April 3, 2023

Beware Of Brand Communities

While it is an awesome marketing tool consumers need to beware of brand communities as they might contribute to clutter and overspending!

What you'll discover in this episode:

  • What is a brand community? 
  • The positive sides of brand communities for businesses and consumers
  • The darker side for us consumers that not many people talk about: if we are not careful there is a danger of accumulating clutter and of overspending.

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Opportunities to work with me 1-1 are available. Send me an email at conny 'at' connygraf dot com or schedule a complimentary Chaos to Peace Consultation and we'll see if working together is a great fit.

Don't worry, I'll never be pushy or talk you into hiring me. 

I do belong to two brand communities, one is around a specific all-purpose dress that I really love. I belong to this group since about fall of 2021 and I am quite active in that group.

The other one is around a specific cross-body bag and I just joined that group about a month ago after I pre-ordered one of their bags. I am not really active in that group and I can already feel the mostly the negative effects of it on me... more about that later.

I am getting ahead of myself...

because I first wanted to clarify what I mean with Brand Community.

What Is A Brand Community?

I am no expert and to be honest I just lately pieced it together of what happened with me. So I asked all-knowing Google and found a nice definition in a blog post from Sprout Social

A brand community is a place where people who have an emotional connection to a brand can connect with each other and with the brand. 

Such Brand communities specifically on Facebook have been on the rise in recent years, and they are a great way for us consumers and fans of a particular brand to

  • connect with each other
  • share information and ideas
  • and show how we use the product.

And as a bonus of being part of this group, we often also get exclusive or early access to new products and discounts from that brand.

The connecting, the sharing information and ideas, and showing how we use the product is the positive side of such a community, and it's the side that I very much enjoy in the groups that I am in.

But there is a darker side to brand communities for us consumers that not many people talk about - if we are not careful there is a danger of accumulating clutter and of overspending.

While I may or may not have accumulated clutter (ye) I would say I have definitely spent more money on clothes than is normal for me since I joined the community around the dresses.

How I realized what was going on with me

I will get back to this later but first I want to share with you what has helped me realize and understand better what is happening to me and other consumers in these brand communities.

I am part of Lisa Larter's Thought Readers, a business book club where we read one business book a month together. The insight about brand communities came to me in February while we were reading the book

Belonging to the Brand Why Community is the Last Great Marketing Strategy by Mark Schaefer

In this book Mark Schaefer says: 

Community is good for companies, and it’s good for customers. A mountain of research shows how belonging to a brand community enhances a person’s self-esteem, self-identity, and pride. Sharing a common history, language, and spirit with a community contributes to a potent sense of belonging. (page 22 of the Kindle version)

So in today's world where loneliness is at an all time high, yes people need connection and communities and that's what a brand community can and does offer and yes we as customers might need it for all the positive aspects. but there are not just positive aspects as I will explain later.

First let's continue with how Mark Schaefer writes: 

It makes things easier for the business because in these brand communities, often the customer is the marketer. Recommendations and content shared from friends and family forge the brand identity, demonstrate loyalty, and drive sales (page 46 of the Kindle version) 

To illustrate an example Mark Schaefer talks about the Gatorade community and the Sephora community...

I don't know those communities or am a part of them, but I can attest from personal experience being part in the two brand communities I am in that 
a thriving brand community is really good for the business of the brand because:

We customers are the marketer

We share recommendations and content around the brands products which forges the brand identity, demonstrates loyalty, lets other members trust the brand more and therefore drives sales.

And the last part is really important because driving sales such a community  really does which is good for the company but here is where we enter the darker territory of brand communities for consumers

An example from this morning in the cross-body bag brand community I belong to on how the community is driving sales. Someone posted:

Screen shot of a Facebook post from inside the cross-body bag brand community.

I see and read similar posts on a daily basis in the other brand community I am in (the one about dresses). People in there are even joking about how these dresses are kind of an addiction.

What I learned from further looking into this 

What happens are several things: While we are part of a brand community, we're constantly exposed to these products shared by other members, so we more likely feel like we need to buy more from that brand too.

It's sneaky because there is absolutely no peer pressure, and the company itself usually doesn't really market very heavily in the group either. They might announce the launch of a new product or a sale that is going on and then the majority of the marketing is done by everyone in the group. How?

Talking about it, sharing how much they are loving the new products, posting about how they ordered it which then creates more awareness and engagement in the group. This in turn creates a sense of FOMO (fear of missing out) for the other members who see these post in the community.

When we see others in the community making purchases and showing off their new products we don't want to feel left out or excluded so we feel the urge to also buy.

My personal experience in a brand community

I personally have this experience too, even though I am someone who doesn't really obsess over clothes, shoes and bags at all. I am weird to the point that I could wear the same looking outfit every single day no problem. But being an active member of the brand community around these dresses got me to buy more clothes in the last 2 years than I have probably bought ever before in the same amount of time.

Most members in this "dress community" I've spoken to had the same experience like me. They found the company, bought 1 or 2 dresses but then after they found the brand community they started to buy more and more dresses. Dozens of dresses, I've heard some members have 100 dresses, and others strive to have them all....  (I don't even  know how many that would be but more than 100). 

So as Mark Schaefer points out in his book IT IS the greatest marketing strategy ever for businesses to have such a thriving community that generates sales on its own. But for us consumers that are part of such a community, if we are not careful, aware and intentional, we start buying and accumulating lots of stuff that

a) might end up being clutter and

b) while doing so we spend more than we normally would. We might overspend to the point that we go into debt because we are not aware what's happening to us, or because we have no self-discipline to not buy when we see all the other community members around us buying and showing off.

What can we do? 

How can I - how can we all as consumers - enjoy the positive effects of these brand communities but minimize the negative aspects or fall into the clutter and financial overspending traps?

But first, I want to add here that I don't want to blame the brand community or the brand for what happens. We as consumers just have to be aware what is happening and take responsibility for our own behaviour and actions, and our spending. 

With that out of the way, here are some tips: 

  1. Set a budget for your purchases and stick to it. I know most people cringe when they hear the word budget, but all a budget is, is being intentional with your money, A budget is deciding ahead of time how much you want to spend and not let the subtle pressure of a brand community make you overspend or buy things you don't need. Of course that only works if you have the self-discipline and strength to stick to your budget. Sometimes it also helps to really take a look at how much you have spent with this particular brand over the past so many months to come to your senses so to speak and start being more intentional.
  2. Take a time-out: If you do find yourself hitting that buy-button too quickly ( and that has happened to me more than once) you want to step away and wait, for example, for 24 hours before ordering. This can help you to cool off so to speak and give you a different perspective and relief from FOMO. But if you notice you're not disciplined enough to wait for a while, you might even want or need to seek support from someone who is not part of this community who can help keep you accountable to your own intentions and remind you of your goals of having less stuff or spending less.
  3. Commit to a self-imposed rule that says: if something new comes in, something old goes out. If you wanted to really downsize you could also have the rule: if something new comes in, two or three old things go out.

You can either implement just one of the tips but best is probably best all three of them at the same time. It's up to you, you are a grown person and need to be in charge of you, your actions and your finances.

Yes you can enroll help but ultimately, nobody can tell you what to do, not even a coach or accountability partner.

If the above tips and strategies don't help and after a while you still find yourself feeling too much FOMO and buying more items than you intended, spending more money than you had planned and have budget for, you might need to take a break from the brand community and find a community that doesn't rally around certain products.  

Remember that your self-worth isn't tied to the things you buy or how much you support a particular brand. Clearing Clutter, and also preventing clutter and financial overspending is self-love and taking care of ourselves and being mature.

Ok let's quickly summarize: 

  • A brand community is an awesome marketing strategy for businesses to drive sales because the members of the community basically do the marketing for the brand which helps to build trust and loyalty to the brand and drives sales.
  • It's also great for the members which are the consumers of that brand. It's a a great way for them as fans to connect with each other, share information and ideas, and show how they use the product. This enhances their self-esteem, self-identity, pride and sense of belonging.
  • But again there is a darker side to brand communities for us consumers that not many people talk about - if we are not careful there is a danger of accumulating clutter and of overspending.
  • These communities create a sense of FOMO. In extreme cases you might have to take a break or leave the brand community all together but first you can try to 1) have and stick to a budget  2) give yourself a time-out before hitting that buy button or get an accountability partner and 3) commit to the self-imposed rule that you have to sell or give away one of the products before you can buy something new

Let me know your thoughts, are you part of a brand community and have you experienced the positive and negative effects of it? I would love to know, leave a comment below or send me a message here


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