The Business of Community


A brand can no longer survive on a logo and a unique selling proposition. Not even good products or superior service are enough to translate to loyal customers.

Companies today need to engage customers and prospects like never before. Thanks to the introduction of social media and other digital marketing channels, consumers are able to interact with, review, and research a business whenever they want—leaving companies little choice but to deliver that sense of community on all fronts.

A Harvard Business Review article by Susan Fournier and Lara Lee says companies need to realize two major things in order to achieve success in building brand communities. First, brand communities do not exist solely in the marketing realm, and, second, brand communities do not exist to serve the business.

“A community-based brand builds loyalty not by driving sales transactions but by helping people meet their needs,” Fournier and Lee write. “Contrary to marketers’ assumptions, however, the needs that brand communities can satisfy are not just about gaining status or trying on a new identity through brand affiliation.”

Companies can brand themselves and create these communities in a number of ways, but none are more touted than community outreach and charitable giving.

Patagonia—and the reaction of its customers—solidified this sentiment when it announced it would donate every penny of its Black Friday sales to grassroots environmental groups. While the outdoor clothing company had only projected to bring in about $2 million that day, sales topped $10 million.

The strategy of turning the consumerist-driven pseudo holiday into a “fundraiser for the Earth” spoke directly to the heart of Patagonia’s community.

“The enormous love our customers showed to the planet on Black Friday enables us to give every penny to hundreds of grassroots environmental organizations working around the world,” the company said in a media release.

The Facebook post announcing the Black Friday donation promotion garnered 13,000 likes and more than 3,600 shares.

“Brands that ‘share the harvest’ of their success—with their audience—are the ones that sustain the best momentum,” Glenn Llopis writes in the Forbes piece, “6 Brand Strategies most CMOs Fail to Execute.”

Llopis writes that even if a business doesn’t have the resources to give, saying “thank you” and showing gratitude are good places to start.

“Brands today have a much deeper responsibility to society, and the more your brand touches the needs of the world and helps to make it a better place,” according to Llopis, “the more abundant you will find the opportunities before you.”



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