Originally this blog post was going to capture our New Year’s predictions and resolutions but I figure  we’re all a bit bloated and tired of prognostication by now.. Instead I’m going to use this post for a bit of shameless self-promotion to talk about my first published long document “Organic branding: Using consumers to help build your brand."

Organic branding is a term we coined here at Forrester to describe the fluid and responsive method of brand development companies must adopt to market successfully to empowered and opinionated consumers.  While a lot of the marketing press has heralded a new era where marketers must “cede control of their brands” and be prepared for consumers to drive everything I think this both over simplifies and over states the issues.

First of all, who in marketing ever really thought they were in control? Most marketers will readily admit to fear and trepidation in relying on a few focus groups or an executive ad review to determine the fate of their marketing campaign. The honest ones will acknowledge they haven’t always been sure what magic confluence of the right Ps at the right time drove their success.  New products fail at an alarming rate, private label takes root and multi million dollar marketing campaigns are shaped by the opinions of everyone at the table sometimes regardless of whether their opinions are informed ones.

Second of all, do we really think consumers want to drive everything?  I don’t. Whether in B2B or B2C, our customers want us to surprise and delight them, to bring them something they haven’t thought of or didn’t even know they needed, to provide service excellence and quality and to treat them with care.  They are aching to be heard and the brands and companies that listen—actively, openly, without defensiveness– will be the ones that carry the day. It’s a big scary global world out there and brands have a more significant role than ever to play.  Brand marketers need to be confident of who they are and what they stand for, defend their values at all costs and embrace their advocates while being willing to walk away from customers who will move them in the wrong direction.  Does this mean giving up control?—not really—but it may mean sacrificing some top line growth for bottom line health.  Come to think of it, that may be the scariest prospect of all.

We all have opinions—don’t take mine.  Read my document, examine the research, decide for yourself what it means and let me know.  I’m ready to listen—actively, openly and without being defensive (I think).

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