How Community Marketing Can Turn Customers Into Loyal Brand Advocates

Companies that can connect with values-based communities have a distinct marketing advantage. Communities built around shared beliefs, identities and life experiences are more likely than other customers to become motivated brand ambassadors, organically increasing brand awareness, converting new customers and generating revenue. lifetime value. The opportunity this presents to businesses is growing as consumers, especially Millennials and Gen Z, are increasingly likely to derive their sense of belonging from these communities.

The Sid Lee Creative Experience Company and fast business recently hosted a virtual panel with business leaders at the forefront of community marketing. The discussion focused on how new and established brands can connect with values-based communities and how community marketing is a powerful tool to help convert consumers into brand advocates. Here are four takeaways from the conversation.

1. Young people derive their identity primarily from their values-based community.

With the Belong Effect project last year – a multi-year research initiative – Sid Lee began a longitudinal study of the types of communities formed by Millennials and Gen Z in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom and France. The most surprising insight for Sid Lee USA CEO Andy Bateman was that young people are more likely to gain their sense of identity from a values-based community than from family or geographic communities. Since these values-based communities often connect through online social platforms, brand advocates can reach large numbers of like-minded people all over the world.

It is this idea of ​​community outreach that Bateman likens to a “third way” of marketing. “I’ve spent my life in marketing and I’m very familiar with mass marketing and one-to-one marketing,” he says. “But with the emergence of community marketing, we’re only beginning to see how individuals, businesses and organizations can build a following.”

2. Even non-customers can become brand advocates.

Jenn Harper, founder and CEO of cosmetics company Cheekbone Beauty, says it’s not just customers who support the brand with word-of-mouth marketing, but also the wider community of people who support the values ​​of transparency and sustainability of Canadian Aboriginal-owned business. .

For example, she notes that Cheekbone Beauty recently built a lab and hired its own team of scientists to create its line of cosmetics. Because this work is done in-house, the company is able to share more information publicly and transparently about all phases of its formulation and manufacturing process.

“It’s a community that loves and believes in our brand so much that they talk about it constantly,” says Harper. “We have this army of warriors, if you will, around North America preaching and talking about our brand. And they talk about it like us.

3. Brands need to think in terms of participation rather than ownership.

If marketers want to reap the benefits of community marketing, they may need to adopt a new vocabulary and a new way of thinking about their relationships with their customers. In short, the brand exists to be an important part of the community, not to dominate it. “For so long, this has been a narrative of ownership: my brand, my values, my market segment, my positioning,” Bateman says. “The language we use in community marketing is about participation [and] commitment.”

Depop, a peer-to-peer fashion marketplace, markets itself very intentionally, articulating a mission to build a new fashion ecosystem that is more respectful of both planet and people. It’s a message that has resonated with its customers, who share Depop’s embrace of circular fashion, extending the life of our material goods and reducing waste. This unlocks what Depop Brand Director Peter Semple calls the “flywheel” of brand advocates attracting customers, who in turn become brand advocates attracting more customers. “People are proud to say they’re part of this community,” says Semple.

4. Higher principles matter.

Community marketing can produce network and scale effects, but a brand must earn it by being an authentic and credible member or facilitator of the community it is trying to connect with. And, as Bateman says, communities are not passive; they are usually trying to do something.

Hipcamp is the world’s largest marketplace for booking camping trips ranging from remote tenting adventures to posh glamping spots. But community values ​​run deeper than a fondness for the outdoors. Through their experiences with Hipcamp, users’ passions have turned into something more. “It really inspired them… to take better care of the environment and support the communities that care for the earth – farmers, ranchers and nature conservators on our platform,” says Kristen Vasan, lead partnerships at Hipcamp.

According to Bateman, it’s the commitment to higher principles that makes companies like Cheekbone Beauty, Depop and Hipcamp successful in community marketing: “The authenticity behind your purpose is what people pursue with them.”