Jeff Bezos once said “Your brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room.”
Now, we don’t have to get into what people are saying about him when he’s not in the room these days, but I think about that a lot as we iterate and develop the product and company narratives at Tagboard, where I’ve been leading marketing for a little over a year now.
At some point, as a marketer, you need to surrender the idea that you can “protect your brand” and instead, trust your customers and employees to decide what your brand is.
So many marketers develop red tape and governance based on what they want their brand to be and how they want it to be perceived.
“Employees can only say this.”
“The brand can only be referenced like that.”
I think this is a mistake.
Full disclosure, I’ve made that mistake. When you build a brand, you want to protect it…but did you really build the brand?
Surrendering the Narrative
Joining Tagboard last year was a forcing function for me to shift my mindset here. For context, Tagboard helps brands, agencies, media companies, and sports teams elevate social content to tell great stories, bringing that content onto any screen, whether it’s your television set, stadium or arena, event, or website.
I don’t say that to slang product. I say that because what we do as a company is help our customers surrender their brand to their audience. Sure, they can curate, filter, and display only the content they want on-screen, but at the end of the day, they’re trusting their fans, employees, advocates, and influencers to represent them in an authentic and real way.
As I worked on developing a messaging and positioning framework, this was at the core. What is Tagboard? It’s not the story of a product, it’s stories of the amazing things our customers can do with it.
Influence, Not Governance
Your audience is already telling your story, whether you like it or not. They’re posting about your brand; the good and the bad (just ask any airline).
Social media has given anyone with a phone the ability to share whatever they want about your brand with their entire audience, sometimes with a massive reach.
This can be scary. And in many cases, the knee-jerk response can be “How can I limit my exposure here? How can I keep people from saying bad things?” but this fails for two reasons:
- It’s impossible.
- It’s inauthentic.
Instead of limiting exposure, craft a good message. One that resonates. One that your audience will want to share. Make it about them, not you.
So how can you do this? How can you influence your audience to tell a compelling story? How can you make sure it’s a positive one?
The answer is simple; treat your customers well, listen to them, make them a part of your story, and make them the hero of their own.
When your customer tells a story about your brand, it’s about them, not you. Really let this sink in:
Your customer is the hero of their own story, not your brand.
Seems simple on the surface, but this is tough to swallow in practice. We all want to be the hero. We want the brand we’ve built to be the hero. So we hold it too tight. But if you surrender control and trust your audience, I promise you they’ll do the same for you, and that will make a better story than you can tell yourself.