The crime of Ownerism

One of the greatest agency crimes of our times is that of ‘Ownerism’.

Not ‘Onanism’, a sin which also afflicts many in our industry.

No, I mean the constant desire to assert property rights over elements which, plainly, cannot be owned.

For instance, we talk about ‘owning the customer’ when it’s been empirically proven that virtually all companies share their shoppers with someone else.  We enthuse about ‘owning the moment’ or ‘owning the occasion’, even though all the evidence suggests that most brands are considered  for seconds at a time, if that.  We declare our intentions to ‘own the High Ground’, ignoring surveys that place our discipline closer to the Low Ground of estate agents and tabloid journalists than the lofty territory of the Dalai Lama.  Most absurdly, we claim rights over abstract emotions, suggesting that we can ‘own Hope/Love/Optimism’ etc as if they were commodities available from some marketing superstore in the ether.

Of course, we’ve all done it.  And it’s easy to laugh it off as a bit of hyperbole on our part.  Or actively to defend such talk as evidence of admirable ambition (even if most brands can’t achieve these aims, surely we should always aspire to them?).

The problem is that the mentality of ownership breeds complacency and an inflated sense of self-importance.  The more companies behave like they own us, our information or our feelings, the more we resent them.  Far better for brands to start with a humble acceptance of their lowly status in consumers’ lives – and then try and help people with the really important stuff.

So the next time someone claims that they can ‘own the relationship/the data/the colour blue’, feel free to cite this argument.  After all, like most things in our industry, I don’t own it.

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