Abandon thoughts of control and unleash your brand’s potential.

A marketers’ guide to redefining our role.

As marketers, we’re all aware that the old paradigm of complete control of our brands is no longer sustainable — or even possible. There are too many channels. Too many social avenues. Too many ways for others to talk about, interact with, and actually shape our brands.

It’s simply impossible to control everything.

And why would you want to? You would be preventing the natural efficiencies and benefits of your audience sharing your story. There’s no better advertising than the kind your customers do for you. There are no better customers than those who want to participate in shaping and sharing your brand with others.

What now?
So the challenge is that we don’t have total control and the old model does not function in this new environment. The key question, then, is: What are we to do now?

Simply put, we need a new model for how we operate in this landscape — a new way of thinking about our role as marketers.

We must accept that it’s okay to not have complete control. Now, this in no way means we’re not playing a huge role in the success of our brands. In fact, I think the marketing role is more important now than ever. In this new landscape we don’t just talk. We listen. We don’t just broadcast, we participate.

In short, the new model is one where we are a lot less like a controlling boss, and much more like a nurturing parent.

Our New Role
Controlling Boss Shift to Nurturing Parent
I own & protect my brand
I tell the world what my brand is
I nurture & unleash the brand’s potential
I plant the seeds and grow with my brand
Our new role is to deeply understand our brands. To nurture, support and create space for them to grow. Like a parent, we should strive to bring out the best and help our brands reach their full potential.

But don’t be under any illusions that it’s yours. “Your” brand is a separate entity, with a life of its own that is out of your control.

I personally find it very fulfilling to focus on creating the right environment for something to flourish in its own unique way instead of trying to dictate exactly what it should be. The surprises and unexpected turns are often quite rewarding

The grandmother in “Parenthood” does a nice job of summing it up:

Sure change can be scary and unpredictable, but it gives our brands the most opportunity to flourish and participate in this new landscape of endless options.

Steps to redefining our role

You cannot understand without listening – really listening – first. And you cannot flourish in this new environment without understanding.

You need to understand the environment, understand your brand on a deeper level than ever before, and understand your customers as people. Listening is how you learn to understand your audiences better, earn their attention and invite them into your brand story.

Listening is not passive. It’s bold and courageous. Listening is a tool for change. And it’s your only hope for success in this new role and new world.


Shift your mindset from controller to parent (see sidebar for some inspiration on how to encourage your own mindshift.)

Allowing your mind to shift opens up possibilities. You have to think differently in order to be able to act differently with your brand. There are options, ideas, opportunities that are right in front of you now, but you’ve been missing them. See yourself as the nurturer instead of controller, and you will start to see all kinds of new and exciting avenues for success.


When you bring your brand idea alive in the right medium and to an audience tuned in and open to your story, then you’re not advertising. You’re creating meaning.

If you just sit, they will tell your story. Without ever reading your brand guidelines or understanding what you stand for. But if you have listened well, you can add value to this relationship and create meaning that will be shared. This is a great era for those who create meaning instead of just noise. This is where it gets exciting.


“In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.”
– Eisenhower, Dwight D.

Planning helps you know your brand, know the environment, think through scenarios, explore possibilities. But the truth is, in our ever-changing landscape, your plan becomes almost immediately outdated. Use the discipline of planning to enable you to be flexible and adaptable as things change (which they will).


This is jazz. There is no expert, no exact right answer. Creativity will set you free!

Find the right advisors and partners, and have fun. This is the most exciting time in history for a marketer to be working with a brand.

Some parting words
I feel the excitement about this paradigm shift every day at Enilon. We’d pick the rollercoaster over the merry-go-round every time.

Maybe it’s because we were born in this digital world. Maybe it’s because we have opinions ourselves and love the idea that the community is in control. Or maybe it’s because we love listening and challenging. Whatever the case, we’re loving the new playing field. Loving idea of changing our role from a dictator to a loving parent, and being someone who nurtures and creates the right environment for great things to happen in their unique way.

I once heard the quote, “Why worry about things you can’t control when you can keep yourself busy controlling the things that depend on you?” I don’t know who said it, but I know there is so much I can focus on everyday that I don’t lose one bit of sleep on the things out of my control.

So don’t ask how you can regain control. Ask if you’re giving your audience the right tools to help your brand thrive in this new paradigm. Be in tune. Be flexible. Enjoy the ride.

If you remember nothing else, remember this: Listen first. It’s the single most important skill for marketers and brands.