Don’t Build a Brand, Build a Community


Successful businesses today, don’t spend all their time trying to establish their brand through the sharp wit of a marketer, but by focusing on building community. My name is Sam Fiorella. I’m the chief strategist here at BONDAI and I’m going to tell you why. Did you know that more than half of Americans feel alone and isolated and no, that’s not because, well, not just because we’ve come out of a year of isolation because of this pandemic. This is a study by Cigna in 2018, that shows despite all of the social media that we have access to and that digital connectivity, people are feeling more isolated than ever. This pandemic and this year and a half that we’ve had of isolation has only exasperated that. So how is your business facilitating this need for connectivity? Is it even your role as a business to foster that sense of community?

There’s a lot of debate as to whether or not a business should or shouldn’t do this. But the one thing I know for sure, indisputable fact. Business is here to make money. And if you want to make money with your business, you need to address the needs, wants of your audience. What makes them make a decision? What influences that decision? We marketers know that consumers are losing trust in brands today, more than ever. In brand messaging, in what we put out on social media channels or other channels. In fact, social media itself has sped up the shift in power from our catchy slogans and advertisements to the collective voice of the public. Brands are now created, amplified and strengthened or destroyed by this wisdom of crowds. Most executives push marketers to fight back with more online engagement on Twitter, or having PR specialists at the ready to spin a message one way or the other as it moves away from the brand narrative that you want to establish.

But that fight is a losing battle. Water will always find its way through a rock formation. So instead of forcing a brand image, a brand message, or trying to build it solely on the back of a good product, you’re better served by fostering a community of both brand advocates and detractors. A community provides your audience the experience that they want. It’s a self-directed community ideally. Many studies, including a recent consumer culture report shows that 71% of consumers prefer buying from companies that they feel are more aligned with their values. Millennials in fact, even more so. Millennials report, 84% of millennials report that they want to do business and that they will put their money behind a brand that shares their values. So this brand alignment, this value alignment is incredibly important, millennials in particular, as I said, as they are the biggest in US history, even bigger than baby boomers.

So creating a brand community, as opposed to simply building your presence on third party, social media networks, allows you to listen to your audience, react and respond to what they’re saying. It allows you to engage them directly on your terms under your own umbrella, within your own brand community. It allows you to analyze those conversations for trends, advocates, opportunities, and even threats. When done right, you’ll allow your brand to be established by your advocates, which will pull in new followers, convert competitor’s clients from detractors to brand promoters. How? By adding value, education and entertainment to the lives of your audience, beyond the transaction, establishing a relationship that’s solely based on a good product or service experience isn’t enough today. You have to determine what all the circumstances are in the lives of your audience and their influences that affect their purchase making decisions, and that facilitates this engagement that can be built through community.

So what if you’re a bank with a solid service record? There are many banks who offer similar products, similar services and returns. And the competition in this market space in particular around benefits and features gets even more competitive with every new organization entering the market, not just financial service firms. So what are people doing with their money? How are they leaving a legacy to their grandkids? Are they finding good work-life balance while earning all of that money? Are they enjoying spending their money in a way that adds value to their family’s lives without affecting their retirement?

There are so many factors that go into how somebody spends their money with a bank, or invest their money with a bank, that goes beyond just your pure service line. That is what a community can foster in that particular industry, as one example. So effective communities will strengthen your relationship with your audience beyond that transaction. And the relationship will effectively become your brand through the collective voice of the community members, as they advocate for you across their personal and professional networks. And circling back, we understand that that is what builds trust between your brand and an audience, not our marketing messages. Continue to follow the BONDAI blog here for more examples of these communities and how they’re establishing solid, long-term, modern brands.

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