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Building Community: The Core of Brand Building

  • Written by Christopher Telley

What is a brand?

It’s more than a logo or a set of colours. A brand embodies a promise and identity that connects emotionally with individuals. A community is a group of people who share common interests and values, rallying around ideas, products, or initiatives that resonate deeply with them. The symbiotic relationship between a brand and its community is foundational, with each driving the other's success.

Why does this relationship matter?

Consider brands such as Nike, Whoop, Lululemon, Billy Bones, Apple, and Aesop. These brands transcend their physical offerings to embody values and aspirations cherished by their communities. The community sees value in the brand and vice versa, creating a dynamic where purchases are made based on emotional connections, not just convenience or price.

This distinction is critical: brands built on community engagement inspire loyalty and passion, whereas commodities compete mainly on price, often at the expense of consumer loyalty.

Every successful brand is built on the foundation of a robust community. This relationship is not just beneficial; it's essential. A community buys emotionally, not rationally, which transforms a simple transaction into a meaningful brand interaction. Conversely, where there is no community, there is no loyalty—only temporary transactions influenced by price or convenience.

Starting a brand is notoriously challenging, costly, and time-consuming. However, a well-supported community can significantly alleviate these burdens. Like a living organism, a community grows and contracts based on how it's nurtured. Neglect or mismanagement can turn a brand's biggest advocates into its most vocal detractors. Conversely, a well-cared-for community becomes a loyal base of steadfast supporters and brand ambassadors.

The relationship between a brand and its community is not just symbiotic; it's reciprocal. Tupperware exemplifies this with a multi-generational strategy: families not only use their products but also pass on the tradition to their children. This creates a self-sustaining marketing cycle that ensures the brand remains a household name across generations.

The efficacy of a brand's relationship with its community can often be quantified through metrics like the Lifetime Value to Customer Acquisition Cost (LTV/CAC) ratio. A high LTV and relatively low CAC (a score of 3 or more) signify a strong, sustainable brand built on solid community foundations. This metric serves as a powerful litmus test for a brand's enduring relevance and community impact.

Looking at the originals, brands like Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Aesop, and Patagonia show how staying true to the core reasons people fell in love with them continues to earn community support. Deviating from these core values can weaken the connection; deviations are often triggered for financial reasons. A bit of a dig here at financial officers: while fiscal responsibility is essential, their suggestions for budget cuts or reallocations can be short-sighted directives that can ultimately harm the brand. It's crucial to remind them of the foundational role the community plays in the brand's ongoing success. Essentially: be bold and brave.

Mark Knight is a prime example of someone who withstood pressure from investors, financial advisors, and nearly everyone else advocating for quick financial gains over long-term brand integrity. His steadfast commitment to maintaining the brand's core values and vision, despite external pressures, not only preserved but also enhanced the community's trust and loyalty, enabling the brand to emerge triumphant and resilient.

In the end, whether you're a CEO or a newcomer to marketing, remember that the strength of a brand is measured not just in revenue, but in its ability to foster and maintain a thriving community. This is where true brand longevity lies.

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