Riding the Brand Community Wave to Generate Traction
Gone are the days when the main way for brands to make themselves known to people was advertising, whether it was on television, radio or print media. In those times, most well-known brands were actually those who produced and aired the most advertisements. Times have changed considerably. Today’s thriving companies are finding new ways to completely rejig how their branding is handled. Thus, they are now more focused on creating a great overall product experience built around their brand, as opposed to attracting customers through expensive advertisements. The new way of brand building is through co-creation, where you enable the customers to assist in building the brand with you, since they are increasingly making decisions based on alignment of the brand values with their own morals. Any new purchases a customer makes now represents their vote, and therefore the symbol that a brand represents is merely an extension of the customer. The credit for all these drastic changes in how brands are handled goes to the rapid rise of the internet within the past two decades.
The onset of social media and new generation of customers, who have a very varied set of values when compared to the previous generations have fueled this shift to community-conscious branding. While building a community has always been essential, it has gained way more importance over the last 10-15 years. This has to do with the fact that the brands are becoming more and more anthropomorphic, real and adaptable and in some cases are being co-created with consumers acting as the constituents of the brands. Keeping all this in mind, you have to admit that building a community also builds human connections. Humans have always been big social animals. We are increasingly being connected by the internet now through the various digital solutions that have popped up in the last decade, but that has only happened in a transactional manner. This is why the brands that tap into the communal dynamic soon stand out from the others in their category.
The hunger for authentic and relatable interactions that connect us to the others of the same kind, which has been created due to this increasingly digital, modern lifestyle. When you build a community, it creates a space for your customers to feel seen and be heard in a way that is unique only to your brand. In the end, it is all about building a story and a community around your transactional environment. These are two things that humans are already hard-wired for since the beginning. Building a community is not only about engaging your customers, it is also about inviting potential customers to come together and be a part of something bigger. The experience that this provides has a collective impact which makes people feel good in the end. One could argue that since building a community around a brand engages people on a whole other level, it has also been a key tool in converting marketing efforts into sales. A customer may be buying the product that the company sells, but it is so much more than just pure sales. It has been proved that once a customer finds an experience/ecosystem they love, they are more likely to stick with it.
This shift towards a more community-oriented approach has been been mainly driven by three characteristics, in Journal of Community Research, by Muniz and O’Guinn in 2001, which are:
This is an instant connection with the people who use and love the same brand. For instance, a community dedicated to Apple products will talk about what they like about the product and what makes it tick. They will feel as if they’ve known each other since a really long time. Without any face to face contact, it creates a bond of shared consciousness.
Rituals and Traditions
This is where a ritual which is something out of the ordinary is created by a brand to foster bonding. For instance, the Harley Davidson community has a special handshake that promotes a feeling of oneness among the owners. This is something that could go beyond the virtual world as well.
A Sense of Moral Responsibility
Once the brand forms its community, the users on it naturally feel responsible towards each other. If there was a community for Samsung users, they would obviously help each other explore the features of the products they’ve bought as well as answer any lingering questions in their minds. Research on friendship indicates that indulging in mutually aspiring activities creates a stronger bond among the customers.
The most important thing to remember here is that building a brand community is always going to be much greater than just a simple sales exercise. It is a process where the customers can be a part of the brand story. It is all about connecting through shared values, aspirations, social connect and brand loyalty. As a community creates user-generated content, the user itself becomes the ambassador.