In my last post, I gave an overview of why brands need to carefully identify which people to target, and how they can go about this.
In this post I want to talk about why brands need to be like members of the communities they want to target
People want brands like them
You and I have what anthropologists call ‘homophily'. Literally, this means ‘love for the same’. We intentionally seek out people and communities who are similar to us according to our experiences, interests, needs and socio-demographics.
Homophily leads to some communities becoming more niche, selective or exclusive. Some - such as brand communities, young people’s personal communities, and some religious and political communities - define themselves in contrast with other communities.
- People and the communities in which they participate look for brands like them. When they are like them, they are more likely to connect with them, see their value, and use them as resources and to maintain connections.
- This means brand owners need to understand community members’ values, beliefs, attitudes and behaviours up front, and connect them with the brand. If the brand were a person, what would his or her personality, passions and interests be?
- Brand owners can leverage niche or exclusive communities. Brand examples include Abercrombie and Fitch clothing aimed at young people, and CityJet airline, aimed at business users
Identity is related to homophily. Some community members have shared identities which they use to help to differentiate them from other communities or even other members. This may be based around neighbourhoods, but it also extends to football fans and other team sports, brand supporters, music followers and youth tribes.
Identity can be linked to people’s status in communities . This does not have to be self centred. A member of a community that focuses on local policing may be valued for the knowledge and advice he gives.
- Brand owners should make sure their identities fit those of the communities they want to target.
- Teenagers and people in their early twenties are still forming their identities . Brand owners are able to facilitate identity construction and communication through content, for instance music, clothes, photos, sports shoes, and vouchers to a concert. Brand examples include Nike, Vans Footwear, Red Bull, Coca-Cola and Abercrombie and Fitch
- Brands can also facilitate identity by providing experiences that result in ‘status stories’. These can be used to enhance people’s reputations, for example inside knowledge about upcoming console games, concerts, phone apps, famous sports stars and so on. French events company Les Terrasses Bleues holds free drinks gatherings for a select group of invited guests. In May 2010, Microsoft hosted a secret party in Atlanta, US. A few hours before the event took place hints about the concert venue were dropped on social media sites Facebook and Twitter.
Many communities - such as around the workplace, specialist interest groups, and neighbourhoods - have a conspicuous element of utility to them. Members need to give something in order to get something back, and among close knit communities, people want to be able to provide other members with things that are helpful to them.
- Provide currency. The question, ‘What is in it for us?’ will be on the lips of many community members when brand owners want to be involved in communities.
- This means brand owners have to work hard to earn their place, and be generous in what they give to them. Conversely, this works for small, tight knit communities. For example a large supermarket brand wanting to open a small store in a local community will have to communicate and establish its value well.
My next post is about how people within communities help meet each others' needs, and opportunities for brands around these activities
Steve is Head of Thought Leadership at Starcom MediaVest Group, London