The importance of brand community in 2020 & beyond
Why do you love your favorite brand?
Is it because of the quality of the product, the level of customer support from the brand, the way it makes you feel, or because people you admire — your friends, celebrities, etc. — love it too? Regardless of the reason, there’s bound to be a community of people who love that brand alongside you.
The term “brand community” as we know it is defined by Carrie Melissa Jones as “a group of people who share an identity, who care for one another, and who gather for multiple shared experiences stewarded by a brand. All three of those conditions must be present for a true community to exist.” Investing in these communities of brand enthusiasts results in increased customer loyalty, brand awareness, and ultimately growth for the brand.
This article will give you a brief introduction to the value of brand community. For more best practices, effective strategies, and tips from experts, download the free guide, Brand community & the future of marketing.
History of brand communities
Before there were brands, there was community and storytelling. As technology has progressed, we’ve moved from community being restricted to those in close proximity, to a world where we can be virtually connected to anyone and anything. Changing the way we interact, the way we consume media, and ultimately how modern-day brands form.
Today, community building is no longer restricted by geography. The internet has given brands an opportunity to build community on an endless scale while simultaneously enhancing the quality of communications. However, some brands have yet to invest in their most valuable relationships.
Brands have historically been created inside of conference rooms, without involving the consumer in the process. Instead of building relationships through personalized content, brands inundate consumers with mass advertisements. The brands that promise the highest quality products and those with the deepest pockets win the mideshare of consumers.
This is now no longer the case.
Today’s consumers want to be involved in the process of developing a brand from product innovation to marketing content. As a result, brands that don’t treat consumers as partners are losing to brands that build genuine connections with their audience, reflect the values of their customers, and allow them to participate.
Long gone are the days when a Don Draper-type executive can sit in a boardroom and create a brand message that resonates. A brand story isn’t created for consumers. It’s created with them. Modern brands are changing the way they build products, serve experiences, and tell their stories by co-creating with their customers. Brands that don’t adapt will be left behind.
The importance of brand communities today
Brands face an existential threat from consumers who are immune to traditional marketing. Young people have always had a large hand in shaping how consumers relate to brands. But Gen Z — those born between 1995 and 2010 — have truly changed the consumer landscape. GenZ accounts for 40 percent of all consumers this year. While older generations of consumers have craved community and genuine connection, Gen Zers’ compulsion to purchase is based on connection, ethical responsibility, authenticity, and an expression of self, making communities mandatory.
In fact, 76 percent of Gen Zers have bought a product to support issues the brand supports and 67 percent have either stopped buying a brand or would consider boycotting one if a company’s values clashed with their own.
As a generation that’s grown up in the digital age, Gen Zers are not afraid to voice their love or distaste for brands both on and offline. They expect brands to engage in 1:1 conversations and create experiences tailored to their individual interests.
Gen Z’s interactions with brands offer us a peek into the future. This generational shift extends beyond 20 somethings and will affect consumers regardless of age or socioeconomic status.
Momentum Worldwide Proprietary Research conducted a study in 2012, and again in 2019, and found that the consumer and brand relationship is evolving to focus more on human-centered experiences and less on transactional exchanges. The study found that 86 percent of consumers believe it is important for brands to make them feel better. Compared to 2012, consumers are more drawn to brands that value and inspire them and less attracted to brands based purely on the utility of their products.
Benefits of an engaged community
The key to understanding and building a brand community is to build true relationships and two-way dialogue with the seven members who make up a diverse community. Brands must learn how to value and speak with their community members on a 1:1 basis. The community will often return the favor by doing more than just purchasing the product. Customers, employees, professionals and other contributors are a critical part of a brand’s community, and as a collective have the ability to power brand growth. They can influence, create, and embody a brand, to name a few.
By building an engaged community, brands:
- Encourage more advocates to share their love for your brand
- Entice others to join your community
- Defend your brand by facilitating conversations
- Create evergreen relationships with consumers to encourage repeat purchase
- Inject authenticity into your brand that helps resonate with your audience
- Creates differentiation between competitors