Give up control. That’s a refrain I’ve often heard in conversations about the relationship organizations should have with their brand in the age of digital communication.
I was reminded of that when I read the story of the London Organizing Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (LOCOG) being heavy-handed in their protection of the Olympic brand (see Brand police keep Olympic spirit in check in Britain). In a tweet, I noted “Overprotection of a brand is a sure way to kill it. The Olympics are leading that charge.”
I still agree with my comment. However, I’m not sure I agree wholly with the idea that an organization needs to secede control over their brand. I believe the organization and the individuals associated with the brand need to change their relationship with control. They need to take an active role in a community which feels a connection with, perhaps even a share in ownership of the brand — not because people feel they have a financial stake in the brand (or that they can affect the overall financial value of a brand), but because they want to feel a part of the brand.
LOCOG (like other Olympic committees before it) apparently believes the value of the Olympic rings lies within the scarcity model. It’s true merchandising the imprint has a cash value. However, for a growing number of people the committees have overstepped boundaries by attempting to appropriate public enthusiasm. In doing so, they’re devaluing the brand they covet.