You brand is defined by the consumer, not by you – I think everyone can agree with that. In the same breath, most marketing pundits will add the fact that you can no longer control your brand – an assertion I am not sure goes hand in hand with the first one.
You brand gets defined by the UI (User Interface) of your company, the interface through which your customers and prospects interact with your company. That interface gets determined by pre-sale activities – i.e., advertising, retail layout, retail personnel attitude, telemarketing, sales people’s knowledge of the industry, etc -, as well as immediate post-sale activities – i.e., packaging, ease of use to set up the products, available help options, etc. -, and the long term post sale activities – i.e., telephone support, return policies, warranty policies, on-site support, etc. That makes up a lot of links in the chain that determines your brand in the mind of the consumers which your company controls.
So in effect, you do control the brand in the mind of the consumer. If some link in the chain is broken, meaning not supporting the overall brand promise you are trying to establish for your company, that is when you lose control of your brand. That is when people will start talking with one another about the fact that what you promise and what you deliver is different. Once that starts, you should focus on fixing the overall UI of your company instead of getting into communication fire-fighting mode or crisis communication mode.