The Rise of Community-First Brands: Why we Believe The Future of Products is Community-led

Community led brands have much better trust scores, as reported by Trustpilot.

An increasingly connected digital ecosystem that is driven by social media and interactions often leads us to quickly find out everything we want to know about any and every company. This means we can be picky about who we do business with. 

But here’s the thing- when customers are deciding where to spend their money, they often listen to what other people they trust have to say. Their opinions matter- a lot

While the task of convincing not just buyers but also the influencers might seems daunting (and many businesses often find out that it is, in fact, daunting), the few that can break through have an immense opportunity.

Community-led brands often find that the hard metrics quickly fall into place when they focus on making their ecosystem happy. eCommerce has an average CAC of $44, while consumer goods half half of that- both very high costs in an industry where the per unit price often runs in the single digit. The creation of a community ensures that repeat purchases are higher, consumer buy products without necessarily needing to be advertised to, and brands can build sustainable, cash-flow-positive busibnesses.

Yet, building a thriving brand community requires more than just offering a quality product or service; it demands a strategic approach. You’ve got to reach out, share stuff that matters, and tell stories that connect. 

The right approach to community building then, is to look at them not as a marketing investment, but as a core element of the business and its purpose.

The Power of Co-creation

Gone are the days of straightforward transactions between shoppers and businesses. It used to be as simple as heading to a store when you needed something. Maybe sometimes you’d receive the occasional coupon promising you the best deals, but that was mostly it when it came to active communication. 

Fast forward to today, and it is a whole new ball game. An era of passive consumerism has given rise to this dynamic relationship, wherein companies don’t just want customers; they want fans, enthusiasts, and active participants. They’re not satisfied with you simply buying their products; they want you to be part of their world. 

Community-building may require effort and resources up front, but the long-term payoff is huge. While traditional marketing interrupts people with self-serving messages, the community pulls people in by creating value. And when you build community the right way – with transparency, authenticity, and a shared purpose – people will willingly spread your message for you.

The Role of Brand-led Communities

From a business standpoint, communities are more than just a sense of belonging. They are like a digital watering hole where people gather to share their thoughts and passions. Obtaining loyalty is what you need to wholeheartedly direct your efforts towards. 

Think about Harley Davidson, for example. It’s a way of life. Harley riders aren’t just customers; they’re a part of an iconic brotherhood. They attend rallies, swap stories, and proudly sport the Harley logo.

Or take a sip of that iconic Starbucks latte. It’s not just coffee; it’s a lifestyle. Starbucks didn’t just sell caffeine; it sold the idea of a “third place” between work and home. You walk into a Starbucks, and you’re part of a global coffee-loving club.

So what are some of the ways communities strengthen your brand?

  • They provide authentic word-of-mouth marketing. Community members share their genuine experiences with your brand, which is far more believable to potential new customers than brand-created marketing.
  • They give valuable feedback and insights. Engaged community members will provide honest feedback about what they like and don’t like. 
  • They reinforce your brand identity. The conversations, content, and overall vibe of your community will reflect your brand’s values and mission. This constant reinforcement strengthens your brand in the minds of members and casual onlookers.
  • They foster a sense of belonging. By building a community where people feel like they belong, you’re giving customers an emotional connection to your brand that transcends any single product or service.

So whether it’s a skincare routine or a trendy shoe collection, these brand communities are not just places for interaction- they are engines that power brand success in the digital age.

Tips for Brands Looking to Embrace Community-first Ideas

Start with Why

Ask yourself why you want to build a community in the first place. Is it to increase brand awareness, drive sales, get feedback or something else? Having a clear purpose will help guide your strategy and messaging. 

While community building is often used as a buzzword, building and maintaining an active community requires a formidable amount of patience and a genuine desire to create something bigger than the brand itself.

Provide Value

Don’t expect people to join your community just because you built it. Offer content, experiences and connections that provide real value to members. 

These could be exclusive perks, behind-the-scenes access, or opportunities to shape your future products and services- especially a big one for software services and other products of long-term use. 

Always remember to tie this shared value back to your own core metric. If you want to build a brand that is profitable early on, you need to be focusing on earn vs. spend every quarter, and how these efforts can help you optimise your spends.

Engage Your Audience

Engagement is key to building a thriving community. Once you have members, keep them engaged. Share questions and polls to spark discussion. Highlight inspiring community stories. 

Create shareable branded hashtags, photo frames, and stickers. But always ask yourself, “What’s the one thing people come here for, and how can I give them more of that?” 

Build A Moat

Today’s thriving community could become tomorrow’s dead Slack channel, and you don’t want that. This is where identifying your competitive advantage, and working hard to retain it, comes into the picture.

Often, the best way to find out what makes your community unique is to just ask the people in it. Some people prefer to workout in a core, non-judgmental space, and this is where brands like BlissClub filled a gap. Some others needed to make their travel look better, and so Mokobara was born.

A keen look at the business moats for these two brands shows that while one focuses quite heavily on digital engagement to decide what to make and sell, the other focuses on creating and launching visually interesting and utilitarian products. 

At MALOKA, this is one aspect we spend a significant amount of time discussing with all of our early stage founders- why you, why this, and why now. If you have a community-led product idea, do contact us to brainstorm further and find out how you can grow your idea sustainably. 

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Aradhika Parasher

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A dynamic individual who wears multiple hats with finesse. As a Social Media and Content Executive, she brings creativity and strategic vision to the forefront of digital marketing.

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Natasha is the Head of Content & Community at Maloka. She comes with more than a decade of enriching experience in various capacities.

She entered the industry as a fashion and lifestyle PR professional building a bridge between brands and individuals and the media with many designers, lifestyle and apparel brands in her kitty. She went on to become a sports management professional managing and representing Olympic champions and athletes. As she puts it, this has been the best learning phase of her career understanding peak performance mindset, discipline and bouncing from failures from the Olympians themselves.

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Rachit Agarwal

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Meet Rachit Agarwal, our Entrepreneur in Residence at Maloka, who also serves as the Business Head & Co-Creator of NeoYug.

With an rich entrepreneurial journey spanning 7 years, has walked the path of entrepreneurship, successfully steering a bootstrapped venture in the creative domain. Rachit holds a postgraduate degree in business management, which laid the foundation for his career in the development sector. In this unique role, he immersed himself at the grassroots level, travelled extensively into the deep pockets of rural India, acquiring invaluable insights that honed his skills in business operations, strategy, and innovation.

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Nathasha Kumar

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Nathasha Kumar is the founder and managing partner at MALOKA.
Where she is building and investing in community and creator-driven companies. A serial entrepreneur with over 12 years of entrepreneurial experience, she has founded, built, and scaled multiple businesses in diverse domains, such as community commerce, D2C, fashion, and lifestyle.

A first-generation entrepreneur, Nathasha brings the capability of building from the ground up.
Be it finding the right idea, building a proof of concept and finding talented folks to build with. Her core thesis in life revolves around co-creation. Hence, the central thesis at Maloka is leveraging the power of communities and creators to co-build the companies that fit the future of humanity and creation.

Nathasha plays an active role in the startup ecosystem. She works with many young startups and invests in early-stage companies. An avid traveller and seeker of experiences, she likes to push the boundaries of norms and concepts in society. Her mission in life is to empower, connect people and creatives to pursue their dreams and turn them into sustainable businesses.

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Sakshi Malpani

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She finds inspiration in her travels, which she approaches with a keen sense of wonder. These experiences not only provide her with a broader perspective but also serve as a wellspring of ideas that enrich her professional endeavors.

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A marketer on weekdays and a runner on weekends, Gundeep seamlessly toggles between his two passions.

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Sahil Kumar

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Sahil Kumar is passionate about transforming Brands and is an Entrepreneur with over 7+ years of dedicated experience.

As a seasoned creator, Sahil has worked with various brands, helping them evolve, innovate, and thrive in today’s dynamic marketplace. His entrepreneurial spirit has driven him to create and lead ventures that challenge the status quo and explore new horizons. Him being committed to harnessing experiences and insights to drive positive change and growth for brands and businesses.

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A marketer on weekdays and a runner on weekends, Gundeep seamlessly toggles between his two passions.

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Gundeep is results driven and excels in strategy and creativity, always evolving in the dynamic digital marketing world to keep clients ahead. When he’s not busy transforming businesses, Gundeep also likes to prepare the next generation of marketers. He is an active guest lecturer at Hansraj College and is an SME with UpGrad.

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