The bar has been raised. If the beginning and end of a relationship between consumer and brand is the transaction itself, it is very easy to fall out of favor with the audience. This is where the concept of “brand ownership” comes in. It can also be said that all marketing campaigns are an attempt to increase such ownership, which refers to building a brand whose values resonate with people and allows them to feel affiliated to this brand. It goes beyond a sense of possession that comes from owning the products of said brand, even though that might be a part of it. By inviting users to be a part of the brand and associating a purchase with being part of a family or a stepping stone into a new lifestyle, a brand can become more than just a name to you and forge a relationship beyond its offerings.
There are many different definitions, and none of them are wrong since brand ownership is vast and all-inclusive. It is useful to take note of the ways in which it manifests itself:
Brand Ownership Can Serve as a Competitive Advantage
Brand Ownership is significant because many firms compete in the same markets to attract the same target audience. So what does it take for you to pick one brand name over another when both offer the same thing?
Now, the spotlight is still on the offering, but the whole picture has come to life. Brands now must pay heed to aspects of their business that were earlier considered peripherals and, or even hindrances to business, corporate social responsibility, ethical production, sourcing, and fair labor practices.
Moreover, they need to set themselves apart from competitors through efficient marketing that highlights the brand and has recall value. It would also be useful to build a plan to increase engagement with consumers, who are often spoilt for choice. Once your brand has enough support and goodwill so that new entrants in the market do not affect your share of the pie, brand ownership can only make you better off and provide you with further engagement.
Brand Ownership and the Consumer
Firstly, consumers can experience brand ownership. While you might think this is usually affiliated with the prestige that high-end names in industries such as cars, fashion, and jewelry have, it applies to just about any brand trying to stand for something bigger than its value proposition.
For example, up until 2019, the outdoor clothing company Patagonia has become the go-to brand for thousands working in the finance industry (especially Wall Street), all searching for these economical, ergonomic vests. It would be just as easy for these individuals to invest in fancier clothing that depicted their status. Still, the Patagonia vest stands for something other than itself–a fraternal sentiment between those who work in finance. The ones who wear the vest “own it” and explain the connection between Patagonia and their kind, the finance kind. The vest-maker is certainly a beneficiary in this equation.
Brand Ownership as a By-Product of Brand Loyalty
In marketing circles, ownership is often used in the same vein as terms like “brand advocacy” and “brand loyalty.” Loyalty comes first in that you consistently purchase products/services from said label and are used to the quality associated with the brand. Advocacy is the next stage in the consumer-brand relationship, often as a by-product of loyalty. You actively promote the brand through word-of-mouth or social media shoutouts. Now you’re committed and happy about it.
If you think about it–ownership lies somewhere in the middle of these two phases. At this point–not only do you love this brand and keep making purchases, but you also tell your friends and family about how good it is. So if someone asks you where your shirt is from, you tell them with pride you want them to know because you’re a brand owner.
Brand Ownership and Employees
Ownership can also be on the other side of the market–the employees. This is not to say that there aren’t certain periods in one’s career when jumping at the next best opportunity is more beneficial than holding on and remaining loyal to an organization. The idea is that as far as possible, employees would do well to treat their work and relationships in the workplace as efforts made towards a collective desire to succeed as a “family” of sorts. By becoming accountable and focusing not on the number of sales but on the relationship with clients, employees can play an active role in shaping a brand’s culture and perception.
Sometimes brand ownership is thrust upon employees, leading to mixed results. For example, a video recording of a touching act of kindness by an employee at a well-known grocery store reflects positively on the employee and the reputation of the grocery chain.
Here, the employee acts as an extension of the brand. It wasn’t simply Susan whose generosity went viral; it was Susan from Walmart (insert any brand name) that really sticks. Brands receive the advantage here since the association is already made in our minds: Walmart employees treat people nicely. This would have an adverse effect if the employee is stand-offish and has a confrontation with a customer. As a brand representative, they would tarnish the brand’s image and create a negative perception of Walmart’s customer service in our minds.
In the end, each brand has to carve its journey and work towards building a core value system and upholding it with integrity and fair practice. If these values resonate with people, brand ownership can be achieved; it doesn’t matter whether it comes from an employee or a consumer. Especially in the hypercompetitive times that brands find themselves, ownership can be the lynchpin of a brand’s success.