So, this is going to be a somewhat meandering post about branding and managing expectations, especially dealing with things like Kickstarter and ownership.
Let’s summarise this quickly – Oculus Rift is a tech company that is building a VR interface which from all reports is really good. Oculus Rift went to Kickstarter to get further funding and they received a ton of cash – nearly a million I believe compared to their $100k ask.
This means they had a lot of stakeholders (i.e. people who have an interest in the company) but not a lot of shareholders (i.e. people who own a part of their company). They recently sold the company to Facebook for a cool billion. Yeah, b not m. The shareholders made a lot of money this way, but the stakeholders didn’t.
Since then, a lot of people have grown angry with them – going as far as threats on the owner and his family.
Shareholders & Stakeholders
Shareholders have a tangible stake in your company. They physically own a part of your company.
Stakeholders on the other hand just have an interest in your company – emotional or contractual (e.g. suppliers); they have an interest in your company but don’t have a say in how it’s run (technically). You can ignore your stakeholders, but as per Oculus Rift, there will be lashback.
Branding & Public Relations
Your job as the marketer in the company (and you could be CEO too for all I care, you are still doing marketing); your job is to manage perceptions. Much of the anger that has been directed at Oculus Rift is because they never attempted to manage perceptions beforehand – the news was rather startling and made many of the stakeholders feel betrayed.
In addition, you should understand that crowd-funding systems like Kickstarter are still new in execution. Few people who take part in the system have an understanding of what is required in terms of communication and branding. The closest relation that I can think of is the way non-profits manage donations from their supporters. They don’t control the non-profit, but without the donations the non-profits are nothing.
Manage expectations, manage the idea of what say people have and can have, where you might be going (the vision / the brand!) and you can avoid or at least decrease the issues you might have in terms of the backlash. Don’t and well… you have another Oculus Rift.