Why Community is Everything for New Lifestyle Brands

So you want to launch a lifestyle brand. You may be sitting there thinking: how can I convince customers that they need my product?

The answer is: you can’t. Nobody needs your product. Your product falls within the category of nice-to-haves, but can-live-withouts. In order for customers to buy your product, they have to want it, and want it more than the hundreds of other similar offerings available on the market. So the next question becomes: how can I convince customers that they want my product?

Traditionally, marketers have responded to this question by throwing their weight behind campaigns shouting about the Unique Selling Points of a product and how that product is the missing puzzle piece to an ideal lifestyle - and it works reasonably well. But all-star lifestyle brands like Lululemon and Daniel Wellington have discovered the secret to a successful lifestyle brand that keeps them miles ahead of the competition: a thriving, loyal and engaged community.

How it works

So why does a community who shares similar beliefs about the world result in more active customers who advocate your brand? It all comes down to building that relationship with your community - something that Facebook ads and promotional emails can’t buy. Simon Sinek sums it up beautifully in his legendary “Start With Why” TED Talk:

“People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it - the goal is not to sell to people who need what you have, the goal is to sell to people who believe what you believe.”

Sinek points out that the part of the brain that drives all human behaviour and decision making is the limbic brain, which is connected to feelings like trust and loyalty. It follows that if you build a trusting, loyal community around what your brand stands for and the beliefs about the world that your brand represents, that community is in a perfect position to make a purchase to express themselves. As put by Sinek in his talk: “What you do simply serves as the proof of what you believe. The first iPhone buyers stood in line because of what they believe about the world and what they wanted everybody to see in them.”

Community Management is Not Social Media Marketing

Social media marketing involves jumping on one of your brand’s social media platforms and pushing out content ultimately designed to make customers buy your products. Community management is completely different because it doesn’t focus on sales. Its sole purpose is to build trust and loyalty around the shared beliefs of your community. The minute you start getting sales-centric and asking your new friends to buy stuff, you kill the community vibe and that army of potential customers will run off to check out the next lifestyle brand on the block.

But don’t dismiss community management as a time-waster in terms of ROI - in fact, without it, your social media marketing budget isn’t realizing its full potential. Once you’ve established your healthy, growing community of followers, their desire to express themselves through purchases will kick in and that’s where your beautifully designed conversion funnels from social media to e-store will play their part. So although social media marketing and community management are two different things, they must go hand-in-hand.

Make your First Impression Count

The first time a customer views your Instagram, Facebook or Twitter is make-or-break. Within seconds they will make a decision whether your brand’s social media account is a place where they want to hang out by clicking the “follow” button, which equals one more lead for your business. If you’re a new lifestyle brand on the scene and all they see are ads, branded content and promotions, chances are they’ll ditch you for the next new lifestyle brand’s Instagram account.

Curate your social media so that customers can clearly see what your brand’s beliefs are in under 5 seconds. You can still include promotional material, but put the spotlight on something your community can gather around other than the product itself and make it the first thing they see. Lululemon’s Instagram account has done a great job at this, featuring inspirational quotes about wellness, profiles of individuals who embrace themselves for who they are and photos of people enjoying the present moment - quickly communicating to viewers the beliefs of the brand.

That Sense of “Discovery”: A Better Way to Build your Community

When your community is healthy and thriving, your brand will get discovered as it earns its place on social media walls, feeds and timelines. This is the beauty of community - that valuable word-of-mouth is a whole lot of free publicity that your social media marketing budget doesn’t need to work for. Customers are more likely to take to your product if they feel that they “discovered” the brand themselves instead of coming across your brand via outbound marketing techniques. Once they’re on board, as long as you provide your community with a place for dialogue and engagement on the things they care about, those customers are there to stay until the next opportunity comes along for them to make a purchase.

That being said, don’t rely solely on word of mouth generated by your community to get discovered by accident - put yourself in the best position possible and make sure customers can find you when they’re browsing the web for things they’re interested in. So get hashtagging and make sure you’re ubiquitous in your community, making sure you’re properly tagged on many platforms.

Keeping your Community Around

Acquiring members of a community is one thing, keeping them around is another. The key here is to keep the community active around that message that resonates with your customers. You want engagement - and lots of it. Community managers can get creative in how they provide opportunities for this.

Daniel Wellington’s Instagram account is a great example of how to nurture a strong, thriving community with user-generated content. DW’s account is filled with stunning travel photos that feature real customers wearing DW watches in exotic destinations and quirky settings. Every day, DW choses a #DWPickoftheDay to feature on their Instagram account of 3.3 million followers. This clever mechanism taps into the community’s fun and competitive side, with thousands of millennials submitting their entries every day showing how well travelled, artistic, and unique they are. By successfully tapping into what makes your community tick, you can put systems in place, sit back, and let your community do the rest.

Reach New Heights with Like-Minded Partners

Remember that your community isn’t confined to the people who follow your brand on social media. Community is your tribe, online and offline. Don’t be shy - collaborate with other aligned brands, associations or social groups who stand for what your brand stands for. There are plenty of options: co-branding, special edition products, events, cross promotion - make contact, have conversations and see what exciting synergies there could be. Partner marketing allows you to reach customers out there who are on the same wavelength in a powerful, authentic way, because the attention is drawn to what has been the uniting force: your brand’s values.

Refinery 29 and Keds recently hosted a pop-up market in NYC for International Womens Day, announced by a mural saying: “Be bold for a change”. The pop-up sold limited-edition merchandise all carrying messages of female empowerment curated by Refinery 29 and Keds sneakers bearing phrases like “Ladies First”, “Step Forward” and “Be Bold”. Proceeds went to She Should Run, an organisation that provides resources and support to women in politics. By partnering up and putting the focus on a common cause outside of themselves, these two brands sent out a strong message of what their brands stand for, backed by action. Marketers are sometimes accused to using community as a tool for manipulation of the masses - so here’s your chance to prove otherwise. Get behind whatever cause is relevant to your brand with an attitude of more give and less take - you’ll be amazed at what happens next.