Well, technically you own it. You hold the copyrights and trademarks and service marks for your logo and name and all that good stuff. What you don’t own is much more important and valuable – the perception of your brand.
You can – and you should – do everything you can to shape and positively impact how the public perceives your brand, of course, but at the end of the day it’s up to them how they view it and what it stands for.
In the “good ol’ days” of traditional media (print, TV, radio, etc.) this was a bit easier for brands to accomplish. Nowadays, however, in the world of social media and real-time conversations with consumers and customers, brand perception is a much more fluid, subjective concept. A brand can devise of a campaign centered on a hashtag or phrase, for example, only to see a concerted effort by a group of consumers or activists derail it by connecting the phrase to negative perceptions of your brand – or worse.
Chevron found this out the hard way recently – and also found out that Twitter is prime real estate for this type of brandjacking, as it’s often called. Unlike other examples of brandjacking, however, what was most eye-opening was that the hashtag (#AskChevron) wasn’t even started by the company.
No, this time, #AskChevron came out from a group of Twitter users that wanted to point a list of transgressions it believes Chevron is responsible for. As you might imagine, the hashtag took off on Twitter, catching Chevron completely off guard as the phrase shot to the top of trending topics on the site within hours.
What does this mean for you and your brand? While you probably don’t have to worry about a Twitter hashtag trashing your brand going global any time soon, it certainly serves as a reminder just how much the game has changed when it comes to how we shape public perception today – and how much easier it is for those who don’t own your brand to still play a very important role in owning how it’s perceived. What it also means is that hyper vigilance – always being aware of what’s being said or shared about your brand – and reacting when necessary is as important as ever, and will only become more important in the coming years.