The workshop conference How to use the notion of community to elevate your target audience, presented on October 20, as part of the C2 Montréal 2021, brings a fresh perspective on how to engage with a brand audience.

The methodology developed by creative agency Sid Lee in the project “The Belong Effect” – which is the subject of the conference – could also provide some answers to community managers desperate to increase indefinitely the number of followers of their Facebook page.

First of all, a bit of background. The “The Belong Effect” is two years old. In a conference published on vimeo two months ago, the President and CEO of Sid Lee/USA, Andy Bateman, explained the thinking behind the project.

It’s reasonable to say that the dominant business model of the 21st century is the platform – platforms like Facebook, eBay, Amazon that attract a large volume of sellers and buyers. The fuel for this platform economy is the communities. If we operate on a platform, we have an interest in understanding the growth mechanism of the communities that join it.”

Based on this principle, the advertising agency Sid Lee took interest in community dynamics, calling on researchers and browsing the scientific literature on the subject. And here is their conclusion:

The most successful brands are those that focus on pre-existing communities. Rather than creating communities from scratch, they engage with communities organically.”

C2 Montréal workshop

Britt Stromberg (Sid Lee’s Vice President of Global Marketing in Seattle) and Joseph Matsushima (Sid Lee’s Digital Director in Los Angeles) recalled the basic principles of the approach at C2M (“You can’t own a community, but you can belong to a community,” said Britt Stromberg), and then dive into the heart of the matter, skimming through the four steps of their methodology (titled “the belong creative framework”) and showing an example of a company (Tesla) that has been able to serve existing communities.

We broke down our process into four stages: defining, deepening, exploring and contributing, explained Joseph Matsushima. The first step (defining the audience) corresponds to the typical approach of a brief: what are the age, gender and interests of the people to be reached. Innovation takes place in the second stage (deepening): a list is made of the communities in which the target audience may potentially be found.”

The communities mentioned can cast a very wide net (Disney or Netflix) or on the contrary ultra-specific (a book club or race club, a basket of vegetables bought from a farmer, etc.).

The goal is to paint the portrait of their target audience through the communities to which they belong, whether these communities are passive or active. And there’s no wrong answer.”

Subsequently, the community becomes the “target audience”. Creatives wonder what common interests, concerns and conversations prevail in the selected communities. It is then a question of imagining actions that allow the brand to contribute to the life of this community in a positive way.

The Tesla case

To illustrate the point, Joseph Matsushima showed how Tesla has put itself at the service of ultra-nestled communities, in order to create a commitment to its brand. On the one hand, Elon Musk’s company has integrated a dog mode into its vehicle, so that an owner can leave his pet in the car without worrying about asphyxiation. Then, the company turned the front cabin into an arcade (the steering wheel and pedals can be used as a joystick to play a video game) when the vehicle is stopped.

It creates a sense of loyalty, validation and understanding within the gamer community, illustrates the Digital Director based in Los Angeles. Whether you use the features or not, it shows that Tesla is working very hard to contribute positively to communities and that they understand what is important to these communities.”

Joseph Matsushima argued that the most nestled communities are also often the most passionate and committed to a product.


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