Fostering “communities” has been a popular marketing trend for the past year, even though creating and growing communities has been around for decades. For example, think about:
- User Generated Content (UGC) – long known for its believability, UGC is powerful and this recognition led to the rise of social media influencers
- Logos/swag – created and used for decades. Its power is the ability to help people self-identify with a brand, starting with high-end clothing and brands and trickling down to niche markets, such as Pantagonia purchasers who care about the environment.
- Fan clubs – are not just for music anymore. As David Meerman Scott points out in his book Fanocracy, creating fans out of customers and customers out of fans has been going on for years and is the ultimate expression of any business, large or small.
- User-groups – focused on enterprise software, such as SAP, have been around for years and have created their own branding and events around their use.
Given that brand communities are not new, it’s interesting that communities are considered a marketing trend. Perhaps it’s because this trend has moved from the backseat of the brand car, a “nice to have” passenger, to a more integrated, navigating seat, to the right of the driver.
What do I mean by this? Consider the following examples.
- Social channel communities reflect changes in social norms
Sociality featured a blog post in 2021 defining community marketing as “…a niche marketing strategy centered around bringing your customers together based on a topic that they are all interested in or related to. It is a non-intrusive marketing strategy that’s more about conversation than selling.”
The blog predicted that marketing will become more “social” in the post-pandemic years. I find it interesting and noteworthy that the different social channels are reflecting how communities are shifting. For example, the rise of informality in BeReal appears to be a direct backlash to the posed perfection of Instagram when it started, years ago. Branded communities are working towards a more “authentic” experience.
2) Organic communities do your branding for you
A blog post by Thecorator.co in April 2022 sums it up this way: “By creating a brand community, you’ve built a self-running marketing team for your brand.” Want brand ambassadors that you don’t have to pay and don’t need to organize? Sounds like a dream come true, doesn’t it?
While there are some “how-to’s” offered in this blog that are helpful, the general advice is to offer community members an experience that no one else gets. “…it’s important to ensure that members of your community are receiving a(n) experience that’s so great and impressive that they’ll be sharing this experience and how great your brand is without you having to tell them too…”
Therein lies the brass ring: creating amazing brand experiences worth sharing within the group and to those outside the group.
3) Communities healing the damage of pandemic isolation
If it’s one thing we couldn’t do as of March 2020, it was come together as communities. The forces of nature, government, and businesses were all about keeping people safe by keeping them distanced from one another.
Instead of lasting just a few weeks, or even months, this reality lasted (on and off) for two years. If ever there was a need for feeling part of a community, online or off-line, it’s now. The detrimental effects of isolation have been well-documented for both seniors and younger people alike.
Because various different types of physical communities are in crisis now, it makes sense that creating a sense of community can now seem like a place for people to be together and reflect one another’s values, beliefs, and shared experiences.
Marketing teams and agencies may also be feeling the effects, as I’ve noted in my blog about recognizing the signs of stress and dysfunction.
Any brand that can help create a sense of cohesion and belonging, in a healthy way, should step up and reveal itself.
Are you seeking a community experience in marketing? Or would you like to share a learning or thought on this? Please share in the comments – and thank you!