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To love is to let go

If you are controlling your brand, you are already behind.

In today’s shared economy, people create and share content faster and more authentically than companies.  So, why don’t most of us allow our customers to own and tell our stories? Why don’t we let go of our brands?

Is it the risk? As marketers, we are control freaks:  We want to protect our brand. In the name of consistency, we try to control every touch point from defining the message to dictating timing and channels. It’s like being in a one-way relationship with a control freak. “Human”? Maybe. Desirable? No.  

While this approach may have had its merits, it is not in tune with today’s reality.  People care about people, not products or features.  They don’t want to be told a story; they want a story to tell, and they want to tell it on their own terms.

If you look at the brands (e.g., Coke, Heineken, Patagonia, McDonalds, Lego, Red Bull, BuzzFeed…) that are thriving in this new reality, they share a common trait: they are live brands.  Not static or controlled brands. This means that they have a sense of purpose, they live in real time, and their stories are human, created and shared by people on their own terms.

In 2011, Coke rewrote its communication constitution to achieve its new ambition, to be the #1 in the non-alcoholic ready-to-drink business in every market, every category, by 2020. Big goals require big change. They new mantra “Liquid, Linked, &Liked, is about “creating ideas that are contagious so we actually lose control of where they go but directly linked to the values and objectives that matters to the brands,” according to Jonathan Mindenhall, VP of advertising strategy and Creative Excellence.

One of the most notable responses has been the “Share a Coke” campaign, which literally puts the brand in the hands of the consumers.


McDonald’s, a brand torn to bits in the media and in movies such as Supersize Me, Food Nation, and Food Inc, had a major quality perception problem. To address the problem, McDonald’s in Canada decided to open up by inviting people to ask questions about the food. Then, McDonald’s answered all the questions openly, honestly and in real-time, and posted the Q&A live for the world to see.  What started as a national campaign in Canada transformed the way that people around the world felt about McDonald’s.




In the lieu of sponsoring the US Open, Heineken decided to bring a little bit of the Arthur Ashe Stadium’s experience to Union Square.  They brought a tennis umpire chair to the square and asked bystanders to silence the crowd for two tickets to the US Open. The result: a marriage proposal. Check it out.




In summary, in today’s connected economy, the best Brands stay relevant by letting go. The more we try to control our brands, the less love they get.  That’s why to love is to let go.

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