Brand Positioning, the Changing Economy and the Role of Community
Written by Boriana Strzok
There’s no denying it: the rapid advancement of technology is impacting human behavior and the way our economy functions. As a result, business owners and boardrooms today have to account for more than what exists on a Profit and Loss statement. Thanks to the Internet, consumers have endless access to an overwhelming amount of options in the purchase cycle. At the same time brands have become a dime a dozen and their success relies on so much more than ever before. Only those who are fully in tune with their unique brand position, communicate this position effectively, and build a community around it will be able to set the foundation for long-term success.
To get started, consider the community within which you operate. Work is not done in a silo. Our economy at every level – global, national, state and local – functions within the context of a community with people at the center. Defining the role an organization plays in society and the value it brings to its community is part of the modern brand experience.
Take a stroll through any urban city center in the world and this becomes apparent. More and more billboards, bus stops and subway ads no longer extol the features and benefits of a product. Rather, organizations tout the life experiences they create or the social and environmental contributions of their brand. By developing connections with like-minded individuals who share common values, brands gain deeper trust with sought after customers. A brand position in the style of an emotional appeal, must extend from a strong foundation of internal culture, product authenticity, self awareness, and above all an inherent understanding and respect for the shared space between makers and their audiences. Only after this foundation has been laid can you begin to think about a growth strategy. The benefits of a well-defined brand position are both internal and external. Brand positioning enables a team to make critical organizational and business decisions, just as it empowers consumers to support their own systems of belief. The organizations guided by a common purpose alongside their constituents will be the ones to emerge successful in this new economy.
In a recent open letter from Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, on Building Global Community Mark states that,
“Building a global community that works for everyone starts with the millions of smaller communities and intimate social structures we turn to for our personal, emotional and spiritual needs. Whether they’re churches, sports teams, unions or other local groups, they all share important roles as social infrastructure for our communities. They provide all of us with a sense of purpose and hope; moral validation that we are needed and part of something bigger than ourselves; comfort that we are not alone and a community is looking out for us; mentorship, guidance and personal development; a safety net; values, cultural norms and accountability; social gatherings, rituals and a way to meet new people; and a way to pass time.”
Many of these small communities are established around brands and businesses, both of which have the influence and opportunity to bring people together.
The rise of the sustainability movement gave birth to a new type of consumer, one that is both knowledgeable and sophisticated. Today, prospective customers ask harder questions, do more of their own research, and spend more time comparing products before making a purchase than ever before. All of this pre-commitment, pre-purchase research is testing the agility of brands and the honesty behind the stories they tell. When a consumer commits to a product or service they expect the company to deliver and uphold its end of the bargain, a promise. When a company fails to do so, the brand failure is equated to an emotional betrayal. When a company succeeds, however, this leads to higher brand affinity among customers, increased reciprocity, and a willingness to share, affiliate and contribute more.
The combination of consumer individualism and the need to associate with and belong to a community of others who share similar likes, values and outlooks will force brands to provide authentic experiences and valuable benefits not only to oneself but to the community as a whole. Aligning business goals and growth with the evolving needs of hyper-aware consumers can be challenging. One way to stay ahead of the curve, allow space for innovation, and provide channels for participation is to focus on the human aspect behind every product, action and decision as a form of brand consciousness. The brand is the business, as Jez Frampton, Global CEO of Interbrand, calls out,
“The inextricable link between brand and business will become integral to growth, acceleration, and differentiation. The now-maturing startups that have leapt ahead set the standard with founders that inherently understood that the ‘brand is the business’ from day zero. This hard-wiring into systems, experiences, technology, and people will mean greater ability to build deep and personal relationships.”
At 5IVE, we aim to build brand experiences that position organizations for sustainable growth and brand affinity. We work with those who strive to broaden the definition of success, those who measure community impact alongside revenue generation, and those who seek uncompromised integrity with a sense of humanity behind each action, product and service. Through positioning, collaboration, design, relevant narrative, and purpose-driven strategy, we give organizations and their teams the tools needed to build a community around their brand.
Exciting and frightening all at once, the world in which we work today will never again be the same. The fundamentals of our economy are changing before our eyes. Globalization, technology and social media are fundamentally reshaping the way we define, build and transform communities. Social media is constantly pushing the boundaries as to how our personal and professional experiences inform, influence and inspire the ways we interact with brands. Today we strive to affiliate with brands that reflect our own individual values and needs not only as consumers, but also as involved citizens and human beings. All of this means that taking the time to define, validate, or envision your brand’s place in a world of ever-evolving and emerging communities is not only well worth the work, but necessary.