Communities form by telling stories about themselves – and by doing so, moving from the realm of fiction to the realm of reality
Brand first, community never – that’s the unfortunate answer for most brands
Most brands are mechanistic. They send out ad creatives and wait for something to come back. A like, a comment, a page follow, a sale. And that’s what they call „community“. Something their „community managers“ can control by answering comments with
„your input is very important to us. Here is why you are wrong:…“
But communities are not mechanistic, they are inherently social (duh!). People in a brand community don’t have relationships only with the brand, but with each other. Which begs the deliciously paradox question: what comes first, brand or community?
How do brand communities come about?
For whatever reason the human mind has this marvellous capacity for fiction – to imagine something as true and feel the emotional consequences of that truth. So when I tell a story of drinking tea and playing Settlers of Catan every night in the common room at Oxford, you can imagine the kind of community we had there. And maybe you think of the Gryffindor Common Room in Harry Potter and what it means to be part of something. And maybe you feel this aching in your chest.
That’s the seed of community: Communities form by telling stories about themselves – and by doing so, moving from the realm of fiction to the realm of reality, because people choose to be part of it.
Btw., here’s a reading tip on this from my former professor at Konstanz University, Albrecht Koschorke: „Fact and Fiction. Elements of a General Theory of Narrative“.
In German that is „Wahrheit und Erfindung. Grundzüge einer allgemeinen Erzähltheorie“ – though in German I’d recommend „Der fiktive Staat. Konstruktionen des politischen Körpers in der Geschichte Europas“ because it’s more on point of community building.)