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BUILDING BRAND COMMUNITY: Unlocking Ø-Cost Growth


Brands need to pay attention to who, what, and how consumers engage in the modern world. The dynamics of how trends are created and how they spread have shifted from brands, media, and retailers pushing ideas to the masses. To internet networks of niches and taste communities that drive trends. Because of this, shifting from strategic processes → Social processes will ultimately define the success of your product or service. Also known as Hacking Culture.

Today I’ll give you 4 ways your brand can capitalize on this When executed well, you can reduce cost, ramp up LTV, build community and authority within your niche. First, let’s clarify what’s shifted. Humans use social signals to quickly orient themselves in the world.

On a daily basis, we actively classify one another by lifestyle, values, interests, and project and perceived social standing. Based on taste displays, people make snap judgments on whether a person is like them or fits within a taste space they strive to be in. Think about it. What drives you to follow someone's account?


Social media amplifies our inherent social behaviors by way of perception. Historically taste has been linked to aesthetics and class. It was a social barrier, however, things have changed. Taste now has decoupled from class and shifted from a passive act to an active one.

Foodies, audiophiles, vinyl lovers, fitness junkies, sneakerheads, fashionistas, soccer fans, global nomads, and wellness aficionados. In each of these self-identified taste groups, taste is an activity that engages them more than a casual.


Coffee, food, travel, fitness, fashion…. etc


These are not leisure activities, they require an investment of the consumer's attention, time, and money.


The more time, attention, money, and skill consumers spend on them the more enjoyable it becomes.


In some cases, rituals, and habits, and in that community is formed.

Within the shift, taste is no longer given or a passive play of social differentiation. It’s an act that is constantly developed, cultivated, and refined. We develop taste by absorbing social and cultural capital around us. Through content, conversation, products, techniques, reviews, and even devices.


"Taste fills product with meaning, it embodies the art of living."

As brands navigate the shift with decreased reach, increased costs, and effects to the margins

it becomes obvious why empty posts, logic-based strategy, and technical levers alone won’t convert.


You need to develop taste to hack culture


Here’s how to unlock growth for your brand without additional costs



1. Start with empathy


Embrace empathy for a particular group, people, and their taste. As a brand, it's likely that you as the Founder are a part of the target audience. Fill the gap for them to self-actualize.


Application

See if you can create, market, or package a subgroup of products that are catered to a targeted subgroup of your overall audience.


Example

Corteiz, a London-based streetwear brand has cultivated a die-hard fanbase to become one of the hottest brands in a crowded niche.


Born out of his bedroom, Corteiz built a brand that embodied his taste which celebrates youth, disparity, and counter-culture. In doing so, pioneering a new demand model that defies traditional economic logic.


“It’s not about being rich and being able to afford it but rather being part of the community and therefore being in the know.”



The community is so tight and hyperbolic in growth it’s triggered the interests of the biggest names & brands.


The Nike x Corteiz collab is a signal of brands' desire to access and gain cultural capital through sub-niche tastemakers.


2. Introduce Creative Flexibility


Niche Magazines have a lot more creative flexibility than commercial ones, which gives them the opportunity to great create iconic looks and differentiate themselves from commercial.


Application


Experiment with creative flexibility in a cost-effective way: invest in limited edition packaging, limited edition colors or patterns, or one-off products. To not only differentiate yourself from competitors but the products within your collection.


Example


Packaging is a great low-cost way of exploring flexibility, and if done well, can extend the product experience in real time. Where customers create "Instagrammable” content that uses post-purchase as a method of awareness.


In NYC, tote bags are a staple item that effortlessly cultivates culture capital and status through taste.



3. Create A Taste Regime

Niche magazines help consumers exercise their taste in their everyday life by providing a framework for the community to practice one's taste.

Application


Give consumers a framework for exercising their taste either through an online magazine, blog, or socials or through events and partnerships; or through curation of best practices, mentors, and role modes.



Example


Aime Leon Dior a fashion and lifestyle brand based out of NYC does an excellent job at creating a framework of taste through a multi-channeled approach, as well as, via partnerships, role models, and community activations.



The collections are rather minimalist staples, but the community has created the beating heart of the brand. The community resonance is so strong there's even an official community page.


4. Define Taste Communities


The production of taste makes its own collectives with a shared lifestyle, ways of dressing, speaking, diet, lifestyle

Application


In developing taste, the community is the necessary springboard, it includes mentors, role models, and reference points. Taste is the most effective group-maker.



Example


Project50, a lifestyle challenge created by Som Studios embodies a clear vision. Led by Nico Rauchenwald, the Co-founder become a tastemaker and cultivator of community by embodying the vision “create your own future”


The result is a global community that shares these values, and habits, routines.



In most cases, successful brands aren’t driven by proprietary products or designs. They are driven by their ability to understand their audience, integrate within, and hack culture.


Regardless of the niche you're in, reflect on the following?


How do people engage with your content? How do they engage your product upon receiving it?

How are you developing taste? Where can you be more flexible in defining/aligning with carving your niche?


By applying these new inputs in your overall strategy you will begin to define yourself amongst the noise and gain scalable traction.



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