We are social creatures who organize around common interests and shared experiences.
We’re not just college graduates, we’re Cornhuskers or Ducks or Bulldogs. We’re not just music fans, we’re Deadheads or Parrotheads or Panic freaks. Our identities are formed in association with these groups or institutions. Belonging to the group, or tribe, is central to how humans are wired. Even the lone wolf is defined by his position as it relates to the group.
Sadly, not everyone is feeling part of something larger than themselves. Way too many people feel the exact opposite—a crushing social isolation and the negative emotions that arise from it. According to Fast Company, “technology is playing a role in social isolation, as we’re replacing deep, emotion-driving in-person relationships with superficial online relationships.”
Here are some shocking stats from the FC article:
- 40% of Americans identify as lonely; up from 1 in 10 in the 1970s.
- One in four Americans have no trusted confidante; up from 1 in 10 in 1985.
- There’s been a 24% rise in suicides between 1999 and 2014.
The problems mount as the solutions evade us. What can awake us from our slumber, and help to inspire and reunite us? A government program? No way. A reduction of screen time? Absolutely. Oddly, but not surprisingly, brands too have a role to play in healing societal rifts.
Set your sights. At Rapha, our staff maintain an annual tradition of setting riding goals for the year ahead. We invite you to set a goal of your own for the next 12 months and you’ll be entered into our competition to win one of five Rapha outfits – the perfect hand sling into the New Year. Enter using the link in bio.
Fast Company points to the Rapha Cycle Club (RCC), a membership organization grown around Rapha’s cycle apparel business. The RCC has all the hallmarks of traditional community groups: rituals, local organizers, chapters and clubhouses around the world, symbols, shared identity, and social activities. There’s also a code of conduct that creates the conditions for respect and decency among diverse members.
Thinking beyond customers, fans, or followers, the next frontier for great brands is stepping into the cultural need and market opportunity for deeper, real-world person-to-person connection.
It’s easy to dismiss brand communities as a trend, or another weak attempt to capitalize on a real human need. I think when you look a bit deeper, the promise of brand-specific communities is real. People cling to their identities like a life raft. When you’re a Steelers fan, a Democrat, and a Ford pickup driver, all three of these tribes help define you and connect you with others like you.
Any brand that wants to appeal to the guy above (I refuse to call him a “persona”) has to fit into the existing narratives that guide the man’s sense of self. When the brand can also help connect the person to others, feelings of personal acceptance begin to enter the commercial equation. It’s not a brand’s job to make people feel whole or better about themselves, but when they do acheive this, either through intentional actions or by happenstance, the brand’s appeal is stronger and longer lasting.