Insight Research: Psychological Brand Ownership
Due to trademark registrations, companies are legally regarded as the owners of a brand. As long as third parties rights are not conflicted, this implies that companies may exclude others from any influence on their intangible assets. Building on this, conventional marketing theories assume that the legitimate brand owner defines and controls the meaning of a brand by himself. However, day-to-day practice shows that a large number of stakeholders are influencing the dominant brand perception. Since every consumer has access to branded products in our globalized economic system, the process of «Brand Meaning Co-Creation and Co-Destruction» is unstoppable.
Besides, there is the possibility for psychological brand ownership. Thus, consumers may establish an affective perception of being the owner of a brand, even though there is no legal basis for it. According to the American researcher Russell Belk, psychological owners often regard brands as an extension of their «self». Scientific research has shown that there are three key motivations for this: (1) the urge to control the personal environment, (2) the pursuit of symbolic possession to express one’s identity, and (3) the desire for home territory. Moreover, psychological ownership of brands explains the desire of consumers to shape a brand’s meaning. This can lead to unpredictable interpretations and undesired brand use. Thus, it becomes obvious that a brand does certainly not solely belong to the legal owner.
Following this, Daniel Dietrich is researching the socio-economic phenomenon of “contested brands” at the Institute for Customer Insight. His aims are to explore this phenomenon theoretically and to derive practical recommendations for companies on how to reasonably deal with the corresponding risk of unintended brand perceptions. In case of further questions or if you are interested in research cooperation, you are welcome to contact Daniel Dietrich (email@example.com).