Who owns your brand - you or your customers?

As we get more and more heavily involved in developing brand identities at Ditto, I find myself asking the same question of our clients - who are your clients, and why do they buy from you? Of course, it's not rocket science to know that successful marketing depends wholly on understanding the needs of your clients and discovering their point of pain - you need to know who they are, where to find them and what's common to all of them in order to build a successful brand and business. But given that we invest so much time and energy in getting into the bones of what makes our customers tick, it begs the question: who owns your brand, you or your customers?

When you take a moment to think about it, an uncomfortable number of big brands have succumbed to the pressure of their customers and changed their brand as a direct response to the poor reaction they get when they make changes which their customers don't like. Take Gap, for example. The clothing giant abandoned their new logo after just 7 days because their customers hated it (admittedly it was hideous, reminiscent of something you might see knocked up in powerpoint). Starbucks also provoked mystified and confused faces from coffee lovers all over the world when they announced they were ditching their 40 year old logo in favour of a new look, stating it was because the future of Starbucks would probably revolve around products which didn't have coffee in them. Clearly, their customers weren't happy about the new direction of one of the world's most famous brands and several hundred of them were very vocal in voicing their thoughts.

The thing is, your brand is all about engaging with potential customers. It's about creating something that they can get excited by, and that influences every experience they have with you. Your brand doesn’t exist, doesn’t have any equity, except what’s inside the minds of your best customers. You might feel your business needs to be rebranded or relaunched, but your opinions are irrelevant: You work for the company. Your brand has a life of it's own and a future which is decided upon and shaped by your clients.

It's actually pretty exciting, when you think that the identity of your business can envoke such a passionate response in your customers. And I'm really interested in knowing how much of a part your customers play in your day-to-day marketing decisions. Are their opinions a deal-breaker for you - or do you plough on with your own ideas and assume your customers will follow?