What brands must do now to engage their customer communities

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There’s an adage that is an apt description of the new dynamic at work between brands and consumers connected through social media: People support what they help to build. But now that many brands are launching community-driven cause marketing campaigns, the challenge becomes what to do next? Put another way, how do brands stay connected with their communities while also standing out from their competitors?

The answer is a logical extension of what brand leaders are currently doing in the marketplace. For example, Pepsi is doing a fantastic job of funding community generated ideas while also raising the profile of the brand. This strategy is effective because it serves as a powerful demonstration of a brand listening to its customers and valuing what they care about. By supporting these projects Pepsi is allowing their community to become co-authors of the brand narrative.

Moving forward, brands must go one step further. Brands must empower their community to be change agents in their own right. To that end, they need to take on a mentoring role. This means the brand provides the tools, techniques and strategies for their customers to become more effective marketers in achieving their own goals.

Exactly how a brand does this will be specific to each industry or shared value. It might require creating a collaborative platform through which brand loyalists can work together to achieve their goals. It may necessitate an online education platform through which a brand makes expert knowledge available to its customers specific to their goals. It may take the form of technical support that enables consumers to create mobile apps of their own.

Whatever the approach, the goal is to recast consumers as brand ambassadors working to achieve personal goals whose values are in alignment with those of the brand. This has an enormous halo effect for the brand. When a brand empowers consumers to act on their own ideas, it demonstrates not just trust, but an effective transference of responsibility for the well being of the brand to the customers. It also acknowledges how sophisticated consumers are in their use of social technology and their desire to participate in meaningful change. It solidifies a partnership between brands and consumers that drives dialogue, content and community growth. In short, the more brands do to celebrate the success of their customers, the more success they’ll enjoy themselves.

Do you believe brands should mentor their customers? Do you agree this would strengthen their brand communities?