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Opinion and Insight

5 Ways Brands Can Build Active Communities in 2016, 1 year, 9 months ago

Jeff Povlo, Founder, Scape, on getting consumers truly involved

5 Ways Brands Can Build Active Communities in 2016

So the year is winding down. It’s a good time to review what worked and what didn’t as we all gear up for the year ahead.  In a time when people are more selective and increasingly cynical of brands flooding us with endless streams of campaign messages, it’s important to think about creating meaningful connections beyond product-only messages in order to realise increased social and financial value.    

At Scape, we see our industry throw words like community, engagement and experience around with varying levels of understanding and application.  We think these words will be increasingly more important as we move into the New Year. With higher levels of access to data than ever before, there’s no excuse for brands failing to understand what makes their target community tick—be it a geographic or interest-based group.

People want to know what a company stands for, what the company’s interests are and how they intend to make a contribution to their own lives, environment and/or society as a whole. 

Here are five predictions for how brands can build active and participatory communities as we move into 2016.

1. Go beyond physical or digital—It’s about the experience

With so much of our lives spent behind screens, people are craving real interactions and shared experiences. Look at the rise in mass participation sports ranging from marathons to The Colour Runs. Or look at the explosion of participation of music festivals. In the US alone, one in five millennials attended a music festival in the past year according to Eventbrite. That’s twice the rate of the general population. Only 8 per cent of the talk on social media is about the artist – the rest focusing on the lineups and the experience. We are designed to be doers. Social media is a channel, not a strategy.  Events are just one offs if they don’t use digital tools to help extend the reach beyond the event. It’s important to think how, as a brand you can facilitate, enhance or contribute to people’s experiences.   

2. Partnerships and collaborations will accelerate growth

We see companies are now more open to working across other sectors and disciplines.   They realise that they can create efficiencies by working together. Collaboration between various organisations can accelerate the development process and lead to innovation and new ideas—especially if each party has a clear purpose and role for participating.  Communities can also contribute to new ideas.  We feel companies that are open to listening will benefit from increased support and accelerated emotional engagement. Extending reach beyond your own brand fans will widen the opportunities to make new connections.   

3. Embrace the niches - understanding people’s interests and motivations will be key for growth

It’s not enough to know about transactional buyer behaviour; it will be increasingly more important to understand what really motivates people. The way we connect and communicate with each other and our environment is changing. One-way communication is gone and creating emotional connections with people will help grow social and financial value. Discover what lifestyle themes make sense for your product or service and understand the communities that surround them.  What are the target market’s ambitions? What are their obstacles? What is your role?  Companies may not exist to aid or solve the world’s problems, but a brand can empower people and make a credible contribution to whatever environment it’s in.  

4. Use technology to enhance real life experiences, not replace them

We’re entering into an age of participation. Technology enables us to feel part of things we previously could only watch. At a recent Taylor Swift concert, the audience was given LED wristbands as they entered. Through the performance, they lit up in time with the music creating visual impact beyond the stage and including the audience in the creation of an artistic moment. For Adidas earlier this year, we produced The Energy Takeover 10km run to support the Ultra Boost shoe launch.  It challenged the training routine of the urban runner and incorporated tech overlays to create personalised content. Given one of 3 colours at the starting line, they set off on their route getting hints from the maps on their mobiles. RFID chips in their shirts meant their route was tracked on their devices and etched into the medal received at the finish line. Brands who aren’t identifying how tech can enhance experiences will be left behind as consumers expect more. 

5. Sustained engagement will lead to stronger relationships

People are open to brands improving their lives and recognise the benefits of their input. Whether it’s kick starting new ideas, identifying and nurturing emerging talent or just enabling people to get closer to the things they care about. The impact can be measured, financially and socially, but striking the right balance is key. This goes beyond a one off campaign.  There is equity in being consistent with purpose and message while finding new ways for people to participate based on community feedback.  Co-creation and co-curation will help keep people engaged and involved. 

Through 2016, brand engagement will continue to be an important tool to drive growth.  Brands that embrace the people they want to connect with will benefit by increased sales.  Aligning corporate objectives with meaningful contribution and providing communities with a reason not only let them in, but also to collaborate, will ultimately build trust. People are open to brands being part of their lives when they recognize the value. This isn’t always delivered through the functional use of a product or service, but rather by building relationships over time.  So, focus on the doing in 2016 to foster active communities that help both the company and people grow together.  

Jeff Povlo is Founder and Brand Engagement Specialist at Scape