brand, community

How do you sell a community-based brand strategy to your executive team?

One of my favorite regular blog subjects is how to use community-based strategies to build brands. In fact, I’m putting the finishing touches on a new book entitled The Ad-Free Brand: Secrets to Successful Brand Positioning in a Digital World which will be out this August and covers exactly that topic.

How does a community-based brand strategy work? Simple.

Rather than staying behind the curtain and developing a brand strategy inside your organization for your brand community, you step out from behind the curtain and develop the strategy with your brand community.

Many traditional executives will have a hard time with this approach. First, it means the organization will need to publicly admit it does not have all the answers already. Some folks (especially executives, in my experience) just have a hard time admitting they don’t know everything.

Second, it means ceding some control over the direction of your brand to people in the communities that care about it. The truth is that you probably already have lost absolute control of your brand because of the impact of Twitter, Facebook, blogs, and other user-controlled media. Some folks just aren’t ready to accept that fact yet.

If you are considering opening up your brand strategy to help from people outside the organization, how do you sell the approach to hesitant executives? Why is this new model not just good philosophy, but also good business?

Here are the five key benefits of a community-based brand strategy:

  1. Save money. Over time, brands collaborating closely with their brand community can eliminate many expenses related to traditional advertising and PR. In addition, many community-centered brands can save money on research and development and avoid making costly mistakes by working closely with an external community of people who are passionate about the brand.
  2. Improve resilience. Community-centered brands having deep, trusting relationships with their brand communities can often weather crises that would devastate other brands. Because members of these brand communities often care deeply about the brand, they may even offer to help solve problems or help the brand recover from crisis.
  3. Increase preference. Members of passionate, trusting brand communities will often be more likely to consider new offerings from your organization over those of your competitors. They’ve often participated in projects or activities with the organization where they’ve put some “skin in the game” and this often makes them less likely to defect to a competitor.
  4. Innovate faster. Because new ideas can come from anywhere, inside and around the organization (and often do), community-centered brands are often able to innovate smarter and more quickly.
  5. Recruit and retain top talent. Organizations with a community-based brand strategy may, in many cases, be more interesting and meaningful places to work, especially for a younger generation of workers who’ve grown up with the Internet and social media.

The bottom line of all of these benefits I’ve listed above? Increased valuation of the brand.

If you are a for-profit company, your products and services can command a premium in the marketplace. If you are a non-corporate entity, the increased value of the brand may mean that you can have a greater impact or attract more volunteers, partners, or donors to your cause.

Have you tried strategies where your brand community played a role in building the brand itself? Did you have any trouble selling this approach to your executive team? Why or why not?

I’d love to hear your stories.

[This post originally appeared on]

About Chris Grams

Chris Grams is Head of Marketing at Tidelift. He is also the author of The Ad-Free Brand: Secrets to Successful Brand Positioning in a Digital World.


3 thoughts on “How do you sell a community-based brand strategy to your executive team?

  1. I feel like you’re preaching to the choir. I’m currently working with a client now on their community-based brand strategy. It’s amazing how much some customers want to be involved in something, anything with the company. It kind of feels like an insiders club for them.

    I still feel like we’re developing the strategy behind the curtain, but we’re asking for customers to help us identify their pain points so we can best address them. Maybe we’re saying the same thing here.

    I’d be interested to know what companies are doing a good job with a community-based brand strategy?

    Posted by Jeffrey Meade | May 2, 2011, 10:47 pm
    • Hi Jeffrey– thanks so much for your comments!

      On customer involvement: I’ve found the same thing to be true, that often there are many people who just want to be asked. And there is no better way to find your most passionate brand advocates than by asking for help and seeing who volunteers.

      In my view, there is a difference between simply asking for feedback and involving the brand community in both the creation and the execution of the strategy itself.

      The former is more of a focus-group mindset: “What do you think of X?” and then you go back behind the curtain to decide what do do with the feedback.

      The later is more like: “What do you think of X, and would you like to help us prototype some ways to make it better?” where you actually involve the community in the process, not stop at simply getting their feedback.

      I’d be interested in learning if you are taking one or both of these approaches.

      As for companies doing a good job with community-based brand strategies, I’m planning an upcoming post (or maybe series of posts) on exactly that topic!

      Posted by cdgrams | May 3, 2011, 2:17 pm
      • Admittedly, we were taking the approach of “What do you think of X?” and then we’ve been going behind the curtain to decide what do do with the feedback. But, I definitely like the thought of asking some of the customers to be involved in the process with us.

        Posted by Jeffrey Meade | May 4, 2011, 12:07 am

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The Ad-Free Brand: Secrets to Building Successful Brands in a Digital World

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