Hi guys! I’ve been thinking a lot lately about ‘how’ pivotal community has become to successful brand building in the last couple of decades, particularly in the last 10 years. I’ve also been thinking about the ‘why’ behind how community and a sense of shared values has become the strongest glue that binds consumers to brands. After much evaluation, research and analysis, I reached a number of proven conclusion, some of which I’m going to be sharing with you today.
To start off, what is a community?
Oxford dictionary defines community as the condition of sharing or having certain attitudes and interests in common.
Based on this definition it is very intriguing and almost mind blowing to imagine that one of the most basic social needs; which is the need to connect with people, is capable of saving businesses on the verge of bankruptcy and turning average performing brands into Fortune 500s and Billion Dollar Brands. How? Let’s find out.
In 1983, World famous motorcycle brand, Harley Davidson was on the verge of bankruptcy but within 2 short years, it completely transformed its business strategy from top to bottom to focus on community at its core. The Management at Harley Davidson realized that their brand was lifestyle driven and that their brand had developed along the lines of community as a result. Leveraging on this knowledge, the Management went on to focus more holistically and aggressively on positioning itself as ‘The’ motorcycle brand that not only understood biker culture, but was driven by it. Employees of the company from the bottom, all the way to the executive level, spent time at community events interacting with Bikers, learning how to ride bikes and bringing back Intel on how to better improve the customer experience and grow the brand. Beyond just gathering groups of people with shared interest, Harley Davidson turned members of the community into stakeholders, allowing them influence the culture and decisions at Harley Davidson. Some Bikers joined Harley Davidson as employees. In turn, more and more Bikers grew more attached to the brand to the point where for most regular people; Harley Davidson is inextricably linked to the conceptualization of biker culture, particularly in popular culture. This community focused strategy progressed until the company launched its very own Biker group; The Harley Owners Group (H.O.G). Almost 3 decades later, Harley Davidson has about 5, 800 employees, is worth US $5.647 Billion, with assets worth US $9.973Billion and according to Forbes is one of America’s largest public companies.
While it would be all too easy to dismiss this as a unique strategy, Lego, Starbucks, Xbox, Being Girl Oracle and many powerhouse brands, have all leveraged community to either recover from bankruptcy or grow their brands from obscurity to the forefront of their industries. Cynical Executives and Entrepreneurs see the concept of community creation and management as secondary, and believe instead in marketing strategies targeted at influencing the market. The problem with that is in the 21st century, branding is no longer a one way conversation, it’s a two way conversations and the most successful brands are the ones who understand just how to keep that conversation going.
Creating or positioning your brand within a community relevant to your product, service or business is the most effective way to keep your company and your brand at the centre of conversations in your industry. It is also one of the most effective research strategies any organization can adopt. Communities’ grants you direct insight into the minds of your consumers or would-be consumers, and allows you develop business strategies, relevant to your market. More importantly, it allows your consumers feel like a part of your journey, which creates a connection between your brand and consumers and ultimately inspires an attachment to your brand. This attachment when nurtured evolves into a sense of belonging which in turn inspires loyalty. As rudimentary as it may sound, loyalty it turns out is a sentiment from consumers, directly linked to success and higher revenue streams for brands smart enough to inspire or win it. Just like with people we feel a sense of loyalty to, Consumers will support, fight for and spend on brands they are loyal to or have a strong sense of connection to.
So I guess the next big question is ‘why’?
- Why do communities have such a grand impact on successful branding and profitable businesses?
- And why do consumers get soo attached to brands and brand communities?
Tune in on Thursday to find out.