Why Building Community Is The New Branding

Today's brands, especially B2B brands, can't settle at branding. It's not enough to tell the world who you are, pick a great logo, and advertise a la Don Draper.

Branding is no longer about what you as the marketer puts into it, but about how you can build a community around it. It's about what the community contributes and the power of your customers. How do they engage with your brand not on the level of product but on the level of thought? Is your brand associated with a key concept, idea, or movement? 

That's what it takes to move from a good brand to a successful one. 

The Fitness Revolution

A great example of this is The November Project. It started as a way to stay in shape in the winter months, with groups of people all showing up in public spaces across Boston to workout together, no money needed, to stay motivated. The idea was: just show up. It became cult-like almost immediately—because it began with a sense of community, of mission, of purpose, before it became a global movement and brand (and a book). 

Tomorrow. NOVEMBER PROJECT SAN FRANCISCO. Just show up. 📷: @novemberprojectsf

A photo posted by NovemberProject (@novemberproject) on

It doesn't have to be something inherently community-building, like exercise, to become a strong community. It's about building an identity and then adding in products. When you go to purchase something, you may weigh the overall costs and quality, but you also ask yourself: am I the type of person that purchases this product?

Everything marketers do, whether that's blog posts, web copy, emails, anything the customer can touch or see, goes back to that question.

What values does your product embody? To build a movement, and not just a product, you have to transcend what your product does, become a standard bearer for the future, and focus on community rather than shoving sales down people's throats.

How Repairing Clothes Rather Than Selling More Can Sell More

Take Patagonia as another example. Yes, they have super high quality apparel and gear. But their focus on the environment led them to create a whole recycling movement around their own products. If you're taking your quarter zip to them for repair instead of buying a new one, that's not selling more products...unless it is, by tapping into whole movement of environmentally-conscious outdoorsy people. 

It wasn't just saying, "Oh, come into the shop and we'll fix it." Instead, they sent a tricked-out van full of sewing machines and gear repair all over the world to meet people and tell their stories behind the busted up zip-ups, onesies, and nano puffs. 

When we think about building our brand, we often forget that people are people. We want to feel like we belong, like we're a part of something, and brands that do that authentically and genuinely are the ones we're going to buy from—not because of product, but because of the movement.

What movement are you starting?