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You don’t get to choose your family (or do you?)

How Organizations are Using the Concept of Human Behavior to Create Communities for their Products and Services

A very common marketing strategy for consumer facing companies is to create a unique, identifiable brand and foster a direct and unmediated relationship with their customers. Some companies take the approach of creating a sense of community or family. It sounds intuitive, right? Being part of a family makes the customer more committed, more connected and more “forgiving”, which in time will be counted as additional revenue. This intuitive approach is actually based (knowingly or unknowingly) in the most basic understanding of human behaviour.


Even years after graduation, when you hear about your school’s last football team win, or you see someone walking down the street with your school’s logo on a T-shirt, you will probably get a warm feeling in your heart. This feeling is the core of group identification. The sentiment associated with group identification is part of a very important social mechanism. Throughout time, people have relied on gathering in social groups for survival.

However, our social structures have become much more complex today. In modern society, different groups fulfill different needs in our life so it is understandable that our motivations to be part of different groups vary. For example, while we depend on our country for our personal safety, being a part of a basketball fan club fulfills other needs such as self esteem or entertainment.

Although it’s easy to understand how being part of a basketball fan club would give a sense of satisfaction in group identification, it becomes more complex when thinking of a gas company or the local bodega. Therefore, while businesses concern themselves with issues such as how to be unique and how to create a good experience for their customers, they are also presented with the task of creating strong brand identification. That is, being able to identify the motivations which will attract potential customers to their business and increase revenue.

So how have different companies created communities centered around their products? While some examples like Apple are fairly intuitive, there are other brands which have taken on very interesting approaches to accomplish this goal.

Example #1: Glossier

Let’s take a look at Glossier, the skincare and toiletry brand valued at over $1B. Glossier’s core agenda in their marketing is based “on the fact that beauty isn’t made in a boardroom—it happens when the individual is celebrated.” But Glossier’s campaign goes even deeper. The brand motivates customers not only to use the product and increase usage through word of mouth, but also to take an active part in the company’s development process. For example, the company encourages customers to share their own makeup routine with the company and become the company’s face. Glossier also encourages customers to share their personal stories with other community members via social media. This strategy not only helps create and define a Glossier community but also preserves it, strengthens it, and keeps it active.

According to Glossier, they are taking these stories and using them as a marketing tool on their website as well as Voice of the Customer feedback to improve their products. The campaign is a real callout for customers to get involved and inspire the brand. As described by Glossier in their own words, “Personal choice is the most important decision a brand can never make.” By giving customers the power to influence future product decisions and allowing customers to be the face of their own products, Glossier has succeeded in creating an ideal brand identification.

Example #2: Coca-Cola

Another interesting example to examine is Coca-Cola. Several years back, Coca-Cola replaced the logos on their bottles with the 250 most popular names in the US. The point of this campaign, according to the Coca-Cola Company itself, was to create a personal relationship with the customer. When looking at this more carefully, we find something even deeper.

Coca-Cola printed individuals’ names on Coke bottles, as described in the Telegraph news story.

It is clear that the branding professionals at Coca-Cola also understood how important our names are for us. By seeing my own name on the bottle, I can actually see myself in it, which motivates me to identify with the product and the brand itself. Ultimately this makes me feel like I am part of the Coca-Cola story.

The campaign was extended beyond individual brand identification. In addition to looking for your own name on the bottle, Coca-Cola came up with their “Share a Coke” campaign to encourage their buyers to look for their friends’ names on bottles and drink the beverage together. By creating a shared experience out of finding familiar names on Coke bottles and associating Coke with quality time spent with friends, Coca-Cola invoked the concept of community.

These two mini case studies demonstrate how companies from various industries are trying to get their customers to be part of their own community. This approach of creating an affiliation with the brand is a way for companies to foster long term relationships on immediate incentives, (such as lower prices and promotions) as well as on a solid basis of identification. And so this identification drives one of our core needs as a human being -- to be part of something bigger than ourselves.

Omri Ben-Zvi Goldblum, Analyst

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