MANAGE THE GIVES AND GETS TO HAVE A HEALTHY BRAND COMMUNITY

Every brand is built by a community. Not just the community of people inside the company, but its partners, suppliers, investors, customers, non-customers, and even competitors. It’s a complete ecosystem in which there are gives and gets all around. Everyone has a role to play, and all the players are compensated for their efforts.

This chart from my book ZAG prescribes an orderly chain of relationships in which management nurtures employees, employees serve customers, customers attract investors, investors support management, management nurtures employees, and so on around the loop, creating a virtuous cycle of profitability.

The usual cause for a system breakdown is unlinking the chain or linking the chain in the wrong way. For example, since investors owe their gains to customers and not to management, trying to extract gains directly from management only disrupts the system. Management soon begins paying more attention to the investors and less attention to nurturing the employees who serve the customers who make the investors wealthy.

A radical view? Maybe, but it’s the view that allowed Whole Foods to grow from one store in 1980 to 340 stores in 2013 to become one of America’s most sought-after brands. An investor who bought stock for $4 a share in 1996 could have sold it for $45 after only ten years.

Who are the participants in your brand ecosystem? What should they give and what should they get in order to build a wealth-creating brand community? Start by making a list of all possible stakeholders, then describe how you’ll make each stakeholder successful and loyal to your brand. In healthy ecosystem, their success will enable your success.

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