How Community Eclipses Product For Strategic Advantage

Patrick HanlonOctober 5, 20223 min

Evidence shows that over eight out of ten new product and service introductions fail in the marketplace. According to one study, 50% of U.S. startup companies fail within the first four years and 14% are due to poor marketing tactics.

The typical problem is that new product developers are not solving a true consumer problem or fulfilling a customer need. Nor have they defined a gap in the marketplace. Instead, they are trying to force cutting edge tech or product line extensions that fulfill their desire to make crap.


Yes, those products might fail because of poor strategy, poor quality, the wrong price or lack of demand. But even superior products that truly found a blue ocean outside of the competitive kill zone, have also failed.


Simple. Because if you never build the narrative that answers the spontaneous questions spewing from our skeptical human brains, people don’t stop to figure your new thing out. They move on.

Your narrative is not,Why do you exist?” But, “Why should we care?”

But what if your true strategic differentiator was not the product itself, but how people talk about it?

To achieve this, your brand narrative — the story construct packed with product truths — must answer our rational brain’s direct questions while also soothing our skeptical gut response mechanism.

Where are you from? Why am I supposed to like you?

What do you stand for?

How do we know that it’s you?

How do you talk about yourself?

How do you fit into our lives?

What words should we use to describe you?

What are you not? Are you like me? Why not?

Who are you people, anyway? Who is the person or team that set out against all odds to make this great thing happen?

Who’s your leader?

Spread that storyline across social, digital and traditional media not just for awareness and consideration — but so employees, customers and investors can repeat those facts to fans, friends and complete strangers.

Not, Why do you exist? But, Why should we care?

Without this brand narrative (it doesn’t matter if you’re in CPG, DTC, P2P or B2B) it’s hard for early adopters, customers, consumers and the other converted members in your fan community to form the words that shape WOM (Word Of Mouth). The warm plasma of trial and endorsement.

Give us the facts, so that we can share the excitement with others.

And then there’s the opposite. Some enterprises believe that what is left unsaid can be more valuable that what’s revealed. The mission is to gain exclusivity by staying away from the spotlight. By leaving story pieces off the table, music, sneaker, NFT drops, certain fashion and beauty brands, (and…wait for it: Apple) stimulate raving fan chat boards, hyperbole, zealotry, interest and desire.

The product is a success if they’re raving on Twitter and Discord.

Secrecy, or spooning out micro bytes of information to only the few, creates a privileged subgroup within your tribe. Helping these people geek out can become an industry in itself. Cf. Dapper, cos play, Off-White clothing releases, masterpiece Patek Philippe timepieces, special edition Apple Watches, premium reserved AirBnB locations and other. Seek and ye shall find.

With these activations in mind, the quality of your fan community can easily be more important than the quality of your product.

Spread the word.

Contributed to Branding Strategy Insider by: Patrick Hanlon, Author of Primal Branding

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