Belonging has always been an essential ingredient in the business of brand building. This fundamental and universal human need has been increasingly on the minds of those at our agency as we see mounting evidence of the fragile state of belonging in the world today—amid a decline in trust in various companies and institutions, immigration crises, political partisanship, deep economic divides, the echo chamber of public discourse and increased levels of isolation and loneliness, due, paradoxically, to constant digital connectivity.
We started asking ourselves: What does this perceived breakdown of “belongingness” mean—for individuals, for society and for brands and businesses? What role does/can belonging play in people’s lives today? What emotional, ideological and practical gaps need to be filled as people feel more isolated—and as trust in older political, religious and mass media institutions and their cultural authority erodes? And how have—and will—these shifts recast the role of brands in people’s lives?
At Resource/Ammirati, we believe that brands, now more than ever, have a tremendous opportunity to build belonging. And in fact, as companies are increasingly challenged with business transformation amid new and unknown competitive threats, building a belonging brand will become an even more essential business imperative.
Is this a tall order? Yes, undoubtedly. But the best brands have always offered us ways to identify and mingle with other like-minded souls, to share a common place and purpose. However, that’s become more difficult, as many brands have lost their way, with new competitors encroaching from all directions and as communications channels and technologies continue to proliferate.
To this end, we’ll be investing time and resources in 2017 and beyond to better understand belonging and what marketers must know about people’s evolving relationships with brands (and vice versa). In partnership with the highly regarded research company Ipsos, Resource/Ammirati and IBM are currently conducting in-depth consumer research in Brazil, China, India, Russia, Germany and the U.S., countries covering the societal spectrum of individualism to collectivism. We’ll have much to report on later this year: a global perspective on belonging, how much belonging matters in different product categories and to different demographics, and just what to do about it all. So watch this space and sign up to receive a preview of our findings and perspectives.