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The Key to Effective Digital Marketing: Affinity Groups

From both a marketing perspective and a business perspective, affinity groups have many advantages.

The Key to Effective Digital Marketing: Affinity Groups

Posted Monday January 13th, 2014 by in Analysis + Strategy.

From both a marketing perspective and a business perspective, affinity groups have many advantages. Take credit cards as an example: when banks first assigned specific credit card designs and incentives to affinity groups, not only could the banks tailor messages more specifically to their target audience but also the default rates dramatically reduced due to the prioritization of the members’ affinity towards their peers. After all, we will uphold the principles of our friends over those of a generic corporation.

Fast forward to 2014 and to the evolving digital world, and we see that some marketers and businesses still struggle with the important allocation of marketing dollars between traditional and digital media. However, to anyone looking at this problem fundamentally and historically, it becomes obvious that today’s newest advertising options don’t require a shift in methodologies, but a shift in technologies. To verify this statement, simply posit the following: human behavior has not fundamentally changed in thousands of years, so why would we change how we fundamentally approach business and marketing issues now?

What we have today are digital tools with which to harness ever-larger affinity groups online. But in truth, that’s not the whole story. While traditional media has been about creation and distribution to the masses (a push strategy), digital and social strategies are about being found within the affinity group(otherwise known as the target audience, potential customers, etc.). Think of it this way: if you wear chains on your pants, have tattoos, and listen to punk music, the most likely store you will seek out in a mall is Hot Topic. Why? Because in the plethora of choices that you pass by, Hot Topic seems to fit your personality the best; a fit that is greatly enhanced by the employees themselves who look, talk, dress, and act like you. This is the affinity group Hot Topic wants, in large part because the store represents who their customers are – and vice versa.

There isn’t anything new about this tactic; what’s uncanny is that many brands miss the principle of their digital strategy because they don’t see the parallel. YouTube channels, Facebook pages and websites are simply opportunities to show off your brand’s membership in its own target affinity group. Whole Foods does this with their shared commitment to, well, whole foods. Patagonia succeeds with their obvious membership in the group of adventurers who conquer the outdoors. Today’s successful brand has to be a participating member of their customer base, and honestly so.

The takeaway here should be obvious: in the information age, you either swim with your fans (I mean, customers), or you sink. There isn’t room for dishonesty or inexperience. Either you’re part of the groupor you’re not, and customers can tell from an IP address away. So get your brand involved, sponsor an event, share your authentic brand story, get out there with your customers, and treat them as the group of experts they are. Do this online, and do it often. Since your brand and your customers all have a shared affinity, that makes your customers your friends. Don’t let your friends down.


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