I just wrapped up a piece of research I did for nGenera's Insights program and shaped what I believe to be a well-reasoned argument for the place of brands within communities.
Conclusion: many brands that we truly rave about in 2009 are filling the "void of social capital".
Ponder these stats from Robert Putnam's book Bowling Alone and other sources:
- - the average person lives in 14 homes – we have become disconnected to our neighborhood/city
- - we spend a third less time on family dinners – we have become disconnected from family
- The average person will have 10-14 jobs before they are 38 years old – we have become disconnected from work
- we spend 45% less time having friends over – we have lost touch with our social circles
As a consequence, we have a decided drop in the number of close friends and social outlets that we engage in.
Consider the results - a study by Duke University found the number of people who have no one with whom they can discuss important matters nearly doubled in 20 years, to one-quarter of the population and the mean number of friends with whom people said they could have a heart-to-heart dropped by over 30% to 2.08 from 2.94 in 1985.
Despite our average of 70 Twitter followers and 120 Facebook friends and the web's powerful connections, we are building a generation of strangers.
Much as brands recognized that in previous generations, brands could become surrogates for identity (i.e. I drive a Cadillac, I'm a Jif mom, I drink Coke, I wear Red Tabs/Levis) given a decline in central sources of identity (i.e. religion, ethnicity), now brands that fill the social gap are being credited (i.e. I'm an Apple fanatic, are You? , I see you're a Blackberry addict, I love Firefox - down with other browsers)
- The Running Room improves lives of joggers by providing them a forum to get together and share their interests
- Home Depot Girls Night Out brings together women with a curiosity for tool belts and new decks for DIY evenings
What do you think - can brands effectively bridge communities and create social glue that improves its customer's lot and creates real value for them too?