Ideas are more powerful than DNA and blood when it comes to human connection. Behind every idea, there is a set of beliefs that sustain it and help this idea from fading away. Behind every belief, there is an identification with the self, that holds our identity.
Identity, as perceived by the wider population, is what gives us the sensation of “knowing who we are”. This makes us feel safe as it sets a sense of direction and a role in life.
We identify ourselves as the ideas we connect with. These ideas are based on our beliefs and will determine our values.
When a group of people comes together and they share the same values and beliefs, we call it a community.
Why communities are so powerful for brands?
As social animals, we thrive for belonging. Why is that? Because when we are part of a group of people who share the same values and beliefs, we feel understood, heard and safe. We feel that our community will have our back and support us and that we are not lonely in this world.
It works the same way around for brands. Once you have your community established, the people that are part of it will have your back. They will support you and stand for you. Because your brand has been there for them too, becoming the symbol that puts together their values and beliefs, allowing them to reaffirm their identity when engaging with your brand.
Being part of a community also brings to people the feeling that they stand for something bigger than themselves that benefits many others. This is how we as humans feel fulfilled.
Although it is common to hear about how egocentric the human race is, the true feeling of fulfillment only comes when we feel that we are contributing to the world somehow.
Once you allow people to be part of something bigger than themselves, making them feel understood, people will also give you much more in return. They will likely:
- increase the brand awareness for your brand;
- be more open and accessible for you to understand them as customers and develop offers that they love and fit their needs;
- tend to become raving fans for your brand;
- buy anything you sell, as a consequence of increasing brand loyalty.
Ok, but how do you get to bring people together and connect with your brand in the first place?
Identify the core values of your brand
The core values of your brand are not moral guidelines, they are aspects of your brand identity that when combined make you unique for who you are. No other brand or competitor would be able to have the same combination because values are not created. Values are resultant from beliefs and experiences each one of us had in life.
Values are what drive us and make us do things in our unique way. They set what is important for us, draw boundaries, and points to how a life that worth living looks to us.
Usually, the values of the founders are the ones transferred to the brand. You can’t make up the brand values – it needs to be true and authentic – otherwise, it won’t stick, people won’t connect with your brand.
Values are also the source of much innovation because it makes you who you are as a brand, and it sets how you think as a brand. They become the guidelines for how you do things, and from there you can create and generate ideas that only you could do. If you want to stand out and build your community start with your core values.
How to do it? Skip the obvious: respect, honesty.. these are principles, not values. Principles are something we expect at least from other human beings and organizations (groups of human beings). You are not unique because you respect people, this is the least you can do as a brand.
Values are individual rules that guide your decisions, relationships, and actions as a brand. Like a personal compass. It also means that your values must not be used as a brand speech, but showed in everything your company does.
It sets the guidelines for decision making in the organization, for how to relate with stakeholders and customers, and for defining priorities and highlights the important aspects when creating programs, campaigns, developing products, etc.
- Start by listing at least 5 to 10 items that come to mind when thinking about the possible values of your brand.
- Then write down what each value means to you. For example, boldness might mean something to someone but might have a completely different meaning for someone else. Aligning what each of them means for you and your brand is a good starting point.
- Now, revisit the list, but this time try to highlight up to 5 values, from the list. These should be values that you perceive as being very entangled in your brand DNA. Think that if they weren’t there, the brand wouldn’t be the way it is today.
- Go one more round, and try to squeeze it into 3 main core values. This is your true and very unique Brand DNA.
This is the starting point of everything your brand does and how it does it. This is the sign that will attract people towards your brand, and the bridge that will make them connect with it.
How to attract people and strengthen your community
Now that you are clear on your values, you find a way to give to others (to your people, the tribe you want to attract).
What can I offer them, that will help them on their journey? What are they thirsty for that is in my area of expertise? How can we show them what we stand for and still serve them?
To grow a community doesn’t mean to grow an audience that will always praise your brand. A community is a place where people can contribute to the cause, and support each other. A community is a place all about “us”, instead of all about “you as a brand”.
In this digital era, many online businesses first were born as a community of people who would care about something, and only afterward they became a business by selling stuff. And the best thing about communities is that whatever you sell they will buy with happiness in their hearts and their wallets. Because they are giving their resources to something that they care a lot about.
A clear example of showing the power of community is the brand We Are Really Not Strangers. This is a card game to empower meaningful connections between people.
Koreen Odiney, founder of WRNS, in her interview for Forbes, says:
“I wanted to create an Instagram account to help me have a platform to showcase the game to a group of people that believe what I believe — a sense of community of people that would understand what the game is about intuitively, based on common beliefs.”
Today the account has more than 3.6 million followers and buyers from all over the world. She uses the Instagram channel to feed and cultivate people’s connection and feelings, instigating them to ask themselves the hard questions, to create boundaries, and to share with friends. Something we all benefit from, even if we never actually get to buy the game. It is like a free pocket version of the game itself. After people experience it and feel the benefits, they will want to engage more and more with your brand.
The explanation behind this is that when you give without asking in return, helping people to get value from your brand, you increase the level of trust from the audience towards the brand. And people buy from peers they trust.
If you want to know more about community and how people relate and buy from others, I would suggest taking a look at Simon Sinek’s talk: If you don’t understand people, you don’t understand business.
What is your perspective on this topic? Share your insights in the comments 🙂