A sense of Community
A lot of the Brand 3.0 thinking has been influenced by the digital shift from simply being interconnected (dot com boom) to the expectations of those who are now connected (the digital communities) with the rise of social media. These connections bring a change to the quality and nature of relationships – who has 3000 friends really? – but also in how to access these broader groups, which in turn, encourages others to “serve” these growing communities.
Community is a positive term & those who serve communities need to ensure that service is positive. This is a relative term – and judged by those in the community. Communities thrive as a whole and the highs & lows quickly feedback into the community via word of mouth (or word of mouse).
Communities are made up of people – whether customers, staff, buyers, sellers, influencers or antagonists. Brands have always had an innate sense of human behaviour and recognise that within the communities in which they interact, brand behaviour cannot be at odds with the accepted behaviours of the community.
Therefore, for brands to succeed they must seek not only the insights that reveal the needs of their customers, they must probe behaviours too. They must ask better questions. New questions. Sometimes the answers are there but they appear, unrecognised, from over the horizon. These are answers to the questions not asked yet. But will reveal insights of what behaviours will be and what is to be expected.
“Moment in time” research will struggle to capture these so called “unknown unknowns” and why many brands need to have a more regular dialogue with these communities. This is as true of their staff, that can make the customer journey so memorable, as well as the customers themselves. Keeping the dialogue going after a sale is a powerful tool that lifts a brand from a product transaction to a service relationship. Anticipating needs and demonstrating a clear understanding of them through the behaviours of the staff on the customer journey is a mandatory for successful Brand 3.0 thinking.
Understanding the human side of business (a brand re-requisite) allows the continuing dialogue amongst the community to shape change and demonstrate rewards that delight. Listening and then acting demonstrate the desired behaviours. Assuming the past was right and/or promising action will disappoint and lose customers. How you deal with customers, who are unhappy or angry, is a strong opportunity to show you listen, you understand and will do something about it. If your people are in a dialogue or who behave “on brand” to these disgruntled customers will reinforce the brand just as successfully as if the customer was being surprised and delighted. Regular dialogue also allows the wider communities of staff and customers to share and shape the brand – to share the ownership of a brand. Feeling involved is a core trait of a strong community. Linking the purpose of your company to the customer’s community via your own staff & brand behaviours reinforces the role your brand has within these communities.
And with all things digital happening at warp speed, the negative word of mouth can lose your customers and their advocates and those they influence inside a day. Reframing your customers and your staff as communities and recognising behaviours that humanise the sense of belonging to a community will help underpin the future success of y(our) brand.