‘Belonging’ is a Key Driver of Brand Love in Social

By Nick Bennett for Social Media Today

I was invited to talk on a panel at Social Media Week London, on ‘The psychology of love and brands’, hosted by a very intelligent agency, Social Kemistri. It sparked some interesting debate around a psychological approach to social marketing and how to encourage love and loyalty – I’d like to share my thoughts here.

Brand love and loyalty in social can be very profitable

Firstly it’s clear that love and loyalty of a vocal brand army in social, can be both very frugal and ultimately very profitable for a brand.

Retaining a customer is 5x cheaper than acquiring a new customer.

78% of consumers trust social peer recommendation. Only 14% trust adverts

Source: Social Media revolution, Erik Qualman, May 2010

The following is a brief train of thought to look at ‘belonging’ and how it can help to drive brand love in social media.

Social media is a leveler between brand and consumer

Social is the great leveler, providing a single and equal platform for brands and consumers to communicate. It’s leveled the playing field for communication and has important ramifications for your brand perception. Your brand perception is not just your broadcast communication, it’s an aggregation of the 1,000’s of social echos from your customers.

Brands need to understand humans not behave like them

To really make the most of social, brands need to humanize. But being more human should not be quickly interpreted as a ‘personality’ and a tone of voice. The fad of believing you are social by simply having a colloquial tone of voice is well and truly over. For a brand or business, it’s much more important to understand human behavior, rather than trying to make your brand become a ‘person’. Understanding what makes people tick and discovering in particular what can help create those sparks of love that lead to loyalty in social.

Belonging is a key driver of love

There have been many psychological models set out to help understand the different levels of people’s needs. I wanted to use, what is probably the most familiar and popular. Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs. Here Maslow sets out the different strata of human needs from the physiological to self realization. These are often presented in a pyramid, with the more idealistic level of needs at the peak and only achievable once the previous more essential human needs have been satisfied. The section I’m interested in is the middle strata. Above the physiological layer and the safety layer. The strata that deals with love and interestingly note that this strata is also about belonging.

So if we are looking to increase brand love, perhaps the right way to approach this is to be thinking about brand belonging.

Creating environments and stimulating ‘belonging’

We spend our lives in groups, clubs, teams and circles. The basic need is the belonging and it is a critical driver of love. Knowing you are part of something with others, being able to share that and interact has been amplified by social media. That belonging is also more about the social interplay amongst the people who belong, rather than always between the brand and the consumer.

So it poses an interesting question that we should ask ourselves as we plan our strategy and tactics to gain brand love and loyalty in social. Are we just trying to connect with our customers to broadcast messages to them, or to offer sales incentives and deals? Will this end up achieving the committed love and loyalty we are after? Or should we spend more time humanizing and understanding the needs of people in social and creating environments and tactics for our customers to connect and belong.

I just wanted to conclude with a couple of my favorite examples of that feeling of belonging in social.

DuckTape – Over 5 million Facebook fans! Surprising?

DuckTape is a remarkable example of social brand love, that is all about belonging to a craft led community. Sharing useful, bizarre and amazing things created from Duck Tape. The social community on Facebook is stimulated often with competitions and innovation from the fans. The love of this brand in social finds it’s sweet spot right in that middle layer of Maslow’s hierarchy. Just take a look at the DuckTape gallery in Facebook.

Ecko – branded for life
Okay, so this is an extreme example. But never the less an extreme stimulant to encourage belonging. American fashion brand Ecko offers 20% off for life to any fan that is prepared to get one of the brand logotypes tattooed on their body. Check out the gallery of fans who have taken the plunge. People really do want to belong.

Belonging is a key driver of brand love in social

Maybe your community won’t go as far as the Ecko community. But if you want to build the love and loyalty for your brand, think about what people need in social and that concept of ‘belonging’. It can change the way you approach a strategy and lead to a community that builds love and loyalty based on that essential human need… To belong.

Nick Bennett is managing partner and strategic creative director of an NMA top 100 digital agency. Nick has spent the last 14 years working in digital advertising and marketing, planning and running digital strategies for UK and global brands. Extensive experience in brand, acquisition, eCRM and social media marketing. Web technologies, SEM and media planning. Full time social media enthusiast, digital evangelist and part time philosopher. More from Nick at www.smilespread.co.uk.