I know that I go on about brands as communities, but hopefully I am getting my message across. Maybe those of you who don’t get it yet will find a moment of inspiration in this commercial from the UK Retailer John Lewis which was showcased in a commemorative collection of 150 years of John Lewis the retailer.

John Lewis are masters of the art of storytelling that lies at the very heart of brand community and this commercial is especially potent in that regards. Don’t you just want to share the lives of the community depicted in this story? I don’t just mean the subject family, but the John Lewis community of families just like them who, over their century-and-a-half have communed around the brand.

If you are unfamiliar with John Lewis you need to know that they have taken community to the extreme by making all their employees partners in the business.  The company is actually called “The John Lewis Partnership” and the “belonging” that employees share as a result is the driver behind their success. I’m known to push businesses I work with to build their brands from the inside out.  That is by starting with employees, expanding to suppliers and business partners and then embracing customers.  This is what John Lewis does with panache. If you get this wrong, or try to skip a group, you’ll fail. Employees deliver the brand promise to customers, while suppliers like advertising agencies feel real ownership of the brand and, as a result, produce commercials like this that represent the brand promise better than any brief could prescribe.

Its not just advertising that benefits from a strong brand community though. As I have said many times, once all your employees feel they belong they are motivated to contribute to the strengthening of the brand in any way that they can. Customer-facing staff deliver the promise through their interactions with customers, your product sourcing and development people will see to it that the products they create are representative. Even little seen back office employees such as those in accounts will work with new commitment to streamline their processes and HR will know what fellow community members they are looking for and see to it they they are found and welcomed. Suppliers of all kinds are also part of the community and if they feel included they’ll work with you to give you the best service they can.

I see so many businesses that operate like some kind of war zone with battles between different departments and between the organisation and its suppliers. The bottom line of all of this is that if you view and run your business as a community it will be more efficient from end-to-end and, as we all know, the major differentiator between a successful organisation and an unsuccessful one is efficiency.

So, as you view this commercial, see it not as a piece of advertising, but as a manifestation of community spirit and remember that brand isn’t some ethereal notion, it directly drives the efficiency and therefore success of your business.

Phil Darby
May 8, 2014

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