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The Powerful Pull of Community

The Desire to Belong

6/14/2024 | Pursuit of Purpose

In this series – Pursuit of Purpose – we explore the importance of core values, of intentionally living out what excites our deeper meaning. When you look inside and know what's important to you - you find something that can be a true differentiator for your business, brand and success.

One that is important but often overlooked is our sense of and engagement with community. As businesses strive to differentiate themselves and foster loyal customer bases, embracing the core value of community has proven to be a game-changer. This goes beyond mere corporate social responsibility; it’s about weaving the fabric of community into the very DNA of a company's mission. When businesses put community at the forefront of their strategic efforts, they not only build stronger, more meaningful relationships with their customers but also drive long-term success and sustainability.

In today's fragmented world of limitless choices and digital distractions, community has emerged as a driving force that businesses cannot ignore. It's the gravitational pull that keeps customers in orbit around a brand, fostering deep loyalty and evangelism. For organizations that truly understand and embrace the value of community, the rewards are profound.

At its core, community taps into one of our most fundamental human needs - the desire to belong. We are social creatures who crave connections, commonalities, and a sense of being part of something bigger than ourselves. Smart companies recognize this yearning and intentionally build thriving communities around their products, services, and ideals.

The examples are plentiful and inspiring. Look at how Harley-Davidson has cultivated a fervent community of riders who don the brand's iconic insignia like a badge of honor. It's a brotherhood and sisterhood bonded by a shared love of the open road and the classic rumble of the Milwaukee machines. Their tattoo-inspired logo is an indelible mark of allegiance.

Then there's the cult-like following of Apple fans, whose passion can border on evangelism. They queue for hours to get their hands on the latest iPhone releases, with their AirPods serving as a stylish token of membership in this holy order of technology worshippers. Apple's former boss Steve Jobs understood the power of this devout community, once proclaiming "Apple is a bit like a religion."

Lest we forget, it was community that propelled Facebook from a college novelty to a global social leviathan. Mark Zuckerberg channeled our innate desire to share our lives and connect with friends, family, colleagues, communities of interest, and like-minded souls across the continents. The recently-rebranded Meta now has its sights set on building entire immersive communities within the metaverse.

Another standout example is Patagonia, the outdoor clothing and gear company. Yes, the one that disturbed many in our industry by mandating no outside branding on their products. Yet we understand that is who they are. Their commitment to their values made them say no to a a channel that could bring them extra sales and profits, but at the cost of their core value. Patagonia’s commitment to environmental activism and sustainability has fostered a community of like-minded individuals who share the company's values. By consistently supporting environmental causes and encouraging their customers to participate in these initiatives, Patagonia has built a loyal following that sees the brand as more than just a retailer but as a partner in the fight for environmental preservation.

At its best, an authentic community extends far beyond simply creating another marketing channel or social media bullhorn. It's about fostering a genuine sense of belonging, enablement, and collaboration amongst those united by a common passion. Done right, it's a potent force that yields tangible business results through greater customer devotion, valuable user insights, product evangelism, and grassroots growth.

So how can organizations tap into the power of community? It starts by shifting one's mindset from being solely product-focused to prioritizing the greater mission, identity, and ideals that customers can rally behind. Great communities have great storytellers who craft a compelling narrative - one that connects on an emotional level. As promotional products professionals, you have a huge toolbox of props that can tell perfect stories and narratives.

Brands must be present, responsive, and willing to cede control by granting community members agency and influence. They need to cultivate a spirit of inclusivity, make people feel welcome and heard. Most importantly, communities thrive on authenticity and a sense of shared purpose that extends beyond mere commercial interests.

In our age of mass personalization and on-demand everything, community stands apart as a powerful counterweight. It's the place we go to escape constant fragmentation and find belonging amongst fellow travelers. For businesses willing to embrace its potential, community is the ultimate force for fostering zealous customer loyalty and advocacy. And that's something no brand can afford to ignore.

The Pursuit of Purpose means finding and following your core values. Is Community one of yours?

Next up from Pursuit of Purpose...

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