How Brands Can Help Satisfy Our Need For Community

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Articles of Interest
  • by Rachel Brennan

There was a point in time when we lived in small, close-knit, communities, families, clans who we knew, who we depended upon, who we trusted and who we needed and thus, we stayed near to them.

Today, our communities are stretched not only in number but also dramatically stretched in proximity. We have the ability to live thousands of miles away from our relatives – and for many of us, we do. Because of this new, adapted independence, we've become less dependent on one another to satisfy our needs. Our online communities have grown, but the necessity to build human connection for survival is dwindling. We don’t need to know our grocer in order to eat. We don’t need to know who supplies our water in order to drink. And we can order just about anything at the push of a button.

This has me reflecting: have we lost our need to build community in order to exist? Or is this need for community no longer being met? We are well aware that the digital age has changed our behavior and altered the way we interact with each other – and even with brands. Consider the retail apocalypse and the loss of brick-and-mortar stores now against the rise of online retailers like Amazon. We no longer need to interact with people to do activities as basic as shopping when we can order an item with a couple of clicks.

But our bodies are wired for human connection and need it in order to thrive. As Professor Matthew Lieberman, Social Cognitive Neuroscience Lab Director at UCLA explains it: “Being socially connected is our brain’s lifelong passion…It’s been baked into our operating system for tens of millions of years.”

As part of SEEK’s Empathy Training, we teach our clients the importance of making strong connections with their consumers and with one another by using the Three Modes of the Human Emotional Experience. These three modes are Foundational, Relational, and Aspirational. By leveraging these in research, we can learn to recognize the needs of others and generate an impulse to act on their behalf. So where does our need for community fall within these modes? Interestingly, this need is one of the few that crosses all three. At a foundational level, it fills our need for survival and security. At a relational level, it satisfies our need for connection, a sense of belonging and helps us build lasting relationships. And at an aspirational level, it allows us to know and be known and unites us in shared values or interests.

Consider some of the ways these brands are activating community and connection as part of their brand equity by connecting people with shared values and ideals.

  • SoulCycle“SoulCycle is a 45-minute indoor cycling class that features high-intensity cardio, muscle-sculpting strength training, and rhythm-based choreography. But it’s so much more than just a workout — it’s a powerful mind-body experience. We ride together as a pack in candlelit studios to the rhythm of one-of-a-kind playlists. We’re coached by magnetic instructors, who support us, coach us and push us to reach our personal bests. We sweat, reach, and recover, together.”

  • Harley-Davidson"HOG is a special community. Harley-Davidson enthusiasts share more than their loyalty to a brand. For them, it represents a way of life, a culture, and it is one that can be found all over the world. Since the 1980s, Harley-Davidson has been diligently building up a brand community based around shared lifestyle, taste, and ethos. HOG was born as a way for the brand’s highly passionate consumers to connect and engage online. With more than 1 million active members, the strength of the community lies in the openness and highly impassioned members it tries to foster and serve.”

  • Jeep “The best brand communities are made up of fiercely loyal customers, which is why Jeep tops our list. Purchasing a Jeep is about more than just the vehicle itself; the brand embodies a specific, adventure-filled lifestyle that owners proudly celebrate. Jeep helps fuel this sense of community by hosting yearly “Jamborees,” where owners gather together for a weekend of fun.”

  • PBR - “Years ago, Pabst Blue Ribbon began taking advantage of the growing buying power of millennials by veering away from the traditional ideals of beer connoisseurs. By focusing on younger consumers, they managed to increase their sales by “more than 200 percent since 2004.” While the PBR brand community does not necessarily occupy one place physically or digitally, its focus is more on connecting groups of people with shared values in the real world.”

  • Instragram’s Playgrounds - “These “Instagram” playgrounds / popup museums create highly instagrammable backdrops that draw consumers and empower them to act as brand ambassadors with exciting online content for their persona pages.”

Building community and connecting with one another is so important for satisfying needs at all three levels of the Human Emotional Experience. Is your organization looking for ways to build more meaningful connections with consumers, to satisfy your consumers’ need for community, and ultimately establish a relationship that is lasting?

To learn more about SEEK’s Empathy Training or have questions about tools to engage empathy, feel free to drop us a note. Or find us on LinkedIn and tell us about other ways you see brands building empathic connections through shared community and connection.