The rise of Community
Connecting with customers and cultivating a community is key for Next-Gen brands
This week, we discuss how to build a community with Niels Mikkelsen from Final Gravity, the activewear spin-off of the Mikkeller Running Club and legendary cyclist and founder of CHPT3, David Millar.
A new wave of direct-to-consumer brands are doing more than just selling to customers, they are cultivating devoted communities, an army of fans who are connected to the brand and each other. Today these connections are more important than ever. Millar echoes this sentiment stating
“We understand that being social is a significant and empowering part of our lives, sharing an experience is so much better than not, and creating a community that empowers that is a big objective for us.”
Today, D2C brands have a unique opportunity to engage directly with consumers. Mikkelsen reaffirms this saying
“Community, connection and inclusivity have been a part of Final Gravity since the beginning. The brand was created to serve the needs of the micro-brewery’s Mikkeller Running Club”
Our need to connect is as fundamental as our need to eat, according to a new report from MIT researchers. And the brands that have been building the most loyalty are those feeding this desire to be part of something.
It’s become about a lot more than just products. In fact great product is only part of what makes a successful D2C brand, community matters. How can new and existing brands build authentic communities?
Here, LTP Design Manager Chantell Fenton and CCO Alex Ingildsen shares top tips and insights from the illuminating conversations with these community-focused brands.
Think outside of the hard sell
Today, people want to join a brand, not just buy from it.
Aim to maintain a positive relationship beyond the product purchase. Activewear brands can create an authentic connection based around the love of the particular sport. Brands like Tracksmith have created community hub’s for runners and Rapha’s stores are specifically designed for riders to hang out in, instilling the feeling that the brand is about more than just the products it sells.
The Mikkeller microbrewery bars also double up as clubhouses for a post-run catch-up. It was the Mikkeller Running club community which sparked the idea for Final Gravity as Mikkelsen confirms
“It was the 50,000+ elite and everyday runners who form the global network of the Mikkeller Running Club which spans several countries that inspired us to start the brand in the first place and we continue to develop our toolkit to serve their needs”
Today it’s about more than just transactions with customers. Facilitating the growth of a community enables brands to become less faceless. As Moncler’s Remo Ruffini recently said selling product isn’t always the goal
“This may drive more traffic into the stores, but the aim is not to sell more, it’s to give people a different experience. Nobody needs another jacket or t-shirt. We have to build up our own community.”
Authenticity is paramount
Mikkelsen’s top tip is
Final Gravity’s very inception was predicated on founder Mikkel Borg Bjergsø’s passion for running. After a recent injury, Bjergsø’s turned his passion for running into a passion for cycling. Using this sentiment as a springboard, Mikkeller intends to grow a cycling club comprised of pro and everyday cyclists.
It’s important to build community into your strategy but authenticity is key. CHPT3’s community has organically sprouted around them thanks in part to the brands hook-up with Brompton and Millar’s colourful career as a professional cyclist. Millar’s aim is
“to create a community that is driven by the members”
It’s about finding your people through shared values and purpose. A community led approach gives consumers access to a brands universe without having to buy products. Today, brands have a unique opportunity to engage directly with potential consumers.
Lululemon implemented this approach from the very beginning by recruiting boutique studio instructors to be company ambassadors whilst cultivating a devoted fan base. Reiterating the importance of genuine interactions with customers around a shared passion.
Lean into your tribe
Involve customers in your story as inspiration and energy comes directly from fans. Mikkelsen confirms
“Our grassroots community is our most important source of information”
Many brands have engaged their communities to create user generated content during lockdown. Whilst Nike has leveraged its digital apps like the Nike Training Club to offer workouts and continually build on the connection with consumers.
Aim to open a dialogue with your community by listening to feedback and observing conversations between fans. Brands like Gymshark use their army of social followers to test and develop products through community feedback. Whilst Final Gravity are kitting out the Mikkeller Running Club for real-time insights.
Digital interactions and IRL hook-ups makes this type of one to one relationship possible, which is very powerful for both the consumer and the brand. A community-driven approach generally results in consumers that are more engaged and invested which can lead to better customer retention and brand loyalty.
LTP is a Danish owned garment manufacturer for +60 premium brands within active sportswear, outdoor, athleisure and sustainable fashion. LTP was established in 1991, and is one of the biggest Sport & Outdoor garment manufacturer in Europe with bluesign setups in Lithuania, Belarus, Ukraine and Vietnam
LTP consists of two divisions; LTP Garment and LTP Contract Furniture producing in 9 fully-owned factories. For more details visit www.ltpgroup.com
About Chantell Fenton
Chantell is an experienced performance sportswear designer and trend forecaster, with a passion for wellness, technology and function-first design. Chantell has an in-depth knowledge of how to spot and translate the must-have trends and macro shifts for the sports and outdoor industry. For more details visit www.chantellfenton.com