response, but wholesale brand strategy is just being ignorant or lazy or both.
Listen to your customers, yes. Lose control of your brand narrative, not a good idea.