Marketing and the Sense of Belonging

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I read a fine post on Only Dead Fish the other day. It dealt with the question of how we find community in our fragmented world. Another question occurred to me: what does the fundamental human desire for community have to do with marketing?

Belonging is in our DNA. The instinct to congeal into tribes and villages is powerful. But it’s not unconquerable: post-war American society did a great job quashing it. For generations we were told that happiness equals stuff rather than happiness equals belonging. We moved to suburbs where we could set ourselves apart, with lots of room for our possessions. It didn’t really work out.

Now belonging is back. Open source aligns programmers and users in a shared purpose. The Internet and social media allow disparate people to form communities despite boundaries that would have kept them in different universes a couple of decades ago. People share information, opinions, and ideas. And sharing is the basis of open innovation, and the basis of community.

What’s the implication? How can we build communities in ways that help us build our business?

We need to realize that the old marketing model, by which I try to persuade you to think the way I want you to think, is on the wane. In the new model, we empower and share. We have knowledge, and we want to share it, to make you smarter and more able to do your job.

When we market, we need to be conscious of the community we’re creating. When you share knowledge and empower people, you build trust. And trust is the basis of community – and business success.

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