How to Create Community Among Your Customers

How to Create Community Among Your Customers



If you want to inspire brand love that lasts, commit to fostering something bigger.

January
31, 2020

5 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Today’s brands do more than just deliver products and services. They also foster connections among like-minded enthusiasts. That could turn out to be their most vital purpose, considering a 2018 Cigna study found that nearly half of Americans report feelings of loneliness.When it comes to creating connections, brands are in a unique position to step up. “Consumers want to feel like they’re part of something bigger than themselves,” explains Kim Lawton, founder and CEO of Enthuse Marketing Group, to Luxury Daily. “While it’s essential to create an experience that connects them to the brand, connecting them to a bigger community of like-minded people makes a larger impact and builds long-term brand love.”With competition on the rise and imitators everywhere, brand love counts for a lot in today’s economy. Moving forward, prosperous companies will be defined as much by their brand and the community around it as the products themselves. We can already see this happening with companies like Apple or Patagonia, which are both backed by passionate communities.Related: 5 Lessons on Taking a Stand You Can Learn From PatagoniaCustomer enthusiasm has always been important, of course. The concept of word-of-mouth marketing is as old as business itself, but it matters so much more now that consumers actively discuss brands online. In a Temkin Group survey, 77 percent of respondents said they would recommend a brand they like. At the same time, consumers are less loyal than ever. Companies have huge opportunities to attract and engage consumers, yet they face just as many challenges. Building a community around a brand serves both objectives: drawing people in and giving them a reason to stay.Not that it’s easy. Organically connecting consumers takes more than a token effort, and it has to be a long-term commitment. Here are some strategies other brands have used successfully.1. Create a mission that helps the larger communityPeople are drawn to communities that reflect their values and principles. That means brands can’t just focus on what they sell; they also need to establish what they stand for. Popular brands TOMS and Bombas donate a pair of shoes or socks, respectively, for every pair sold. They’re about more than just footwear, a stance that appeals to many consumers and unites them around shared values.Use a clear and concise mission statement to define what your brand believes in and how it strives to better the world. Then, build those values into the core of what you do. For example, The Giving Keys, a Los Angeles-based jewelry company, proactively employs people transitioning out of homelessness. Not surprisingly, consumers who share the mission of fighting homelessness gravitate toward this brand before others. It doesn’t matter what your mission is, as long as it’s meaningful and the commitment is genuine. 2. Build a space for community connectionsCommunities need a space to grow, and you need a place where you can engage directly with the community members to create deeper connections. There are plenty of existing opportunities for this on social media, such as creating a Facebook group for your community, but you can create your own platform if you crave more input into the overall look, feel and direction of your brand community.LEGO recognized this opportunity when it built LEGO Ideas, an online community for people to show off what they build with its multi-hued plastic blocks. By putting its own iconic name on the community, LEGO unified the entire enthusiast population of builders. These spaces can also serve the uninitiated. Made, a UK-based furniture company, uses its Unboxed platform to collect pictures of its pieces in people’s homes, which helps potential buyers understand more about its products.3. Let the community drive the brandCommunities involve communication and collaboration among equals, not top-down directives. “Today, brand-building is not primarily through one-way communication via advertising,” explains Ray Li, CEO of custom-made clothing company Sene, in an interview for American Express’s blog. “The new way is co-creation, enabling customers to build your brand with you.” Brands can demonstrate that by incorporating community feedback into future products or social initiatives. More than just listening, however, brands need to relinquish a certain amount of control to the community itself.The TED Talk lecture series did this when it introduced TEDx in 2009, giving individuals the ability to organize their own lectures under the marquee brand name. Live-streaming company Twitch goes a step further and invites popular streamers to the company’s headquarters to have a direct dialogue. The lesson? Always treat community members like participants rather than audience members.Related: 7 Mission Statements That Inspire You to BuyDon’t expect communities to evolve overnight. Instead, work to build them organically and incrementally. That may take longer and require more creative thinking, but the community that results could easily become your single biggest asset.



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President Kovind makes pitch for swadeshi to build ‘a better tomorrow’

New Delhi: President Ram Nath Kovind addresses a joint session of Parliament, in New Delhi, Thursday, June 20, 2019. (LSTV Grab/PTI Photo)





Hearkening back to the post-independence decades, when the slogan was “be Indian, buy Indian”, President Ram Nath Kovind on Friday appealed to the people to “transform the philosophy of ‘buy local for a better tomorrow’ into a movement”.

In his address to the joint sitting of the two Houses of Parliament, a customary address that details the government’s programmes and policies at the start of the first session of a new year, the President “urged every Indian to give priority to local products”.

The Budget session of Parliament started on Friday.

“By using locally manufactured products, you will be able to help the small entrepreneurs in your area to a great extent,” Kovind said, adding that the fundamental mantra of independence was a self-reliant India.

In his independence day speech from Red Fort last year, his first in his second term, Prime Minister Narendra Modi too had exhorted people to buy locally — at the village, district and state levels — to help local cottage industries and small

entrepreneurs.

The President’s appeal comes as India has reported the worst unemployment rates in 45 years, with consumption at a low and dwindling tax collection.

Not only had India refused to sign the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) in November over fears that such a pact would harm domestic industry, there are demands to review its existing free-trade agreements as well with Asean member states.

Kovind said the government was committed to attaining the goal of making India a $5-trillion economy. He did not give any timeline, which until now has been 2024, but the Economic Survey for 2019-20, tabled in the Lok Sabha, said it was 2025.
Protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act and National Register of Citizens marred the President’s speech. MPs of the Congress and some other opposition parties wore black-arm bands as a mark of protest. At least three Trinamool Congress MPs wore white shirts with the slogan “No CAA, No NRC, No NPR” painted in red, and the rest stood up to raise similar banners when the President spoke about the CAA.

After the President referred to the CAA in his speech, ruling National Democratic Alliance MPs applauded for half a minute, followed by cries of “shame shame” from some opposition MPs.

Congress President Sonia Gandhi and the leader of the opposition in the Rajya Sabha, Ghulam Nabi Azad, refused their designated front-row seats and joined party MPs in the fifth row of the Central Hall.



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Britain finally breaking away from EU after 47 years of membership


Britain’s tumultuous 47-year membership of the EU ended at 11pm on Friday night, in an unprecedented blow to the process of postwar integration on the continent. “This is a deep cut for us all,” said German chancellor Angela Merkel.Boris Johnson marked Brexit with a sober but optimistic address to the nation, claiming divorce was inevitable. “For all its strengths and its admirable qualities, the EU has evolved over 50 years in a direction that no longer suits this country,” he said.Britain’s departure from the EU marks the first exit by any big country from the bloc and strips the 27-member union of one of its largest economies and most powerful military and diplomatic players. “This departure is a shock,” said French president Emmanuel Macron on Friday evening. “It’s a historic alarm signal that should echo in each of our countries, be understood across Europe and make us think.” But Mr Johnson’s claim that Brexit would allow the government to “unleash the full potential of this brilliant country” was immediately countered by other European leaders who claimed the prime minister was inflicting self-harm on his nation.Ursula von der Leyen, the European Commission president, said on Friday: “Our experience has taught us that strength does not lie in splendid isolation, but in our unique union.”

For many people this is an astonishing moment of hope, a moment they thought would never come.

She wished the UK well, but vowed to fight for the EU’s interests in the coming negotiations over the future relationship, saying although the bloc wanted “the best possible relationship” with Britain, it would never be “as good as membership”. Britons will wake up on February 1 and notice little practical change in the way they interact with the EU: a standstill transition period intended to run until the end of 2020 will mean that little will be altered in practical terms.But the UK has lost all its formal representation in Brussels and is now a “third country”, seeking a trade deal from outside the room with a formidable negotiating partner. Ms Merkel said talks with the UK would be “the dominant theme of this year”. She warned Mr Johnson that if he insisted on seeking a “Canada-style” trade deal with the EU, eliminating tariffs and quotas but allowing the UK to diverge from Brussels rules, there would be negative consequences for British business. “The more the UK will diverge from the conditions of the single market, the bigger the differences in our future relationship will be,” the German chancellor said.Michael Gove, a leading British Brexiter and cabinet minister, told UK business leaders this week that the government was prepared to see costs and delays arise at the border as a price for regaining the UK’s sovereign right to set its own laws and regulations.
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Mr Johnson told his cabinet, which held a meeting in the pro-Brexit northern city of Sunderland on Friday, that the UK would aim to have “80 per cent of our trade covered by free-trade agreements within three years”.Later in the televised address, he will say: “For many people this is an astonishing moment of hope, a moment they thought would never come. And there are many, of course, who feel a sense of anxiety and loss.”He added that many people were simply glad to see the whole saga coming to an end: “This is not just about some legal extrication. It is potentially a moment of real national renewal and change.”Additional reporting by Victor Mallet in Paris



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Your Rational Self vs. Your Irrational Self




Last week, I talked about Hegel’s odd view that freedom consists of service to the state, and an earlier column discussed a problem with the use of behavioral economics to support “libertarian paternalism.” Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein, the main libertarian paternalists, get into difficulties that Hegel would enable them to avoid. As we’ll see, though, if they were to accept Hegel’s help, they would pay a heavy price.
Thaler and Sunstein think that measures like high taxes on cigarettes and restrictions on the size of soda cans don’t restrict your freedom. They aren’t interfering with what you want to do. You might think at first that they are interfering. You want to smoke, and the high taxes make it more difficult than before to do so. It is more inconvenient now to drink large amounts of soda, because you have to buy more cans than you did before the ban.
Thaler and Sunstein say that appearances are deceiving. You also want good health. Smoking causes lung cancer and other diseases, and drinking large amounts of soda can lead to obesity, diabetes, and other health problems. Part of what they are saying seems reasonable. Probably almost no smokers or soda drinkers want poor health. Controversies about the medical effects of consuming these products we can ignore.
Now comes the crucial step in their argument, which is a cruder version of the principle Kant advanced: “Whoever wills the end also wills (in so far as reason has decisive influence on his actions) the indispensably necessary means to it that is in his control.” The authors reason in this way: because you don’t want lung cancer and not smoking is a way of avoiding lung cancer, you don’t want to smoke. Thus, making it difficult for you to smoke isn’t making you do something you don’t want to do.
There is a problem with this argument that I’ll set aside. Kant’s principle says that if you are rational and you will a certain end, you will also will the “indispensably necessary means” to that end. In other words, if you don’t want to get lung cancer and smoking will always give you cancer, then you won’t smoke. In that case, not smoking would be an indispensable means to not getting cancer, and a rational person who didn’t want cancer wouldn’t smoke. It would not be relevant to note that avoiding smoking does not guarantee that you won’t get cancer. It is irrelevant, because although not smoking is not sufficient to avoid cancer, it is on our supposition a necessary condition. If you smoke, you will get cancer, even if other things cause cancer as well.
But in the actual world, smoking does not guarantee that you will get cancer. Many smokers don’t get it. You can’t invoke Kant’s principle that it is irrational to smoke. It is safe to predict that if smoking did guarantee that you will get cancer, there would be many fewer smokers than there are today.
But this point, as I say, I will set aside. Thaler and Sunstein argue that if you don’t want cancer and you are rational, then you won’t smoke. But you do smoke, so therefore you are not rational. How can they go on to say that when they make it more difficult for you to smoke they aren’t interfering with your freedom? They are only entitled to say that if you were rational, you wouldn’t smoke.
They are able to get to their conclusion by adding this premise: you are (or have—I won’t distinguish between the two) a rational self. With that premise added, their conclusion follows. The rational self doesn’t smoke, so the higher taxes don’t interfere with the rational self’s freedom. You might think this is obviously silly. Our starting point is that you do smoke and are irrational. How could Thaler and Sunstein say at the same time that you are rational and don’t smoke? Isn’t this a blatant contradiction?
Matters are not so simple. They aren’t claiming that you are a rational self and nothing else. On the contrary, in this view you are two selves, a rational and an irrational one, and that view, however bizarre, is not a contradiction. Thus, the high taxes interfere with the freedom of one of your selves, but not the other.
By the way, there is another complication that I want to set aside. (Isn’t this fun?) If we accept Kant’s principle and also that you are a rational self, it doesn’t follow that the taxes don’t interfere with what you want to do. Kant’s principle says that someone who is rational wills an indispensably necessary means to what he wants. It doesn’t require him to have no conflicting wants. It wouldn’t say that it is irrational to want to smoke, as long as you don’t smoke. (We’re assuming here that the end of avoiding cancer outranks the end of smoking.)
Putting these complications aside, we can thus make sense of how Thaler and Sunstein arrive at their conclusion: the smoking regulations don’t interfere with the freedom of one of your selves. Actually, Thaler and Sunstein don’t in fact get to their conclusion in the way I’ve suggested they might. They just assume without argument that you want what they think you would want if you were rational and fully informed. If I attributed to them the premise that I claim would make sense of their view, because it would be rational for them to do, I would be making an unjustified assumption similar to their own.
But let’s leave the extra premise in. We now get to two additional problems, and this is where Hegel comes in. First, why should we accept that people have rational selves of the sort needed to make sense of Thaler and Sunstein’s argument? Second, even you have a rational self as well as an irrational self, how does it follow that higher taxes don’t interfere with your freedom? They do interfere with the freedom of your irrational self. Why should this be disregarded?
If we bring in Hegel, these questions can be answered. According to Hegel, in what I think is the most plausible interpretation of him, your irrational self is a mere appearance. Only the rational self is real. As he famously said,
What is rational is actual; and what is actual is rational.
In that case, all conflict disappears. High taxes become just another way to enable your rational self to obey the state in perfect freedom. What could be simpler?



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Budget 2020 expectations: Modi government should make some long term bets on education

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Union Budget 2020: Compared to other BRIC nations, India’s spend on education as an overall per cent of budget is abysmally low. India stands at a 3% spend compared to China’s 4%, Brazil’s 5.9% and Russia’s 4.1%.Budget 2020 holds significance for several reasons. The timing is such that the government is not under any electoral pressure. India is only a few years away from the commitment made by the Honorable Prime Minister for making India a 5 trillion dollar economy. Education is becoming a significant factor in building long term electoral capital and with an eye on 2024, the Govt should make some long term bets on education.Compared to other BRIC nations, India’s spend on education as an overall % of budget is abysmally low. India stands at a 3% spend compared to China’s 4%, Brazil’s 5.9% and Russia’s 4.1%. India must increase its expenditure on education. It should also reallocate some of its existing spend on relevant and high impact areas.WATCH – Budget 2020: Higher allocation to NREGA, more money in hands of rural poorA strong correlation exists between a nation’s innovative capability and its growth. According to Vanguard, The United States constitutes a 55% share of the world’s equity market capitalisation, while India’s share is a meagre 1%. According to recent data from Morgan Stanley, a majority of today’s top 10 American companies (by stock market cap) were not in the top 10 list 10 years ago. These companies grew American economy because they are beacons of innovation. In India, majority of the largest companies are all imitators and fast followers of Western innovation models. The verdict is clear – the Indian education system has to refocus on building skills in innovation and creativity. Recognising this, the Prime Minister Narendra Modi, on 3rd January, called on young scientists of India to “Innovate, Patent, Produce and Prosper”Here are my recommendations to boost the education sector.Change how teaching and learning is conducted in the K-12 sector Introduce progressive teaching methods such as problem based learning, inquiry based learning and experiential learning. These methods help build skills of innovation, complex problem solving, interpersonal skills, growth mindset and resilience. These skills will enhance the ‘life impact’ of India’s youth and future generations. A national mandate that teachers will not lecture for over 50% of the classroom time and instead will teach using progressive teaching methods will help. The government will need to partner with the private sector to create a new generation of teacher training institutes and programs.Introduce new courses for relevant industries of the futureOur curriculum is excessive in content and is outdated. Outdated portions of the curriculum need to be replaced by new courses that include artificial intelligence, blockchain, cloud computing, robotics, quantum computing, etc. Excessive content in the curriculum needs to be removed so teachers can instead spend time on development of ‘life impact’ skills.Change the assessment process in the Indian Education System‘Whatever is assessed is finally taught’. The government needs to modify the existing assessment system and introduce a rubric based assessment system where ‘life impact’ skills are measured. A minimum 33% of assessment weightage should be reserved for such skills. College entrance exams need to be modified to include assessment these vital skills.Technology to create advanced learning management systemsSophisticated and artificial intelligence based learning management systems (LMS) need to be deployed across schools in the country that can accurately measure whether cutting edge subjects and ‘life impact’ skills are being taught and learnt. These systems need to accurately report impact of the improvements to the district education officers. Real time data across districts from around the country can be compared and contrasted so that teaching methods can be modified and improved continuously.Commission research studiesWith the changing job landscape and requirements, pioneering experimental research studies need to be commissioned by employing credible agencies. The research needs to evaluate both traditional and progressive teaching methods in terms of their impact on developing ‘life impact’ skills.By making these changes the government can help realise our collective dream of transforming India so it can become an innovative superpower.(Author is Sandeep Hooda, Co-Founder, Vega Schools. Views expressed are personal)



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