Think you know what (or where) your communities are? Think again.

Your brand’s true communities are NOT the people engaging on your social media channels. They’re not the people found in your CRM, and they’re not the people referring your product through reviews and referral codes.

In true behavioural science terms, communities are formed by your brand advocates who exist in the real world – in the streets, towns and cities where word-of-mouth is the real influence on sales and brand growth, rather than any brand-led activity.

Only 8% of consumers purchase without a recommendation from someone they know and trust in their “real-world” communities. By detecting and analysing where this social behaviour really exists, marketers can understand and amplify this herd behaviour. 

The fact is, we rely on social learning, and we all follow the herd. Consumers need to hear a consistent message seven times before they remember it. We’re more likely to adopt behavioural change or complete a marketing action when enough people in our network have already led the way.

But as humans, we’re forgetful (and lazy, which is why we follow those around us).

Often when we receive a recommendation from someone in our real-world community, we’re motivated to purchase, but life is busy and we easily forget. 

Ad and brand recall rates are notoriously poor – when consumers are not familiar with your product or brand, they unconsciously ignore the ad. Once they’ve received a positive recommendation from someone they trust, they are much more likely to “unfilter” your marketing activation and follow the nudge to purchase. This is even truer when they receive a recommendation from multiple sources.

It’s a phenomenon known as Baader-Meinhof. 

Have you ever purchased a new car, only to see the same car driving everywhere? Behavioural scientists call this the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon, also known as the frequency bias. It happens because our brains filter out the unfamiliar. 

Once something is familiar to you (whether you’ve heard a new word, or been recommended a brand), you start seeing it everywhere.

Human nature is also remarkably consistent, and our memory structures are built to recognise the same message repeated several times. Take a familiar dinner party scenario.

The topic of a favourite food subscription service is raised around the dinner table. Emily has been recommended a certain brand but can’t remember the name. She describes it and Mary fills in the blanks because she too has heard how great it is. Tim then says, “Oh yes, I’ve been using this for a few months, and John and I both love it.” In this scenario, the recommendation is even more powerful – because it has been endorsed by several people in the community.

People make many more purchasing decisions from word-of-mouth amongst friends that marketers realise

As Richard Shotton, (author of The Choice Factory and The Illusion of Choice), says: “The drivers of human behaviour haven’t changed and will still be relevant for thousands of years. In this world of many, many marketing channels, it’s our ability to act on these insights that has changed, not the insight itself.”

So where can we find these community insights?

Herdify is the only platform in the world to detect where real-world communities have formed around a brand. Combining more than 15 years of research with AI and machine learning, Herdify transforms first-party data into behavioural insights and strategic data sets that can be used across any ad platform and media plan, as well as to inform strategic initiatives and behavioural change.

The “how” lies in pandemic modelling.

Pandemic modelling is about predicting the communities where a virus will transmit between people. The same models can be used to predict where brand messages will transmit between people. 

The Herdify team use the community modelling tools that detect virus transmission, to detect the transmission of influence in real-world communities.

They use this to find the tipping point where local community interactions are more persuasive than brand communications.

It’s a behavioural science approach that’s worked for brands like Gymshark and Huel, both of which grew exponentially by harnessing the power of communities. 

Abel & Cole applied Herdify’s insights to a door-drop campaign and found that response rates were 120% higher in community areas than in those without, while Axel Arigato found that it was 110x cheaper to acquire new customers through Google Ads in Herdify-recommended areas.

The advent of digital marketing threw us off the scent, but communities have been the biggest influence on consumers for thousands of years. Marketers used to focus on the individual – we thought that people who looked the same, acted the same. And we marketed to them in the same way, exactly like our competitors. Today’s most successful brands – like Huel, Gymshark and Abel & Cole – focus on their communities.

Herdify is an official partner of MAD//Masters which begins in November.