The words ‘community’ and ‘communication’ are both hugely important to thefuture of brands. Interestingly, both stem from exactly the same source:The Latin word ‘communis’ is the root of many words we use today todescribe people and the connections they make
. In its basic form,
means “common, public, shared by all or many”.Whilst community is still used very much in this sense, communication hasevolved into something very different. If we were to define communicationproperly, it would be as:
“a social and reciprocal act of participation, an act mediated by the use of symbols that have meaning among different individuals and groups”
However, in the context of brands and advertising, “communication” in the 20
century evolved to mean little more than ‘the sending of messages’.This isnot the result of manipulation by the owners of brands, but simply a result ofhow the communications landscape developed.Companies were schooled in creating and broadcasting homogenous,impersonal messages through a mass-media system. Sending out identicalbrand messages to millions of people at once was a logical, efficient andeffective course of action in a mass media world. Indeed, companies had littlechoice; it was the only way to talk to all their consumers.People watched, readand listened passively and attentively. They did notexpect the right to reply, never mind the ability to create and disseminate theirown thoughts. But nowadays people
create, copy and distribute their owncommunications as far and as wide as any company.The people are in control, and as a result they are demanding somethingdifferent; I believe that the future of brand communications lies in finding away to make these communications shared,participatory and reciprocal.This involvescompanies becoming a credible part of the conversations thatcommunities are havingand to becomemore in step with the ethos of‘communis’.To do this, they first mustunderstand why people form communities.