• Transform magazine
  • November 29, 2023


Using intent to navigate the complexities of brand communities

Mike Fantis Hi Res

Mike Fantis, VP and managing partner at London-based DAC Group, explores the complexities of brand communities and explains how to match intention to the right community.

Brand managers have an embarrassment of riches at their fingertips when it comes to audience signals. Yet they still make assumptions about them - and you know what they say about assumptions! We must never forget that different people engage with the same brand, or indeed product, for different reasons.

The trick is using the data you have to unpick an audience’s intent, working backwards from their needs, and serving them the information they want in the right UX to complete a purchase however and wherever they want to do so.

In short, go where the audience is and get to know them better. Because somewhere in that massive database of names is a hardcore group that could be your most valuable ambassadors — if you can show them you’re worth listening to.

Know your audience

An athleisure brand can mean something completely different depending on who you ask. One person might love a brand’s trainers because they’re best for runners, while a dedicated follower of fashion considers them a must-have because they were worn by the right social media influencer. Some brands in this segment have taken on an iconic subcultural significance of their own.

Same brand, different purpose.

To understand how people engage the same product, marketers have to work hard to read key signals, and ensure the right messages reach the right people.

When someone buys something from your brand you need to capture the pertinent data to meaningfully segment them. You also need to avoid the silos and look holistically at customer behaviours across your channels to get a true picture of who your key audiences are, and what is relevant to each.

The clues you glean from first-party data, such as the areas of your website that certain segments interact with, will help you work out what types of the content you need to keep those customers engaged with your brand. Don’t be afraid to encourage new behaviours offline either, because you want to show your audience that you care about their interests, and those can (and should) sometimes exist outside of your digital channels.

If segments of your audience care about fashion, serve them content that matches that intent. If they care about running, surface information about local running clubs they may want to join. Signals like these are the gateway to unlocking that small but precious percentage of people who are going to interact with your brand in the long-term because they feel seen for the right reasons. They will become your brand ambassadors, because your brand resonates with a core aspect of their lives or even their personal identity.

Engage, but don’t be annoying

On the other hand, the fastest way to make a customer click ‘unsubscribe’ is to spam them with pointless messages. Last October I made a purchase, and in the three months since I’ve received 47 emails from the same brand — none of which have been relevant to what I actually bought. That’s simply not good enough.

It’s one thing to keep yourself front-of-mind, but aimless messaging is worse than silence. This approach corrodes your brand because you aren’t offering anything of value in exchange for people’s attention. Gen Z in particular are looking for trustworthy brands that share their values.

The lesson for marketers in many ways is to play it cool and calculated when it comes to nurturing those long-term, significant relationships with your most valuable customers. As inflation continues to bite, consumers are making tough choices on who to spend with. Now is not the time to be complacent. Brand marketers must understand their audience’s intent, then show their relevance or risk being left behind.