Communities of Purpose – Part 1

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I speak at conferences and company events, and one of my lines always gets a lot of knowing chuckles: “Nobody wakes up in the morning wishing they had a closer relationship with their toothpaste.”

So why are so many brands working so hard (and spending so much money) trying to do just that?

Actually, I think I know why. The logic goes something like this:

  • Consumers are no longer sitting inert in front of TV screens and printed pages, waiting to be told what to buy
  • They are using social technology platforms to register their approval or disapproval, sharing stuff, and otherwise interacting
  • Brand marketers want to participate in these activities, both to get exposure for their stuff and because research says Gen Y consumers want to be talked with and not to
  • More viewing and sharing activity relating to or about your branding takes the place of the time and space you used to buy to tell people about your brand
  • Therefore, the goal is to find ways to occupy more time, more often. This is consumer engagement with your brand, and it’s an absolute good

It’s hard to find a consumer brand that isn’t following this logic and working hard to create active lists of people who are regularly exposed to whatever the marketers can dream up. Members of such lists are thought to have relationships with the sponsoring brands, and therefore the lists are considered communities.

Those marketing conferences I mentioned? Most of the presentations are usually about how to create this stuff, and why it’s so great. There are endless books written about doing it, and bloggers who busily forward the posts to one another that they write about it.

So even though nobody wakes up wanting any of it — and today’s operating premise about communities flies in the face of about a few thousand years of documented human experience — consumers are now actively encouraged to have relationships with their toilet paper, diapers, soda pop, and toothpaste.

How did the peer-to-peer Internet revolution get so crapped out?

What if consumers didn’t want to spend more time with brands, but rather wanted to make better, faster, and more economically efficient decisions in all areas of their lives? What if the challenge wasn’t for businesses to find ways to occupy as much of their customers’ time as possible, with whatever stuff, and instead to identify ways to make their lives better? Maybe people really don’t want to have relationships with brands. They just want to buy and use them…or not…depending on the things marketers choose to promote.

So less touchpoints, and more utility. I wonder if there’s an engagement discount emerging for brands that choose to waste their consumers’ time with content marketing instead of using those moments of interaction to be real, meaningful, relevant, and useful? Oh, and brief?

Maybe the purpose of communities is to have real purpose?

More on that later this week…

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