Feb 24, 2016

Why Good Community = Good Business

It has a lot to do with the automobile industry, it turns out.

Feb 24, 2016

Why Good Community = Good Business

It has a lot to do with the automobile industry, it turns out.

You need a new car.

You've got your heart set on something eco-conscious, so you're considering the Toyota Prius and the Honda Civic Hybrid. Both cars have comparable features and statistics.

Given the choice between the two, you'd think it would be a coin flip. But the vast majority of hybrid shoppers choose the Toyota Prius.


Because it lets buyers join an esteemed group.

Toyota may owe its market position to social identity theory, which says we define ourselves by the groups we join.

Prius drivers constitute a group with desirable qualities—economic savvy, environmental consciousness—and the Prius announces those qualities. While the Hybrid Civic is indistinguishable from the non-hybrid model, the Prius is only available as a hybrid, and can't be mistaken for a gas-powered car.

The lesson for WPN retailers is simple: when a social group has qualities we want, we buy things that declare our membership in that group.

Set Your Store Apart

A player may choose your store over a competitor because of the social identity your community projects.

Ask yourself:

What does belonging to my player-base say about my players? What do I want it to say? What can I do to project that identity online, at my events, and in my local community?

It's a double-edged sword.

We invest our self-worth in membership; we equate our value with the value of our organizations. And so, we praise ourselves by praising our in-group (go Seahawks!); but we also praise ourselves by deriding out-groups (the Seahawks are the worst!).

It probably sounds familiar. Coldness toward new faces, cliquey behavior—even the best stores see it.

So, can social identity theory help curb in-group/out-group behavior?

Buy a Harley, buy the best. Ride a mile, and walk the rest!

So went a common jibe in 1984 when twenty-eight Harley-Davidson riders—then, scorned fans of a scorned motorcycle manufacturer—rallied in California. It was the first meeting of the Harley Owners Group, or "HOG."

In the early 80s, Harley was losing market share. Import bikes had eclipsed them in popularity, and the brand had less than complementary connotations. Plus, fans had embraced those connotations, and were seen so unfavorably that even the group's acronym—"hog" is slang for motorcycle—was a pejorative term.

But HOG helped turn all that around. The group latched onto the Muscular Dystrophy Association, riding for charity and giving to the Jerry Lewis Telethon. They focused on altruism and individuality, and fans began to regard themselves in kind.

We tend to assume features common to the groups we belong to. "Harley fans are passionate, independent, and altruistic," says the social identity, "therefore I am those things."

Prevent Problem Players

A player may behave, both inside and outside your store, according to the social identity of your community.

Ask yourself:

What are my core values, and how can I project them? How can my marketing strategy encourage kindness? Which players in my community set the best example, and how can I set them up for emulation?

Getting active in local causes, highlighting good behavior online, evangelizing your mission statement—the force of social identity is overwhelming, and there a million ways to make it work for you.

By Matt Neubert

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