What’s in this article:
- To benefit from community marketing, identify a group by particular characteristics, location, or interests instead of trying to appeal to all
- Examples of diverse brands coming together to gain community marketing advantages
Whether you call it community marketing or community-based marketing, the strategy is linking your brand identity to a distinct community. Instead of trying to be all things to all people, you identify a group by particular characteristics or location, or interests as the community that would form an organic connection to your brand.
Mind your Ps
In a Harvard Business Review article, John Zealley, Robert Wollan, and Joshua Bellin explored what keeps customers feeling connected to a brand. Their answer was relevance, which is a big part of community marketing. They identified five components of brand and customer connection that all work off the basis of community:
- Purpose: Customers feel the company shares and advances their values.
- Pride: Customers feel proud and inspired to use the company’s products and services.
- Partnership: Customers feel the company relates to and works well with them.
- Protection: Customers feel secure when doing business with the company.
- Personalization: Customers feel their experiences with the company are continuously tailored to their needs and priorities.
Linking up with communities concerned with fitness
A number of brands sell products and services that promote fitness. Given the purpose behind the business, these brands have an easily identifiable customer segment to work with.
Zealley, Wollan, and Bellin identified how each of the five Ps are represented in the connection that Soul Cycle had established with this community:
By creating a community for indoor cyclers and fitness buffs, SoulCycle’s purpose aligns with customers’ values of health and a positive environment. This experience creates a sense of pride for customers who want to participate in a high-end cycling experience (given the pricing and the tendency for instructors to be young and fit). Customers also feel that SoulCycle is a partnership in the lifestyle they wish to achieve.
The protection aspect is the assurance they feel that their investment in the product will pay off. The instruction they receive for their works outs delivers personalization.
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Another example of fitness as the defining community identity is the direction Under Armour has taken. Zealley, Wollan, and Bellin explain that it “has purposefully developed a ‘connected fitness’ ecosystem.”
The strategy entailed buying fitness-metrics services in both the United States and Europe to pick up millions of subscribers and their data to inform the brand’s direction. Now Under Armour is one of the top names associated with smart athletic-wear that offers monitoring or other features without additional watches or bands.
The vision for that achievement was set years ago when Under Armour’s CEO Kevin Plank set out to distinguish his company from the competition. In 2015, he observed, “Brands that do not evolve and offer the consumer something more than a product will be hard-pressed to compete.”
2021, the year of community marketing
What Plank observed back in 2015 is even more true today. Community marketing is at the heart of the transformations envisioned for this year in Hubspot’s Marketing Trends to Watch in 2021, According to 21 Experts. Among the predictions listed are these:
- Community marketing will replace event-based marketing.
- Businesses will find new ways to encourage online connections.
- The interactivity that’s been promised for decades is now a necessity for 2021.
- Customer-centricity will propel brands forward.
- Content marketing will start with conversations.
The strong emphasis on community that is emerging in marketing this year takes many forms. One example is the localized community marketing Pepsi uses to highlight people from each of New York City’s five boroughs for its “New York Thing” campaign. Another is TikTok’s Spark Ads option that enables brands to leverage the communities already established around a creator on the video platform.
Other brands extend the idea of partnership from the brand and customer or even brand and creator to two different brands. They are the ones who hope that a brand crossover will grab more interest than they can alone. An example of that is the partnership between hum by Colgate and digital fitness platform, obé Fitness.
The announcement shows what they were thinking in these cross-branding: “The two millennial-focused health and wellness lifestyle brands are coming together to help people sweat and smile more by building healthy habits and adding fun to their everyday routines.”
Dana Medema, Vice President & General Manager, North America Oral Care, Colgate-Palmolive observed that “obé Fitness and hum share the same goal to show consumers how simple it can be to build healthy habits in just a few minutes per day.”
The Colgate app will be featuring “Fitness Friday” content from obé that will focus on short workouts that “can boost your mood and get your heart rate up in just 2 minutes, the same amount of time you should be brushing your teeth. There are also integrated incentives like earning Smile Points through hum that can be redeemed for access to obé classes.
It is still a bit of a stretch (no pun intended) to connect brushing teeth to exercise. Yes, it’s all related to health, but the category may be too broad to create enough focus for a strong community basis for marketing. It’s also far from original, given how many brands with a greater natural connection to fitness have already gone that route.
If I were planning a cross-brand collaboration for a toothbrush, I’d do it with lip products for a focus on the mouth. Then they could have done something like finding the right lip shade to complement your teeth, as well as seasonal products to offer sun protection for your lips and keep them from getting dry and chapped in the cold.
Not all attempts at community marketing are necessarily going to succeed. It’s possible that a forced connection will not be perceived as authentic enough for a feeling of community to take root.
But if it does work, we may see more somewhat diverse brands coming together to gain community marketing advantages.
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