Executive Briefing

Outdoor Voices shows community only gets you so far

Also: Ben Thompson and the bottom-up approach to subscription podcasting.

Outdoor Voices
Courtesy Outdoor Voices

One of the elite categories in the taxonomy of modern brands is what I describe as “community brands” — brands that have such a strong connection with their core customer base that they function as a community, not just an audience.

Some of the best examples over the past decade are names familiar to The New Consumer readers: Glossier, Sweetgreen, and Outdoor Voices, plus older and more established brands like Supreme, Tesla, Nike, and Apple. In niche media, The Wirecutter, Goop, Alison Roman, and Stratechery come to mind.

It’s different for every brand, but this happens through a mix of clever product and brand development, genuine storytelling and communication style, and real, old-school community through recognition, clubs, and events. Often, there’s a bit of a founder cult of personality thing going on.

The goal is to make people feel like they’re a part of something — and like you’re part of their identity. And the payoff — if all goes well — is in the form of fierce loyalty, word-of-mouth promotion, organic curiosity and attention, higher lifetime customer value and share of spend, lower acquisition costs, etc.

It’s the goal for many modern brands and businesses, including this one. But, to be clear, it doesn’t make up for troubled business fundamentals — at least not for long.

And as 2020 becomes the year of sound business fundamentals — as profitable growth becomes the goal for many companies with outside investment — it may cause surprising changes for some beloved brands.

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Dan Frommer

Hi, I’m Dan Frommer and this is The New Consumer, a publication about how and why people spend their time and money.

I’m a longtime tech and business journalist, and I’m excited to focus my attention on how technology continues to profoundly change how things are created, experienced, bought, and sold. The New Consumer is supported entirely by your membership — join now to receive my reporting, analysis, and commentary directly in your inbox, via my twice-weekly, member-exclusive newsletter. Thanks in advance.

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