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The power of Community in the Consumer Decision Journey

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Or: Drinking Turmeric Ginger Latte in My Activewear

Consumer decision journeys are known to be complex – sometimes spontaneous, sometimes fraught with procrastination. But the role of community and experience is perhaps underplayed – which is why I’d like to share a story with you.

I am cheating on my most beloved sportswear brand. And it could turn out to be something serious. To be perfectly honest, my beloved brand’s clothing actually suits me and my style much better than this new brand. But this new brand is offering me a community instead of just fashionable workout gear. A community of people – just like me. Fortunate middle class “30+ somethings” (we would never call ourselves hipsters) that love to drink a turmeric ginger latte after a workout and treat ourselves with a paleo plate because we’re worth it. A community fully dressed in this year’s season of active wear (we would never buy something unbranded).

A community is defined by shared experiences/expressions that differentiates the people in the community from the rest of the society. Communities have a stomping ground that is well suited to their needs, people within the community share tokens that work as bonding tools and community signifiers. And of course, they have leaders that are aspirational role models.

As we are shifting from product oriented shopping to experience oriented shopping many brands are facing challenges. When the experience of riding a car in the sunset (and sharing the experience on Social Media) is much more aspirational than the social marker of actually owning the car, the challenge for many brands is: how to convey the experience rather than sell the product?

Some brands have been working successfully with linking product-experience and community-belonging for years – Go-pro, for example. The Go-Pro website (https://gopro.com/channel/)  is the stomping ground for a community sharing a passion for extreme sports. The go-pro cameras are their tokens and also the tools needed to share their experiences.

Back to my “sports affair”: the new suitor is adidas. They have established “Runbase”, a stomping ground with workout spaces located between some of Berlin’s hippest clubs, in urban industrial style with a paleo diet kitchen. The coaches (Brand Ambassadors if you like) are passionate and well educated within their field, with aspirational attributes corresponding to the people of the community (2k+ followers on Instagram, healthy lifestyles, bodies to die for, mini-celebrities in their own right and of course, good looks). They “champion” all the latest adidas’ activewear when leading the community’s activities.

Through offering a sense of belonging and discernment to people in the community, adidas becomes the token that bonds people together. The ads on the walls become expressions of the community’s aspirations and there’s tons of posts on Social Media from people drinking turmeric ginger latte in adidas’ latest gear.

I’ve connected with the Runbase experience, and thereby adidas on a much deeper level than with my “old” brand – which offered me a well-designed shoe but little more.

What this means for my “consumer decision journey” is that I am between two worlds, which is creating a tension: I wear another brand than my community, I don’t share the same token as my people. Am I ready to resolve that tension? We’ll see, but it’s certainly an easy fix with an adidas store on the premises where I can go shopping for activewear – in my activewear.



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