June 26, 2019Comments are off for this post.

Brand communities are the ultimate social media

Marketers spend a lot of time thinking about the motivations of the people they’re trying to reach. Identifying motivations of specific consumer types and then targeting them with specific messages, products and opportunities is standard stuff.  

And it’s effective.

If you can get a core problem a consumer cares about and solve it for them, you can get a sale. If you go up a level further and tap into their identity, how they see themselves or how they want to see themselves, you can connect even more strongly with them and build your brand.

However, both of these things still require you to cut through the noise of everything surrounding the modern consumer, whose attention is, as we’ve noted before on this blog, under siege at all times.

A brand-building path with less resistance

You can connect deeply with your consumers by using their most fundamental needs to do the heavy lifting for you. Human beings are born to build communities. It’s a primal need we all share.  No one is exempt from it.

That’s why brand communities can be such vibrant places, even if their ostensible purpose is commercial and not personal. People satisfy their needs in a brand community the same way they would at their bowling league or local pub.

If your brand can create the conditions for community to form, if you can fulfill the primal human needs that community satisfies, your consumers will come, they will stay and they will contribute more than you ask.

And the best part? They’ll feel like they’re getting more value than they’re giving. 

Here are three key human needs you’ll need to satisfy.

1 - Find a shared purpose for your community.

Purpose must be at the core of the community. People show up to do things together. There are plenty of places people can just show up to hang out. But those places are replaceable and your brand community shouldn’t be.

You need a purpose that resonates with your consumers. That can mean talking (about your brand, about shared passions, or about both). That can mean creating (your products or anything else). That can mean changing something in the world (for the better, hopefully). That can mean a mix of all three.

There must be a central organizing focus of your community to differentiate it from the others out there and to give people reason to gather in the first place. Make it strong and compelling for your fans. And they will show up.

But that’s the just start.

2 – Create a place where your people can find their people.

Let's go back to our pub or bowling league analogy. Nobody keeps coming out to those places week after week if the people they’re spending time with aren’t like them. People want to find people who share their ideas, beliefs and passions. There is nothing in any marketing toolkit as powerful as one person looking another in the eye and saying “Oh you love that too? Let’s talk.” Your brand community should facilitate these interactions.

3 – Create a place where people feel valued for who they are and what they do.

People want to be liked and appreciated. You can’t overstate this. It’s an important reason why people gather in communities to begin with. If you build a brand community where consumers can make valuable contributions to your brand, but they don’t feel appreciated or liked by your brand representatives and the other community members around them, they will eventually drift away. This has implications for how you create the ability for your consumers to make social connections in your community and how you nurture the relationships between community members and your brand on an ongoing basis.

All of the above is relatively simple on its face but trickier in execution. That’s why so many brand communities fail.

Get in touch if you’d like our help planning your brand community.

June 6, 2019Comments are off for this post.

What’s the why: the key question for your brand community planning

Find the purpose for your community. Not your purpose. The purpose. You have to satisfy both the needs of your brand and the needs of the participants who you hope to work with. It’s important to remember: almost nobody has enough time these days and in the digital space that lack of time is compounded by a consumer’s ability to access any content in the history of the world at the swipe of their phone. So, if you’re asking for someone to make a contribution to your brand you need to firstly and compellingly answer the why of your community. Why do you want do it? And why should participants give their time to your brand community? Why shouldn’t they click over to that cat video/twitter feed/sports score/Instagram story/etc. instead?

It’s often easier to figure out the value proposition for your brand. It’s usually clear what value you will get from a brand fan community. It could be research insights or marketing content or consumer brand advocacy or product feedback and co-creation or the direct ability to drive new sales or – in the cases of some high-functioning communities, some combination of all of these. Think through whether it’s a short term engagement that will satisfy your needs or if you’re looking to build something enduring that can create value over a long period of time.

Once you have your why you need to turn your focus to the harder (but also maybe the most important) part of the equation. What’s the why for the consumer, and what will they want from participating in your community?

So ask yourself: given my goals, who do I want in the community? What do these people care about? Am I sure that’s what they care about? How can I validate my assumptions? What could motivate them to make the contributions you’re hoping they’ll make?

As you work through these questions, some healthy skepticism is useful. Assume you’ll have to offer something for participant contributions beyond just the odd gift card or voucher (or the chance to win the odd gift card or voucher). Modern life is exhaustive and exhausting. Give your participants real human reasons and real value for contributing. When appropriate, pay them for their contributions to the value created by your community. If you calibrate things well, you’ll find your fans will overwhelm you with their passion and efforts. Your return on investment will be absolutely undeniable.

So who are your target participants and what is value in their eyes? What selection of incentives should you use? What motivational tactics should you use? That’s the next part of our series.

April 15, 2019Comments are off for this post.

What if you had to start again?

What if you didn’t have sunk costs in TV and radio advertising buys?

Or in long term agency commitments?

Or in technology subscriptions and freelance contracts and analytics platforms and social media ads and influencer contracts?

What if your entire marketing budget sat in front of you, untouched and pristine?

What would you do with it?

In very tangible ways, all of marketing is about building a relationship with your consumers and then motivating them to pay for your products and your services.

When we build relationships in the real world we are usually hampered, not helped, by having parties or structures between us and the people we want to connect with. We invest in the other person and they invest in us. Bonds are formed. And then strengthened.

But in marketing, it’s the opposite. There are a thousand different ways and providers we’re offered to take our message to consumers. We can (and do) spend millions just to try and make those connections and deepen them.

Many of these services available to modern brands made sense when constant communication and vast scalability weren’t the norms. But now, in our digital world, you can go directly to consumers, and they can come directly to your brand. And then you can start to build the relationships and communities that will form the foundation of your brand and the engine that will drive your sales.

If your marketing budget was completely untouched…

If you had to start from scratch…

How much of what you’re paying for now would you buy again?

February 13, 2019No Comments

Your brand: A new business model

Here’s the trap for a whole lot of established brands.

They need to engage with consumers. Because it’s 2018 and because of course they do.

There are a million and one places where they can do that in the digital space. There are communities and channels for every niche. The marketing technology landscape is cluttered and littered. But inevitably a brand will need to deal with the big dogs in social and search and sales: Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Google, Amazon. These are platforms that promise reach and touch consumers where they already spend all their time.

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