Our Social World and Whose Brand is it anyway?

I’m blogging this live from Our Social World where we’re reached the final session and many of us are now sipping the Stormhoek courtesy of Hugh. The OSW site links to lots of coverage of what’s been happening.

I did my party piece sharing an improv game to explore the idea of taking risks, stepping into the unknown and co-creativity.

I also mentioned my part in starting 173drurylane.com, and was surprised to find that this sparked a bit of controversy. If I followed correctly (and I may have got the wrong end of the stick), some folks, including Ben Hammersley, were a bit startled at this blog being run independently of Sainsbury’s and without the bloggers explicitly telling the company about it.

One thing about this that feels important to me is the idea that a brand, like Sainsbury’s, is a social construction. While the company may own the trademark, it’s for all or any stakeholders to determine its meaning, which they do in a variety of conversations. The 173 site is arguably a slightly different way of hosting a few of these conversations, but I think it’s perfectly fair for us to do that.

When people ask what do they think about this, and how will they react, I start to wonder about what this they means; I start to philosophise about who these they are. Perhaps, in this context, we’re talking about the senior management of the company, who may or may not like our little blog. But what about the staff of the company, one or two of whom have been known to participate in the conversations at 173? And aren’t those of us who shop at Sainsbury’s part of the this they as well?

Call me a subversive, I can hack it.

Hat tip to Denzil Meyers who first (to my knowledge) asked the question, whose brand is it anyway?

UPDATE: The debate continues at Tim Kitchin’s, who weighed in my support, bless him. I hope we’ll all end up as friends in the end.

7 thoughts on “Our Social World and Whose Brand is it anyway?

  1. Adrian Trenholm

    My first reaction is how odd. We haven’t told Sainsbury’s, but we are certainly not hiding. In fact one of the features of the 173 experiment has been let’s *not* tell Sainsbury’s and see how long it takes them to discover us. Eight months and counting…

    But on the other side of the coin, is there a journalistic “rule” that one must contact the subject of a story?

    173 does not feel like journalism, though. More akin to, say, a retail consultancy like Verdict? Are retail analysts obliged to contact Sainsbury’s before publishing their findings? What about retail analysts in brokerage firms? Do they have to talk to Sainsbury’s before publishing advice to their investors?

    mmmm… still pondering this one…

  2. timkitchin


    I’ve been feeling much more injured on your behalf over at stealthisbrand.com.

    I am just bemused by the thought that you – a customer of Sainsbury – are somehow accountable to them for your opinion. At best, you were pushing the Sisyphus’ ball of consumer advocacy a couple of yards up the slope.

    I don’t see that you should have sought to justify it for one second.

    I expect many more customer and stakeholde groups to spring up.

    If you did feel the urge to defend:

    Do other media always call for comment when writing about a company? No.

    Was your purpose to engage the senior management in conversation? No.

    As I understand it, you were rattling your own cage as a consumer of their merchandise, and wondering if they were blog-aware enough to notice, and see how they’d react.

    Legitimate questions as a citizen, sconsumer, and professional marketer. Demonstrating a little bit of right-side-up behaviour.


  3. tonygoodson

    Censorship the Alan Shearer way

    My good friend Johnnie Moore has run into some flak (via Steal This Brand), about something Johnnie did or didn’t say at the Our Social World conference. I don’t know because I wasn’t there, but if people have misinterpreted what

  4. Broadband and Me

    OSW – Some thoughts

    OSW happened and despite some oddly controversial stuff, some quite interesting takes and great location, I left feeling mildly disappointed. Despite taking copious notes most of the day simply failed to enegage me, possibly because I have heard most o…


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