In memory of his mother — who loved tulips — Dr. Human Bahmani plans thousands of tulips in one of the neighborhoods in Tehran Zarafashan each spring. So each spring people gather around in this area to enjoy these beautiful flowers. The mayor of the region supports his action by providing a place and human resource support. Street artists come there to entertain people, and you can see some coffee trucks which serve everybody with tea or coffee. This simple act has been done for over seven years now, and without a supporting crowd, it would not continue so far. This action is an example of building a community. An entity that can be started with simple initial work and can empower itself through the help of its members.
Brands as a powerful entity of our society have many resources that can benefit the community and improve the living conditions in our city, country, and potentially the world. Brands are aware of that, and there are many successful examples of supporting social problems.
However, what if this support could be two ways. Brands empower citizens and citizens to empower both brands and society. That is why I believe that each brand needs to build a self-evolving community around a concept that brings values.
In this article, I want to discuss what is a community and how a brand and society can benefit from it. Why having a self-evolving community is a crucial component for the future business environment.
Why brands need to build a community
A community could be an excellent tool for each brand. It can create trust, audience, relativity, and overall, a positive brand image. All qualities that each brand needs to have a budget to maintained or create. Moreover, by the self-evolving nature of the community, the cost of building those qualities would reduce significantly.
Also with building community, brands can shift from “What is in it for me” mindset to more interactive relationship with its audience ( I choose the word audience in order to emphasize that building community does not only includes people who are clients of the company, but it can be anyone from fans to even people against the brand).
What is community
The community is a group of individuals connected over a specific concept or attributes and interacting with each other. With this, we can say that the two essential aspects of a community can be seen in two major factors:
- Common concept
Without these two, a community does not exist. However, while these two factors are essential, they don’t necessarily bring quality to the community. There can be other factors that can influence it in the community.
1- Self-evolving nature
As Frances Moore Lappe described community:
“Community — meaning for me “nurturing human connection” — is our survival. We, humans, wither outside of community. It isn’t a luxury, a nice thing; community is essential to our well being.” With this quote from Frances Moore, we can see that the community is for the benefit of its members, and it brings value to them (including the brand). So a good community by nature can empower itself, and it can strengthen attachments and even bring the new related individual in itself without any external interference.
2- It is multi-sided
People who watch a play in a theater does not make a community as each individual, and the actors have a one-sided interaction (excluding emotional connection). However, if these individuals and actors gather and express their experiences, then we will have a strong bond and connection over a cultural concept, which is the play. Interactions should be multi-sided as it helps the bond to exist longer and stronger.
3- place (Physical/virtual evidence)
In many definitions of community, the term specific location is common. Either being virtual or physical. However, what is it about the place that serves such an essential aspect of the definition of the community. Perhaps it provides evidence of the community. We can consider a community a service that humans can use to answer some of their needs. So with every service, we need a physical/virtual evidence that can remain after the interactions are finished. Place either virtual or physical, and its quality can serve a significant impact on the quality of the community.
Community for brand
What is significant about the relation of community and brand is that the brand itself is not the reason that the community exists. The brand by itself doesn’t have any significant meaning to the audience unless it has a strong brand image that accompanies much value with its name. What makes a brand community work is a common concept. The only difference between the brand community and the social community is that this common concept should be aligned with the brand image. If the common concept and the brand image doesn’t align with each other, it arises distrust with the audience.
The second concern is that we need to be aware that the brand community is not necessarily between its customers. Wendy’s twitter account is a great example.
The concept of this account is to provide humor in the name of the brand, and the people who are interacting with the brand’s accounts are not necessarily loyal customers who buy from the brand, but people who enjoy the brand’s attitude.
So for building a community, we first need to come up with the single concept that provides value to the communities member, including audiences and the brand. Second, we need to understand who is the audience of this community. Who would get benefit from this community and would they become potentially a client for the brand.
Also, as we talked about, we need a community that would evolve naturally without any external interference. This needs to be considered when building a community. Would people inside the community improve the community and develop it. Or they would just take the service and go. It is crucial for the brand that the relationship is both sided. This does not mean that anybody who joins the community would eventually become a customer. But building a community should have a business sensibility for the company, and it should help the company at some point. The community should provide a relationship that would benefit every member. Whether this benefit would directly affect the company’s sale or not.
Building a community is essential for every brand, and it will provide extreme value, and it will help the brand establish a strong image. Communities also bring the audience to the brand, which eventually turns into customers. It increases the trust of the brand and provides loyalty. With the benefit of the community in mind, the right place and concept are essential in making a proper community. A concept should bring both brand and the community members value. As long as this value stays, the community will become a self-evolving entity with many opportunities to grow.