Brand Strategy 101: A Community — Centered Approach

This is an intro to an article series on why brands would fair better if they centered community voices upstream in their strategic planning and tactics on how they can do so.

Kate Owen for For Days

It is quite remarkable how often leadership teams faced with complex problems — staffed with well-educated, well-compensated and immensely talented individuals — end up producing content, experiences, and products with little to no strategy behind them. Demonstrated by a completed event with no metrics or a developed product with disappointing sales performance and no buzz, a lack of strategic planning can result in a wide range of frustrations from misallocation of resources to employee fatigue.

But the real tragedy of having a weak strategy is recognizing that your long nights had zero to no impact on your audience, your community, or society as a whole.

I’ve spent my career as a strategist primarily working with brands creating content in an effort to connect with their audiences during cultural moments. As I like it, my role has always been behind the scenes — executing in partnership with creative producers what you see on screen and in magazines from insights I’ve drawn from psychographic, biographic, and cultural trend data. I love research, I love people and I love community building. And I know for certain that winning brands keep their communities and audiences in the forefront — they know them, they know what motivates them, and they are informed directly by them.

So why is research and community engagement seldom invested in if we know that customer/community input can result in a stronger foundation for brand loyalty? Why, especially in a world where customers are increasingly gaining rights over personal data, are brands shortchanging the opportunity to directly incorporate customer voices into their strategic plans?

In this series, rooted in the fundamentals of brand strategy and design thinking, I offer a way of centering community in your strategic process so you can rely less on your assumptions and build an audience that’s loyal and invested. I also will offer a definition for community-centered brand strategy which I was surprised to see was not explicitly stated online. And I’ll call upon friends in the industry to hear how they’re doing…