Is community the last great marketing strategy? Mark Schaefer answers yes in his last book Belonging to Brand. He explains why community is a massively overlooked marketing opportunity for most organizations and how three major trends collide in a way that makes brand communities the future of marketing strategy. Interview.

Hi Mark, so why did you write this book… now? 

Mark W. Schaefer: I have a good track record of discerning marketing trends and discussing them before others. To me, there are three mega-trends colliding right now that point to community as the next big thing in marketing.

Coincidentally, the day I wrote the last words of the book, McKinsey came out with a major research report stating that community is the next trend to watch in marketing, so that was a mic drop moment for me!

When I have these big ideas and I’m sure I’m right, then I need to get this out into the world and that became the book.

An extract from your book that best represents yourself? 

Mark W. Schaefer: In the book, I talk about a concept my friend Keith Jennings calls “the furnace.” He says that each of us has fire burning inside of us that stems from a childhood hurt. This drives some of our passion and direction as adults.

This is certainly true for me. I start the book by writing about a situation as a child where is escaped a sexual molestation situation but turned into a shadow of a person for years as I dodged this bully. I was literally saved by being accepted into a community. 

We all need to belong. That’s why community is so powerful. It’s not only a marketing idea that works, it’s a marketing idea that heals! 

The trends that are just emerging and that you believe in the most? 

Mark W. Schaefer: Well, obviously adopting community as a brand strategy is a big idea!

Another obvious mega trend is the widespread adoption of AI into our daily lives. I recently wrote that the user-firendly versions of AI such as ChatGPT has changed marketing and business forever and those are words I have never used before.

Another trend is the economic and societal implications of AI. There will be massive job displacement with this technology but it also means that for many of us, our life’s purpose has been jeopardized. For example, I derive meaning from crafting a solid blog post or book chapter. What does that mean to me as a person when a computer can do that now in five seconds (and it has!).

If you had to give one piece of advice to a reader of this article, what would it be? 

Mark W. Schaefer: The subtitle of my well-known book “Marketing Rebellion” is “The Most Human Company Wins.” I think that truly sums up the path to success for us all. 

We are entering a phase when bots can control the narrative. We are going to want to connect to real people who we love and trust. Going forward, the personal brand is everything. Even in large companies, the personal brand IS the brand.

In a nutshell, what are the next topics that you will be passionate about? 

Mark W. Schaefer: If you look at the trajectory of my career, I have focused on strategies to rise up above the noise. 

This week I was asked to review two books that were written entirely by AI. This is certainly a leading indicator that we are about to be flooded by content. Our job as marketers is eased in some ways with new access to sufficient, low-cost content. But it has also become much harder as we try to keep afloat amid this competition for attention.

Thank you Mark W. Schaefer

Many thanks Bertrand Jouvenot

The book: Belonging to the Brand, Mark W. Schaefer, Schaefer Marketing Solutions, 2023.