It’s hard to let go of our babies. Kids, dogs, pets…. our brands. What happens if we turn our backs for a minute? Will they fall? Will they make a bad decision? What if I’m not there for a split second to make sure everything goes as it should?
We can’t always be there to defend our brands when they get attacked. While some organizations understand this, others live in a state of constant fear. And it shows.
Earlier this Summer, IKEA attempted to put the kibosh on a popular website where IKEA fans and advocates shared and learned about new and cool ways to use IKEA products. After eight years, IKEA served a cease and desist order on the site owner of ikeahackers.net claiming copyright infringement.
Ikeahackers is a place for fans of Ikea to gather and converse about Ikea products. Hmmm. When your fans build a site around your products and share design ideas, and other uses and fixes – you’d think you’d embrace this type of activity. Essentially, Ikeahackers gives giving IKEA buyers ideas and reasons to buy more of its products. Problem is, the legal team at IKEA didn’t see it that way.
I’m not an anarchist, I understand rules need to be followed. I also understand, rules need to be adapted as times change, and interpreted accordingly. I also think it’s time to think about setting your marketing free.
IKEA’s legal team says the company didn’t want to “confuse” customers as to what was truly associated with IKEA versus what isn’t. Their proposed resolution, however, doesn’t jive with that: They want the owners of Ikeahackers to remove any advertising from the site. Sounds more like they didn’t want to lose control of their brand and they certainly didn’t want anyone benefitting from it.
I’m not privy to inside conversation so I can only speculate based on what I’ve read, but I want to address a bigger topic. Brands should understand by now, we can’t and should not attempt to control the message. We never had control despite thinking we did back in the days before digital media, when marketing was a broadcast and not an online conversation.
Back then, the conversations were taking place where we had no idea and no involvement. At least now, we have the opportunity to participate.
When someone says this about your brand, wouldn’t you rather know about it and address it?
The very definition of brand lies in the minds of your buyers. Seth Godin says:
A brand is the set of expectations, memories, stories and relationships that, taken together, account for a consumer’s decision to choose one product or service over another.
When a community mobilizes around your brand, the reaction from the marketing department should be to nurture and encourage this kind of activity. But legal is looking out for different best interests than marketing is. The two teams rarely see eye to eye, as it turns out. The IKEA situation might be a classic one, where PR doesn’t have a seat at the table or doesn’t carry enough weight.
The reaction can cause a bigger firestorm than the actual situation, drawing more attention than it had before, and when you’re dealing with passionate advocates of your brand, the last thing you want to do is upset them. There are many softer resolutions and options available. Perhaps a logo needs to be removed, or a disclaimer included in the header. But a cease and desist? Why cut the artery of revenue that supports a site that supports you?
So what happened with the IKEA deal? They ended up backing off due to “global outcry.“
It has of course never been our ambition to stop their webpage. On the contrary, we very much appreciate the interest in our products and the fact that there are people around the world that love our products as much as we do.
We are now evaluating the situation, with the intention to try to find a solution that is good for all involved.
If PR had been involved from the beginning, they would have sought that “solution” from the beginning.
Perhaps we’ve entered the 1960s era for brand marketers and it’s time to throw the proverbial bras in the bonfires and learn to nurture and encourage the behaviors we want, and prevent what we don’t want by cleaning our own house, giving as little fodder as possible for it.
Hashtags will be hijacked. Twitter feeds will get derailed, tips and reviews will be written – all by advocates and haters. It’s a vast world out there and the best we can do as caretakers of our brands is to raise them well, be supportive and give them love when they fall and go boom. And consult with PR before you piss anyone off.
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