Don’t forget your community is a brand

When you think about “community engagement” it’s often to focus purely on member engagement – how active the various members of the communities are. However, it is just as important to invest time into building business engagement with the community as well.

Getting stakeholder engagement right creates a virtuous circle.


Think of your community as a new brand you have to market.

One interviewee described the benefit as a ‘virtuous circle’.

“The more energy we invest in engaging and sustaining our community members, the better our projects tend to be. The more we hero the community and successful projects that have added value to the business, the more of the right kind of briefs we get. Those often happen to be briefs that community members find interesting to work on as well, making them happier. And because we make sure we capture feedback and impact on the projects, we can feed that back to members. That gives them satisfaction that the time they’re investing is worthwhile. And we can show the video testimonials for successful projects to other business stakeholders to explain the community … and so on!”

This takes time, but it pays off.

You can’t just have data. You have to have the data and the ability to connect the dots to tell a story.

CEO, Entertainment


Have a campaign mindset

You can learn a lot about how to market your insights from political campaigns.

One of our founders ran a project with 10 Downing Street in the early 2000s and was impressed by the specificity with which they planned their influencer strategy.

They listed all the individual politicians and policy makers they were looking to reach, their priorities, and the best way to reach them. In effect, they designed a channel strategy for people.

Our colleague started helping insight clients do the same within their organizations. Insight work is only effective if it results in behavior change. And to do that, you have to plan how it will be spread. Returning to the “Trojan horse” idea from earlier, an ongoing community can be a formidable tool and platform to help spread insight within the organization.

By creating a consistent brand, then planning your insight outreach like campaigns, you can have a more significant impact within your business. It is not good enough to rely on purely the quality of the work. Good work that reaches the wrong people, in the wrong format for them, is not going to change their behavior.

If you’re looking to elevate insight within the business, you can use this map to design projects that are useful to the business, but also to win over specific stakeholders.

Design projects and workstreams into the community that tackle issues relevant to their needs. Use naturally occurring member conversations as fuel to start conversations around topics relevant to them. And finally, be picky about the messages you want associated with the community.

One piece of advice we heard from multiple interviewees was “just because you can do a project, doesn’t mean you should.” If you don’t think a project fits with the strategic purpose you are trying to build around the community, don’t do it.


Who is connected?

What are their business objectives?

What are their working styles and how they consume content?

How they or their department is professionally measured (e.g., are they aligned to NPS, or perhaps getting innovation concepts to BASES testing)?

What are their personal objectives and ambitions?

What are their existing preconceptions about your department?


Design a brand identity

Create a compelling name, visual identity and tag line linked to the strategic purpose of the community.

As marketers, we all know that having a great product is only part of the battle. Effective branding and messaging helps you spread the story of the community. It can also seriously help with member engagement.

Omnicom’s DAS (Diversified Agency Services) is a strong example of that. DAS is a group of Omnicom agencies that specialize in disciplines like insight, branding, PR, healthcare, CRM and events. C Space wanted to experiment with whether you can create new value for clients by bringing together the smartest minds from across the different agencies. But getting meaningful collaboration is challenging.

We wanted to break down cross-agency barriers, tap into diverse minds and encourage breakthrough thinking for clients. The question was: how do we ignite passion in busy, cynical millennials and get them excited to solve challenges (and quickly!) outside of their day-to-day client work?

SHAPE was the answer: a crowdsourcing and collaboration community that tackles client challenges by getting agency employees to work together online. The community brand that breaks through millennial cynicism.

SHAPE threw out much of the staid language and imagery that can often accompany research and created a distinct voice and identity that speaks to young agency professionals. SHAPE exudes vibrancy and cool, with a fresh look to match. Emails and messages use a playful tone. There’s a SHAPE website, SHAPE-branded swag (like coffee mugs and notebooks), and SHAPE-branded thought-starter cards for clients delivered at the end of every project. The community also has its own tagline: Connected Brilliance.

And there’s something else that ups SHAPE’s cool factor: bucking the norm for research, no small incentives are allowed! Instead, one big-ticket item is up for grabs at the end of every challenge – like a 56” 4K Ultra HD TV or an all-expenses-paid luxury getaway.

The brand you created for SHAPE was critical to its success. I struggle to engage my teams and they’re under a lot of pressure but they were fighting to be a part of this project!

CEO, Professional services



Design a brand identity for the community that is “shareable” and links to a strategic business priority.


Have a campaign mindset. Identify your audiences and package up projects, insights and emerging ideas from the community with your audiences in mind.


Create hero stories built around the unique types of project that an ongoing community enables you to undertake.

Develop hero stories around community USPs

Hero stories help your audience connect emotionally to your insight.

…But not all brands exploit a community’s maximum potential. Savvy clients do.

Online communities can help with a multitude of research and innovation needs. However, for the community to really shine and demonstrate its advantage over other approaches, it’s worth highlighting the things that you can only do through an engaged, ongoing community.

The benefits here are less for community members, and more for the organizational budget holder. This helps you gain maximum value from your investment, and create stories around the community that help protect the investment

It’s fantastically useful to have the end user in mind, understand what problems they have to solve, and find that Venn diagram sweet spot where their problem can be addressed by the solutions you have.

Executive Director, Pharmaceutical innovation unit

At a time of rapid industry change, having a continuous connection with clinical lab and healthcare professionals lets us find new ways to provide them more value, which in turn improves the health
of our business.

Insight Director, Medical device manufacturer

The biggest advantage of having a community for us has been the ability to involve customers throughout the entire product development process – from category exploration through to the sell-in with our customers – in a way we’ve never been able to do so before. It’s been a truly back and forth, creative and collaborative process, which has created a winning piece of NPD due to launch later this year.

Senior Planner, Beverage manufacturer