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The Community Manager is the New Brand Manager Consumers are no longer choosing just a product, but the purpose it stands for every community that exists today, be it online or offline, has a purpose that binds its members making them come back to it every now and then

By Rashi Mittal Nair

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Once upon a time, there was a brand. It realized it was awesome. So it went on TV to let the whole world know how awesome it was. Lots of people heard about it, tried it & loved it.

Companies hired MEDIA Managers to handle BRAND management.

The Brand lived happily ever after.

One day, the brand realised that consumers were people.

It started to collect feedback & look for ways for consumers to engage with the brand in two-way communication.

Companies hired COMMUNICATION Managers to handle BRAND management.

The Consumer & the Brand lived happily ever after.

Yesterday, the brand realised that people are essential, social-beings.

It has started to look for communities where consumers are already bonding over a larger purpose, a common enemy or a shared experience.

The brand is looking to be present where relevant, and be recommended by everyday consumers, who people already trust.

Companies are now hiring COMMUNITY Managers to handle BRAND Management.

The Community, The Consumer & The Brand - Well, the story has just begun…

Brand strategies today are no longer made in air-conditioned rooms, amidst number crunching presentations; but are rather created out of conversations, experiences and stories that real-time consumers are sharing every day in these highly involved communities.

With the skill-sets needed to build brands drastically changing, here are 5 key shifts in brand management-thinking that are leading to Community Managers taking centre stage.

  • Invited vs Invite

Brands no longer throw their own party and spend time trying to convince people to join it. They now find out where the party is already happening, and be relevant enough, to be invited to it! If you are a brand that is into baby care products, you no longer have to convince moms to come to your website. Instead, find online communities where moms are already talking about baby products, and see how your brand can fit in and help in times of need.

  • Purpose vs. Product

Consumers are no longer choosing just a product, but the purpose it stands for.

Every community that exists today, be it online or offline, has a purpose that binds its members making them come back to it every now and then. For example, brands like Dove understand community-marketing well. They have grown a consumer-community around women who rebel against "unrealistic ideal beauty standards'. Building brand Dove is no longer about attracting women to the soap, but about attracting women to a larger purpose they all feel more emotionally connected with. The conversation on unrealistic beauty standards always existed. The brand just joined the party.

  • Participate vs Pitch

Earlier, to get consumers on board, a brand manager would Pitch them with all the right rational benefits and USP. Today, however, consumers are more attracted to brands that THEY have HELPED create. Pitching has changed to Participating or Co-creating. Today brands first create their tribe of consumers who have tried the product and passionately loved it. Real-time insights and conversations help these consumer tribes to grow, and the brand continues to be co-created by them.

  • Advocate vs Advertise

Consumers don't trust advertising anymore. Big fancy TV commercials are great at building brand awareness, but their impact on purchase has slowed down, given they continue to lack credibility. Authentic brand advocacy from reliable friends and family builds trust. Even advocacy from strangers in the form of online conversations, quora responses and e-commerce reviews builds trust.

  • Buddy vs. Bot

How much do brands really know their consumers? Their email id, their mobile number, age, city, name, maybe a birthday? Consumers are people, which means they are more than just a bunch of numbers. Community managers understand that better than anyone else. In a community, the brand actually knows a lot more about their consumers - like what gets them most frustrated, what they are most proud of, what's their pet's name, what do they want to achieve in life and much much more, just like a real friend! Consumers need to be treated like buddies vs data-sets.

Be it a community of fitness enthusiasts, or food lovers; or a softer community of moms who are discussing their everyday woes as a mother; a common purpose is all it takes to bind them together. The community manager is pivotal in bringing together the people who feel the same purpose as the brand and growing them as brand advocates.
The sweet little story of community marketing has just begun and every brand will have its own tale to tell. For now, in a not so far far away land, The Brand, The Consumer and The Community are just getting together, to create their Happily ever after….

Rashi Mittal Nair

Co-founder and CEO, WOOP - Women of Opinion

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