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Steal This Idea: Your brand ecosystem

The gives and gets of a healthy brand community.

Every brand is built by a community. Not just the community of people inside the company, but its partners, suppliers, investors, customers, non-customers, and even competitors. It’s a complete ecosystem in which there are gives and gets all around. Everyone has a role to play, and all the players are repaid for their efforts.

Use the downloadable PDF to illustrate the brand ecosystem for your team. It prescribes an orderly chain of relationships in which management nurtures employees, employees serve customers, customers attract investors, investors support management, management nurtures employees, and so on around the loop, creating a virtuous cycle of profitability.

The usual cause for a system breakdown is unlinking the chain or linking the chain in the wrong way. For example, since investors owe their gains to customers and not to management, their trying to extract gains directly from management only disrupts the system. Management soon begins paying more attention to investors and less attention to nurturing the employees who serve the customers who make the investors wealthy.

A simplistic view? Perhaps, but it’s a view that allowed Whole Foods to grow from one store in 1980 to 192 stores by 2007 to become one of America’s most sought-after brands. An investor who bought stock for $4 a share in 1996 could have sold it for $45 a share in 2005.

Who are the participants in your brand ecosystem? What can they give and what can they get in order to build a wealth-creating brand community? Start by making a list of all possible stakeholders, then describe how you’ll make each stakeholder successful and loyal to your brand. In a healthy ecosystem, their success will enable your success.

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