Can building a community around your brand provide your business immunity from disaster? Craft beer branding specialist Jessie Jungalwalla invites you to ask yourself that question in her second column for us, following on from her piece late last year that joined the dots between craft beer branding and fast fashion. Jessie is the director of Torquay-based Craft Instinct – a brand development company specialising in the craft beverage industry.

From global pandemics, to global warming, and everything in between, we are all sharing these wild and sometimes scary times. Not to be a huge downer on your day, but what science is telling us is that we have got more of this coming our way if we humans can’t get our shit together.

By the day we are losing faith in our governments to not only prepare for the future, but to serve today’s needs of their populations over their corporate donating buddies.

But let’s not slash our wrists just yet, as there has been a beautiful uprising in reaction to this and it’s what we often see in times of crisis – our community coming together to do what we can on the ground to support each other. Volunteering, random acts of kindness, understanding of what it means to buy and support local and even simply striking up a conversation with a stranger are all actions we’ve witnessed recently as we’ve been hit with bushfires, floods, a pandemic and the broader threats and effects of global warming.

The importance of community is super evident during a crisis. It is our support, it is our connection and it is our space where we feel valued, safe and wanting to contribute.

But what exactly is community? It sure is an overused word when it comes to branding and marketing. To me community means a network of humans that share common values, beliefs and/or locality. A community can be physical or virtual, but what it boils down to is a place where we belong.

For your brand, community means the people who support you by buying your products or services, by sharing your brand with their friends, the ones that engage with your social media – in other words, your tribe.

Community is not a one-way street though. Especially in the craft beverage sector. You don’t just get to sell all of the beers without giving something extra. Community is an exchange. We often ask our clients “how does your brand make your customers’ lives better?”. By producing delicious drinks, indeed that is a given. But the breweries and distilleries that go further are the ones that have managed to stay open during the pandemic, and are even thriving despite the turbulent times.

How do they do it? By creating a community that supports them and that they support right back. By clearly communicating their values to attract like-minded people that will blow their trumpet for them. By giving back to their community by recognising what is important to them.

A beautiful example is our local – Blackman’s Brewery (pictured above). During one of the recent snap lockdowns in Victoria, they offered all local hospitality workers who had suddenly lost work a free pizza. A simple gesture, that would have cost them very little, but gave their community a huge swell of pride simply to be associated with this brand. And you can bet that seeing that post on social media is a huge motivator for the locals to grab their Friday night six-pack from them, because you know that in supporting them, you are also supporting your community.

If this community thing is resonating with you, maybe it’s time for some action! Here are some simple practical steps to further build your brand’s community:

  1. Make sure your core values have been clearly identified and defined to everyone who has a hand in representing your brand (bar staff, brewers, sales reps, graphic designer etc)
  2. Brainstorm ways to communicate your core values to your customers (could be a social media post, a new photo shoot, releasing a special beer/spirit, holding an event, offering your taproom space for a cause – the sky’s the limit!)
  3. Find other organisations, whether they are not-for-profits or like-minded businesses, that have aligned values. Reach out to them, find a way to contribute and collaborate.
  4. Don’t forget to share your work! Socials, website, publicity. By communicating who you are and what you stand for, your community will build and rally around you.

It is important to note, community isn’t something you can build overnight. It is an organic process, and one you build brick-by-brick over some time. Each brick, whether it’s a donation, an event, or a simple acknowledgment adds to your wall of immunity, so when times turn tough, you have a stronghold to get you through.

A community works as one. If we hurt each other, we only hurt ourselves. Yet, if we give we all in turn receive and are stronger for it. As long as the way you contribute to your community aligns with your brand values, you will build community. Most importantly, when communicated correctly, this will lead to business immunity. Perhaps just as importantly, it feels good! Good luck, and stay safe out there.

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