There's been a lot of talk and blogging about communities being central to people on the web. The web, pundits say is changing from one of passive consumption to a participatory (I hate the word "interactive") experience. A lot of web x.0 sites such as Diggit, MySpace, facebook are exactly about that. Despite the talk and clear evidence marketing departments are mired in traditional approaches that do not directly address the power of Value Based Communities. Lets just call them VBCs for simplicity. I believe that these marketers ignore communities at their own risk. So what are VBCs and why are they important? Its easy to define a VBC - a community that comes together as a result of shared beliefs. Those beliefs could range from an interest in saving the environment, a love for dogs (or other animals), a passion for astronomy and so forth. Communities have existed throughout evolution. The first community was drawn together with a common belief in survival resulting in early instances of prehistoric man hunting in groups and forming families. Communities then are the basis of existence! indeed great changes have come about as a result of communities being created along shared values - The creation of America being a prime example. But enough about history. What about today? What role do communities play and why are they ever more relevant? One has only to witness the current election where Obama's message of "Change" is creating a voter community sharing a common belief and value that change is essential in government (Politicians in my view have been consummate marketers to creating and pandering to communities). It is amazing then that so few marketing efforts focus on understanding and mining the power of communities engaging instead in traditional marketing efforts. Market research in particular tends to fall short in this respect. Here are some reasons why marketers should actively focus on VBCs
1. Shared values = MOTIVATION: Every marketer seeks to understand what motivates a customer. Values are the strongest form of motivation that spurs action
2. Community = ACTION: A community comes together for the purpose of taking action, driven by a set of values. All communities without exception can clearly identify their purpose and values. Conversely, communities that cannot do so eventually fracture and fade away or give rise to new communities
3. Community = VALUED PEER INFLUENCES: A community's members are highly instrumental in impacting each others choices about a variety of things. The affinity brought about by shared values often leads to valuing a peer's recommendation and eventual purchase
As stated earlier, current marketing approaches often ignore these realities, in most cases either totally ignoring their existence or ignoring the values that created the community in the first place. Traditional marketing tactics place emphasis on a standard criteria such as customer's location, demographics, purchase preferences, race, age, education etc. - in other words, marketers understand the "what" and the "how" but rarely do they venture into understanding the "why" from a values perspective. And if at all they do, there is a broad generalization that hides critical differences among individuals. Among voters, for example, labels such as Republican or Democrat are supposed to indicate shared beliefs but the truth is that such generalizations mask shifts in values occurring within each party. Each party now has sub-groups such as Liberal Republicans and Conservative Democrats. Consumer group descriptions such as GenX, GenY also mask a multitude of values. I will stop here now and continue on this topic over the next few days. In the mean time, I look forward to your thoughts, comments and opinions in the coming days.....
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