Designing a Better Tomorrow Series: The Community Revolution

Creative Strategist, Rachel Edmonds, invites you to contemplate how we might Design a Better Tomorrow. Discover how brands can foster connections, loyalty, and resilience in a rapidly evolving landscape.
19 February, 2024
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The community revolution

Connection and collective belonging are foundational aspects of our humanity; we’ve lived, worked and played in groups throughout our evolution. However, rapid societal and technological transformations have outpaced our ability to adapt. In highly urbanized, commercialized societies with declining levels of civic engagement, a sense of isolation has become pervasive.   

Amid this apparently dismal backdrop, all hope is not lost. The resilience and promise of community prevails. New communities are emerging – reshaping our current reality. They herald a revival in harnessing the strength and fulfillment found in a thriving collective.    

However, brands continue to misunderstand the potential power of community to transform not just the relationship between brand and consumer, but how we relate to one another. Brands can often fall into the trap of treating community as a marketing gimmick, or proxy for social media followings or customer bases, missing the transformative impact community can have. How can brands learn to successfully – and authentically - unlock the pervasive power of togetherness? 

Community Revolution

The community context

The community revolution is rooted in empowerment. Take the rise in co-living initiatives around the globe: communities are actively place-shaping to realize their own needs and desires. From eco-friendly collectives to new urban villages featuring extensive communal facilities, these endeavors collectively reimagine the concept of ‘livability’. They offer an answer to societal problems such as affordable childcare, shared leisure activities, accessible transport and environmental impact. In other cases, communities are uniting to establish inclusive sanctuaries, such as LGBTQ+ cohousing for senior citizens. Village Hearth is just one example in the USA, with similar initiatives in the Netherlands, Denmark, Germany and Spain. Across the world, communities are responding to social and climate vulnerabilities and prioritizing a set of shared values by shaping their lived environment.   

When it comes to financial empowerment, there are also a growing number community-driven initiatives. In the UK, over £200m has been raised in community shares, providing a direct stake in businesses they care about (from local shops to historic buildings and renewable energy schemes), fundamentally altering the role of the collective role in the local economy.    

It doesn’t stop at a local level - communities are redefining business models on a global scale, enabled by advancements in blockchain technology. Tokenized fandoms are empowering people to invest financially, emotionally and creatively in their shared interests, whilst rewarding them with exclusive access to artists, unique experiences, and even the opportunity to purchase part of a creative work for royalties. The Chainsmokers revolutionized fan engagement with the launch of their latest album with 5,000 NFTs, each linked to a specific part of the album and representing 1% of royalties. Not only was this a unique way for the artist to monetize their work, it also offered the community of fans a new level of participation and investment in the artists’ success, creating a deeper ongoing relationship.   

From hyper-physical built environments to the most cutting-edge parts of the metaverse, communities are reasserting their role in society. They are reshaping fundamental parts of our lives - how we share resources, foster symbiotic environments, and co-create. This increased empowerment and heightened connectivity impacts how people expect to interact with brands. Stocking local products or having local art on the wall will no longer be enough. Brands need to consider more fundamental shifts in how they involve communities at a creative and financial level to stay relevant and appealing.    

The good news for brands? Community happens to be good for business. According to Harvard Business Review, community-building strategies have the potential to unlock superior business models, with serious competitive advantages. By establishing authentic connections, brands nurture trust, loyalty, and advocacy. Devoted brand loyalists become prolific generators of content, enabling a shift from broadcasting messages in a world oversaturated with marketing noise, to organic, authentic promotion by members who have developed a deep connection with the brand. On top of this, a strong community of loyalists also enhances brand "stickiness" and resilience – essential in today’s volatile economic landscape. 

Community Business

How can brands foster genuine connections and build thriving communities and what can we learn from successful community initiatives?

Genuine connections take commitment, and investment. But don’t worry, there are some clear focus areas to guide the process and pave the way to success.

1. Shared Values and Purpose:
Thriving communities coalesce around shared values and common goals, which serve as the driving force behind active participation.

2. Clear Value:
For a community to grow, prospective or existing members must see clear benefits. Well-defined incentives and rewards create a mutually beneficial environment. 

3. Grown via Collaboration:
Empowerment and involvement are key. Members should have direct input, from creating content to making decisions, with sustained engagement over-time - ongoing collaboration is the cornerstone of community growth. 

4. Safe, Supportive Space:
Communities must be safe and supportive environments where members can be vulnerable and engage authentically. Open governance and accountability are crucial.

5. Authenticity:
Building communities on an understanding of customers' lives, needs, and passions—rather than just for brand reputation—creates a genuine connection. The community belongs to its members, not the business. 

    Ultimately, community provides us with a different way of doing business

    Community-centric approaches are more than a passing business trend or marketing gimmick. They offer a transformation in engagement - the potential to foster authentic emotional connections, cultivate brand loyalists and ultimately build more resilient businesses. The successful approaches will be built on reciprocity, providing genuine empowerment and real value to members. In doing so, brands and customers can create a more meaningful future together.

    At UXUS, we specialize in harnessing the power of emotional connections. If you’d like to find out more about how we can do this for your brand, please get in touch.   

     Stay tuned for more articles to come in this Designing a Better Tomorrow series. 

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