A brand community is a group loyal to a company’s products or services. If you succeed in developing a brand community, you have made it. You have a ready base of buyers who will also be your brand advocates. They will spread the word, bring more buyers for you, and expand your reach.
Drunk Elephant and Gymshark pioneered this concept a decade ago when Instagram was launched. Today, a wide range of industry niches, from healthcare to fashion, are successfully using this strategy for growth. Ganni, a luxury fashion brand, built an influential and loyal community of #GanniGirls (more than a million people on Instagram) who share a sense of connection and similar values, such as women’s empowerment and gender equality. Traeger, an innovator in grills, built an online community named Traegerhood of more than one million people with 350,000 user-generated posts across social media.
So, build a brand community flywheel. In other words, create a self-sustaining marketing model for your brand.
Here’s how you can do it:
Know your communities
Identify the communities whose interests align with your brand promise. For example, are climate activists your target group? Or mental health advocacy groups, working single moms, yoga enthusiasts, and animal welfare campaigners?
Community nurturing differs from targeting consumer segments based on demographics and individual needs. It is about reaching out to the tribes of people who are led by a cause and have shared interests and values. You may find them on Instagram, Reddit, Facebook, or other social media platforms.
Gather insights on how this community will perceive your brand and its services, their unmet needs, the communication they seek, and what drives them to purchase and where. You may find one or several communities that resonate with your brand’s vision and purpose.
A McKinsey report highlighted the strategy of a global security systems company. It zeroed in on two essential customer communities: High net-worth art buyers seeking security for their collections and a group of pet lovers who regularly checked their surveillance cameras to know their furry members’ whereabouts. When the company communicated with the two communities, it found immediate resonance for its brand.
Achieving this degree of alignment requires vital insights into the community’s psychosocial profile. It creates an emotional bonding, resulting in a long-lasting relationship between your brand and them.
For example, Gymshark’s ideal customers are 18- to 25-year-olds whose lives are centered around health and fitness. Gymshark does not diverge from this objective; all its initiatives are designed to address this group’s interests. It has created a powerful emotional bond with its community, as evidenced by the overwhelming volume of user-generated content posted by its users and customers hashjacking the brand’s Instagram account to get their content featured on Gymshark feeds.
There are many consumer insights to exploit, some new and others emerging. For example, brands are utilizing privacy-compliant data clean rooms to understand better how communities engage with them across platforms, and it helps them tailor engagement strategies for each group.
Make your brand story resonate
Brands are like confident public speakers: bold, compelling, and magnetic. Be outspoken about what you stand for and why and how you live by those values. Just targeting the specific community(s) is not enough; you must have a relatable brand story.
Be particular about your language and story narration style; it must match the community style and standards. People in almost every community love to share brand stories that interest them. Your CEO, founder, or high-profile executives must be at the heart of the brand and communicate in a way that engages with the deeply held ideals of your target community.
For example, Drunk Elephant’s foundational brand story of “mompreneur” has Tiffany Masterson, its founding partner, on a mission to create beauty merchandise free of harmful ingredients. The brand misses no opportunity to reiterate this narrative. On every communication channel, Warby Parker, makers of high-quality eyeglasses and sunglasses, demonstrates its unconventional and customer-centric brand ethos. It strengthens its brand value by expanding the community.
Highlight your champion products
As a brand, you should narrow your engagement activities to specific products or services geared to create hype. Having such ‘champion products’ is critical because, without them, online shopping is confusing to consumers, who find browsing online shops more tiring than browsing in stores. They find it harder to find out what distinguishes a brand online than in a well-designed shop, so it is in your interest to guide them.
How should you promote your killer products?
- Keep talking about the product or services in your communication channels.
- Invest in experiential interactions, such as pop-up stores where customers can try out products and share free products or discount codes with influencers.
- Introduce interactive marketing tools for consumers to try the product digitally.
- Make sure your customers find your champion products easily online, perhaps by boldly displaying must-try products or highlighting their most successful items (‘What we’re famous for’).
Often, champion products drive 30 percent or more of sales. Crocs’ classic clog, for example, has been the company’s primary focus for a long time. The brand has remained relevant with periodically limited distribution collaborations with Justin Bieber and Balenciaga.
Spread the word across channels
Supply the community with content to engage with and inspire brand evangelists to generate their content on your brand. You will be surprised by how on-point and inspiring they can be. A compelling brand story and a ‘champion product’ are fundamental strategies that fuel the conversation with your community by providing a continuous stream of engaging and exciting content they will get hooked to.
Recognize, support, and thank the influencers
Maintain an organic engagement with the community. Most brands use customer data to communicate via email and, in the best cases, personalize their targeting and content. By understanding the consumer journey, brands can turn this on its head with testing and learning. Therefore, you can create community-engagement programs in response to those journeys.
A community-centered management and monitoring model will allow consistent community engagement and effective management and monitoring of consumer activities.
You can, for example, do the following:
- When engaging with your brand’s community, solicit feedback and recommendations, and be willing to test and experiment with new products based on those insights. It tells your community that your brand values them.
- When teaming with influencers, make sure you spend time to align your brand’s story with the influencer’s, ensuring authenticity. Establish goals and guardrails and create extensive content libraries for influencers within the brand’s guidelines.
Lastly, make it to transact online and offline. In desktop and mobile environments, shoppers expect a frictionless, fast transaction experience, but many retailers experience high abandonment rates and lost sales at the last mile.
Decrease the friction points on your platform to make it easy for your customers to do business with you. A friction point is any element, aspect, or variable that hinders a visitor from enjoying a seamless browsing experience. These obstacles may be major or minor, visible or invisible, but they are all powerful dampeners.
According to Google, 85 percent of sites fail to meet the five-seconds or less load standard, which Google says is required to avoid a high bounce rate, even though almost 70 percent of consumers say their willingness to buy an online product decreased due to slow loading pages. In addition, many product pages are overburdened and hard to navigate; conversion sessions have 38 percent fewer images than non-conversion sessions.
What do you need to do for all these?
You need to harness agile ways of working and employ core marketing technology and analytics that are enablers for a smooth-spinning marketing flywheel. It helps advocates fuel conversation, interaction, and purchases.
Please read my article, ‘How to harness agile ways of working to build your brand community flywheel’.
We can help you develop a brand story, message, storytelling, and buyer personas, build personalized marketing strategies and create strategic content.