Innovation Branding Series Ep 3: No Cause, No Brand Community

Today we continue a new series done in collaboration with Youri Sawerschel, Branding Expert and Founder of Creative Supply. In our third episode on Brand Innovation, Youri will speak about innovation and brand extension.

Welcome back my name is Youri and today we’re going to speak about innovation but from a branding perspective.

One of the hardest things to do when launching a new product or service is getting an audience – getting people interested in your product, in other word getting people to care about us.

To do that, many companies are trying to build “brand communities” around the product or service. That’s quite a buzzword, but actually, community has little to do with our products or services themselves.  In fact our community needs two things, and I’m quoting Seth Godin here, the marketing guru. A community needs a cause that people can relate to. And it needs a way for people to talk to each other.

Let’s take Punkt for example. Punkt is a Swiss consumer electronic brand that got very famous with its “dumb phone”. The dumb phone cost nearly 300 euros and does nothing else but text and call.  Without a cause and a community Punkt it is a tough sell.  Even from a product point of view there is nothing crazily innovative about it. So Punkt need a cause. Punkt speaks about the fact that we humans, lost control in a digital world. We are overwhelmed by news feeds, notifications and hashtags. The Punkt cause is simple: taking control of technology before technology takes control of us. We need to be able to unplug and stay mentally healthy. So Punkt organizes digital detox challenges where people trade in their smartphone for a dumb one for day, or week, and then tells the experiences online.  This triggered people to start discussions online about digital detox, and the impact of technology in our lives etc. The basic Punkt phone becomes then the symbol of the community and its cause. So by buying a Punkt phone you are becoming part of the community of people who want to have a smart lifestyle. That’s worth 300 euros right?

Another good example is another Swiss brand called Swiss Side. It is a bicycle wheel maker. Think Tour de France and very thin wheels. Swiss Side applies aerodynamics technology from the Formula One world, in order to improve racing performance. Most of the competitors of Swiss Side are focusing on weights while they focus on aerodynamics, as a source of performance. The cause of Swiss Side revolutionized the cycling industry, nothing less. To build a community around this cause Swiss Side did something that very few R&D based companies dared to do. They shared all their research data. Rapidly cycling fans around the world started to discuss the result data on online forums, word of mouth, spread and Swiss Side grew in leaps and bounds.  So if you’re launching a new product or service, and need to build an audience don’t just focus on product features, rather ask yourself what cause do I stand for, and how do I get my community engaged with it.