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Community: the common denominator among Interbrand’s top 30 breakthrough brands

The pandemic has served as a powerful reminder of the value of communal support. Many of the marketers who are succeeding today are leaning into the fact that people want to feel part of a common group or just need to identify with like-minded people.

Of course, companies have been aware of the importance of community for some time – as shown by the likes of Xbox, Soho House and SoulCycle – but now it’s gone to a new level where community has been baked into their proposition from the outset.

Also, what’s interesting is that community-oriented efforts have now expanded across seemingly all areas of expertise, sector or customer group. This was particularly evident in this year’s Breakthrough Brands report.

Here are four examples of breakthrough brands that are doing it right:

Turo: Peer-to-peer marketplaces have been a darling of the internet age, but for every Airbnb success story, others have failed. But carsharing business, Turo, has managed to build a vibrant community that spans the globe thanks to its basic proposition of improving on the archaic car rental experience and creating a simple user interface. Its multiple options to fit any budget, combined with a free cancellation policy, 24/7 customer service and progressive insurance choices have put it at the head of the pack. But it now has to navigate the current climate and the greatly restricted travel options. But those hurdles haven’t seemed to have stopped Turo’s growth. “As of last week, we are growing again year-over-year for the first time since March 18th. In March, we did not think the business would rebound this quickly," says Steve Webb, VP of Communications and Brand Partnerships.

Teachers Pay Teachers: Education is a broad church but by taking a digital-first approach, Teachers Pay Teachers has created a community where educationalists of all types – from home schoolers, to probationary teachers, to subject experts – can share resources. The platform offers appropriate content for all ages, starting from Pre-K to high school and beyond. With its educational resources carefully priced – typically between $5 and $15 – it has grown quickly and now more than 56% of teachers say they’ve used Teachers Pay Teachers for lesson planning. Teachers Pay Teachers reported it saw a 20 percent increase in weekly spending per buyer, year over year. Searches for distance learning shot up 1,400 percent at its peak in mid-to-late March.

The Information: Against a backdrop of falling news readership, with papers and magazines struggling to find a viable business model, The Information, launched to meet the specific needs of the Silicon Valley community. Using the ultimate community model of subscription, it ensured its readers felt part of a select tech executive club. Its premium subscription news service costs $399 a year – significant to most people, but not most tech execs – and that buys exclusive high-quality tech content. Ironically, it has adopted ‘old news’ methods – a steep paywall, nearly no social media engagement, and a newsroom ethos that encourages long-form investigative journalism. Readership of The Information includes 10 of the 11 most highly valued tech companies in the world, according to the Columbia Journalism Review. Jessica Lessin, Founder of The Information, said she expected $20 million in sales by the end of 2020, and for her staff of two dozen reporters and editors in the Bay Area, Seattle, Los Angeles, New York, Washington and Hong Kong to grow. “The fact that we have a business that’s scaling makes me excited,” she says.

StockX: Sneaker collectors or sneakerheads as they are often called are a fierce community. To give them a place to commune and buy, StockX launched a sneaker stock market. While it started out tracking retail prices of rare sneakers on eBay, StockX has expanded and now includes streetwear and collectable accessories. Offering this service to people with this passion, has seen the company grow to 800 employees.

Some brands may assume running a forum or online research community for example, is sufficient to capitalize on the trend for more communal appreciation. But what this newer wave of businesses proves, is that something much more far reaching and authentic is needed. When brands offer a genuine connection, that fits with community ideals that are represented through all aspects of its products or services, people will welcome it as valuable a community as any other.

Daniel Binns is chief executive of Interbrand NY

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