Brand Rearing and the Nuclear Family

Twenty-two months ago, I became the proud father of a rambunctious, precocious little boy. Since that day, not only has he become the center of our family, he has also taught his dad a few lessons. The first, and most frequently repeated one, is that I don’t get control. I get to participate, engage, teach, demonstrate and even set rules and boundaries—but control is already out of the question!

With a background steeped in branding, I often find myself preaching the virtues of brand control, message management and consistency to clients and co-workers. But, is there really such thing as brand control in today’s highly engaged, user-generated world of brand interaction?

Similar to parenting, brand control has little to do with dictatorial powers and much more to do with engagement. Successful brands are no longer tight-lipped, single-note, tagline repeating ticker-tape machines. Brands are involved, committed community members that, at their best, grow up to make a positive and welcome contribution. It doesn’t mean we lower our standards, throw away the rules or turn a blind- eye to bad branding. But, it is our challenge, as brand managers, to contrast the limiting rewards of control with the almost limitless opportunities of engagement, participation and involvement with our consumers.

The quandary many brand managers face is the combined need to ease dictatorial control while still ensuring a positive, consistent, on-target brand message. One ally in achieving that goal is your brand advocate group. Brand advocates are the family members and friends who you trust to positively influence, guide and champion your growing brand. They are the active voices in social communities, the bloggers who start conversations, the consumers who write compelling reviews, or the critics who change their minds.

These past 22 months have helped me realize that raising a child is far from a solo endeavor. Luckily, my wife and I can call upon beloved grandparents, a favorite uncle, trusted friends, and a whole network of support. And as a brand manager, I work hard to ensure the brands I represent have the same network of support—an extended family of brand advocates.