How Can a Brand ‘Own’ an Idea?

How Can a Brand ‘Own’ an Idea?

As of late, many brands are becoming more strategic in their approach to positioning and differentiating, and while this is a welcome development, it continues to up the ante. These days, brands are looking to effectively ‘own’ a concept, territory, or even a word. With this kind of mental real estate, they hope to secure a more powerful, long-term position in consumers’ minds.

Often I’ve heard admiring references to Tiffany’s ‘owning’ elegant romance through that iconic light blue box. Or Kleenex ‘owning’ emotional moments that make you cry–and then reach for a tissue. Or Audi ‘owning’ the notion of futurism in the auto industry–until Tesla came along and took their crown.

How does a brand come to own a valuable territory in the public imagination? The ingredients are relatively simple to say, but hard to do:

1. Find an authentic, compelling, and sustainable territory for your brand.
With the help of what I would hope is a good agency partner with strategic chops, the first step is to find the positioning (the meaningful, consistent territory in the imagination) that will elevate and extend your success. I won’t go into how one does this, as there are other posts that elaborate on that, but suffice it so say, this is job #1.

2. Analyze all the current and potential touch points for the brand.
There is no such thing as an unimportant touch point. In today’s iPhone age, any touch point can be photographed, video’d, uploaded and discussed at any time. One must be systematic about evaluating every square millimeter and every word that represents potential brand messaging.

3. Remain utterly disciplined and consistent about your brand’s values and attributes–regardless of channel.
This last principle is perhaps the most important, and the easiest to forget. Brands who confuse their public and contradict themselves in different channels–will never achieve their greatest potential. If you look at great brands like Hermes, Tiffany’s, Uniqlo, The New Yorker, Logo, Veuve Clicquot, the list goes on (but not forever), they are ruthlessly consistent.

Consistent doesn’t mean sameness, as of course different channels are meant for different purposes. Advertising is not the same as social media. But one must be conscious not to send conflicting messages. It cannot be underscored enough: Clarity and brand consistency–are the be all and end all.


– W