When it comes to 21st-century marketing, consumers are more clued in than the professionals. Marketing managers aren’t in charge anymore. Consumers are. Across the globle, millions of insightful, passionate and creative people are helping to optimize and endorse breakthrough products and services, sometimes without the companies’ buy-in.
Call it brand hijacking: the act of commandeering a brand from the marketing professionals and driving its evolution. Brand hijacking allows consumers and other stakeholders to shape brand meaning and endorse the brnad to others. It’s a way to establish true loyalty, as opposed to mere retention.
Hijacked brands do not necessarily have to be great products. It’s all about the killer experience.
Figure out why you got hijacked. Too often, brnad owners try to identify the dirvers behind serendipitous brand hijacks through focus groups, quantitative studies or expensive trend-hunting reports. But these methods simply do not reveal the real causes. It is better to research the origin of the movement and trace its evolution by putting together a timeline. Take the time to study what the hijacked brand does for its users and what social factors are driving the brand’s success. Essentially you will become a cultural anthropologist.
A brand hijack embraces the consumer as peer rather than as “target.” Consumers of hijacked brands are looking for a meaningful connection to the product – a connection established through a common value system rather than a common demographic denominator. Hijackers establish communities around a brand because they believe the brand believes in them. Marketers therefore need to humanize their targeting effors. After all, you can’t collaborate with a statistic. You can’t co-create your brand with a “21 to 35 year old white, suburban, college-educated professional.” Don’t define audience members. Create them.