Brand Identity: A Community Experience

Posted by: Jessica Cornick, PhD
  • July 5, 2017

Meet Jane: registered nurse, Instagrammer, and “dance mom”; she uses Burt’s Bees, drives a hybrid SUV and works out at Planet Fitness. Jane, like all people, has a need to belong, and so she belongs to a variety of groups; some she has joined and some she has formed, some she joined in actuality and some she joined because she aligns with them philosophically. Some of these groups are formed and enforced by the products Jane uses.  These brand groups are part of Jane’s identity and are central to how she views herself.

Often Jane and others use brands to facilitate connections with others. For most people, an important benefit of identifying with a brand is also becoming part of the (INSERT BRAND) loyalist “club.” Brands that facilitate this kind of connection can help strengthen brand identification, which in turn engenders loyalty, positive bias toward the brand, and word-of-mouth evangelism in person and via social media.

Let’s consider a few brands that facilitate connection and enhance Jane’s social identity. Jane is part of a community running club sponsored by Nike. She often joins the yoga class at the lululemon store with her dance mom friends who are passionate about yoga and lululemon. Jane met one of her best friends at an American Express Music fan event.  Whether these meet-ups occur in-person (events, classes, concerts) or virtually (social media groups, blogs), creating a sense of belonging for Jane and other consumers heightens the “us vs. them” distinction for the brand and increases brand identification.

Positive brand identification among consumers ensures a host of positive outcomes for the brand, including brand loyalty, resistance to cross-marketing from competitors, likelihood to purchase brand products in the future, and willingness to promote the product through referrals.

To boost brand identification, brands should:

  1. Create a “them” to galvanize an “us”
  2. Communicate shared brand values with the target audience
  3. Create opportunities for identity signaling
  4. Help people come together

Companies that recognize the power of brand identification and utilize the four techniques we’ve outlined in this series can expect to have more loyal, active, and dedicated consumers of the brand. Finding these brand champions – by measuring consumers’ brand identity – can help you build a core consumer segment that carries your brand through good and bad times and spreads your message to wider audiences. If your brand identity aligns with Jane’s, she may even become one of them.

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