You might control your brand, but you don’t own it. It’s the (prospective) clients’/customers’ perception of the core values, personality, and positioning of your product/service/company that defines the brand. In integrated marketing, brand consistency and focus are critical to the brand’s success. But the people own your brand.

Borrowing from the Institute for the Study of Business Markets’ (ISBM) definition of a brand, Lance Baird, VP of Sales and Marketing at Godfrey in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, asserts that a brand is a “relationship:” a relationship with a market based on cumulative customer experiences, tied to trademarks and other identifying elements, which has economic impact for a firm. Baird agrees with the idea that people, not companies, own the brand. He says this is especially true in our age of social media.

In his article, “The Importance of Branding in the Digital Age,” Greg Satell tells us, “Essentially marketing communication is about how people interact with products emotionally. People love some brands, hate some others and don’t think much at all about most. How the consumer feels about a brand will determine whether she is willing to buy it and what price she will pay.” He believes a brand is a promise, or a bundle of promises.

Whether you consider a brand a “relationship” or a “promise,” I hope you would agree that how a client/customer feels when they encounter your brand is the essence of the brand. This should be considered and defined as part of the brand “footprint” that you create. It’s this connection or feeling that gives ownership of the brand to the client or customer.

Social media empowers people to spread and promote your brand essence. You can create meaningful client interaction to propel your brand through effective social media marketing. A recent debate on Interbrand’s Brandchannel about what social media branding strategies will look like in the near future reminds us that millions of consumers are spending their valuable time and energy helping to market their favorite brands via Twitter, Facebook, and other social media platforms. The debate suggests that “Consumers will own the brand: the democratization of information means that consumers are now in control, and brands must adapt to this.” It goes on to say, “People will continue not only to endorse brands, but increasingly align their very own identities with them.”