Earlier this week Ikea made the news when it was reported that the had officially asked Jules Yap, the owner, of Ikeahackers.net to either find a new URL without the word Ikea in it or to eliminate all advertising from the site. Ikeahackers is a site started by an ardent fan who takes common ikea products and mixes them to come up with completely new solutions for the home and office. Of course this type of thing attracts other users like a friend of mine, Antonio Scarponi, who has come up with a complete hydroponic set-up with Ikea products. After Jules Yap published a post about the Cease and Desist request from Ikea, the story was quickly picked up by magazines and papers like Fast Company. For most people, going after a private person, a smaller company, or group of creatives adding value to your brand seemed unjust and the fallout has been quite negative. As Mark Wilson writes in Fast Company:
…You have to wonder, is it ever a good decision to take legal action against an ardent fanbase? Does a site rallying Ikea modders called “SwedishModernFurnitureHackers.net” really serve the Ikea brand better?
After seeing the reaction of people around the world Ikea also thought it might be going down a wrong course of action and are now again in talks with Yap to find a better solution, though exactly what that is remains to be found out. (Follow the story from Yap’s perspective here).
Is Yap gaining from using the trademarked name Ikea in her URL? Probably. Is Ikea losing? Most likely not, in fact they are probably winning, as eager do-it-yourselfers are reading about simple hacks that let them forgo buying more expensive furnishing solutions and building their own with Ikea products.
Interestingly enough this same week I had a client sat a large Swiss pharmaceutical company call me. He started off by telling me that his company employs social listening software and that I had come up on their radar. I had checked in to the company on Foursquare and taken a picture of the art hanging in the main foyer of the office. The people doing the social listening quickly tracked down who I was, who I was there to see and asked my client to ask me to delete the check-in and to not post anything further mentioning their name. The company, though they never told me of this, does not want to be identified with any of its vendors. Though this be corporate policy, like with Yap’s case, this course of action actually hurts the brand. I deleted the reference, and with it a reference to the welcoming and nice atmosphere that the company has in its offices as well how their support the further development of their employees, two important factors when it comes to recruiting new talent.
The take away from these two situations is that your brand’s value comes from how it’s perceived. In David Sable’s blog “The weekly ramble” this week he quotes Abraham Lincoln:
“Character is like a tree and reputation like a shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing.”
Your brand value is the shadow, your company’s products, actions, and people are the tree. Your brand’s value comes from what your brand does. When others mention your brand positively, are fans of your brand, use your brand, and work with your brand, though you might be bigger, they are adding value to your brand. Your brand also gains in value when others gain from it. When your brand’s guidelines and policies work against the people you want on your side, you hurt your brand. We are moving further and further into a sharing economy, and sharing your brand is going to be an important aspect of increasing brand value.
Here’s a great TED talk on the importance of re-mixing and hacking in support of Jules Yap.