Why are some brands so much more popular than others, part of the zeitgeist rather than “just another company?” Whether it’s a shoe company, a clothing designer, or even a fast-food chain, there is a reason behind consumer preferences. While quality and taste may have a lot to do with their choices, the biggest reason boils down to the feeling of belonging. Customers can create popularity or buzz around a specific product or service, and when organizations take that momentum and build a community around their brand, they cultivate customer ❤️ and employee ❤️ that generate long-term loyalty.
The power of community
We all seek definition, to find our place in the world, and we invest in building a self-image we can project to the world. We seek community, want to feel we belong within a group of like-minded individuals. Take a trip down memory lane, and think about how most of the common high school cliques were represented in the movie The Breakfast Club – the jocks, the brains, the preppy kids, the goth kids, and so on. Which group did you relate to most when you were growing up? Which is your group now?
How does this relate to a brand? When we find “our crowd,” we use symbols and language of that culture to identify ourselves as part of that group.
When a brand begins to earn our loyalty, we start to think of ourselves as a “brand person,” feeling an affinity to that brand and its followers. If you prefer Coke over Pepsi, Nike versus Adidas, or Harley Davidson over Honda, you may look for ways to connect with others who are like-minded, maybe through merchandise, social media, or even a social club. In the early days of DVRs, I was a TiVo guy–I had t-shirts, the antenna ball on my car, even a dog toy. My daughter’s fiance has spent I-don’t-know-how-much on Supreme brand gear, and lovingly attends meet-ups for aficionados of 1970s and 80’s vintage Volkswagens. We seek community.
Brands that find the key to harnessing this loyalty create community among their customers, connecting members and building something special that feels good to its fans and broadens the company’s base.
Create brand stickiness
The goal of driving brand loyalty and creating community is to get people committed to your vision and give them reasons to stick around. According to the Harvard Business Review, “fully connected customers”, or those who have bonded to your brand, are 52% more valuable than highly satisfied customers. This manifests as an increase in purchases and a willingness to pay more for your product or service. The good news for businesses is that COVID times strengthened people’s likelihood to create emotional connections to brands, with a 2020 study by marketing firm MBLM showing that respondents formed emotional connections with 23% more companies than the previous year. When used properly, these emotional connections will give you better insights into your customers and allow you to promote more customer ❤️ throughout your organization.
The same is true for your employees. Demonstrating how you listen to and care for your workers builds a culture of connection and commitment. Team members who enjoy their work think twice about leaving because you have given them higher expectations for their next potential workplace.
Build a community the right way
A brand community done right is powerful. This cannot be forced or done overnight, it takes time and emotional intelligence.
A few years ago I worked with an environmentally conscious grain grower’s cooperative whose end product was artisan baking flour. They aimed to expand their sales footprint, growing from selling fifty-pound bags of flour to bakeries and institutions, to selling five-pound bags to consumers via grocery store shelves and direct-to-consumer sales. They engaged 3C Communications to help with the transition and build consumer interest around their product. We encouraged our client to use social media to invite home bakers to use hashtags and mentions to showcase pictures of themselves baking and cooking with this flour. Our goal was to bring home bakers into a community around them, and the food they made. We wanted to provide an opportunity for passionate bakers to connect, comment, and crowdsource questions about the products they made. Ultimately, the home bakers were endorsing the flour, but in a way that didn’t take the attention off of themselves.
For those of you just starting out building a brand community for your customers and employees, utilizing a peer group can go a long way toward ensuring success. A like-minded group of professionals where you can seek advice, discuss challenges, and come up with creative ways to build brand communities can become your own community—a community of practice around customer and employee ❤️.
To help organizations and professionals looking to up their skills and build brand communities, 3C is creating a community of our own. It will be a small, curated group of people who are committed to clear communications and great creative programs that build better communities. Our Get the Message! Roundtable brings members together so that we can dive deep into how to build a community and get more love for your brand from customers and employees.
Our roundtable peer group starts in February of 2022 and will be an inclusive and supportive group. We will not only help each other work through issues, but also cheer successes, debrief on things that didn’t work, and hold one another accountable. If you are interested in joining the 3C Communications roundtable peer group, please apply today.