The Rise of the Human Brand Part 2: The Psychology of Belonging

By August 20, 2015Influencer Marketing

We’ve introduced the concept of the human brand – those with messaging authentically expressed across every aspect of the brand that fundamentally affirms consumers’ connection.  This messaging is powerful in its ability to tap into the experience of what it means to be human and engage consumers as a part of that brand experience, beyond a simple purchase.

Within that notion of “humanness,” there are specific experiences unique to specific audiences, and each audience identifies with a larger community or group. For instance, I have a dog and identify as a dog lover. My experience in this is different from my friends who don’t have pets, or those who prefer cats. In either case, I am part of an identity group – dog lovers – and I seek out interactions with other dog lovers because of the shared interest. Essentially, I feel a sense of belonging with this social identity. This is true of my other interests as well – from my love of cooking to passion for college football. Depending on the situation or circumstance, my behavior and decisions are often guided by the group or identity I’m most aligned with in that moment; I don’t necessarily gush about my dog at a football game (okay, maybe I do) or talk about gourmet food at the concession stand. Those behaviors and decisions further reinforce my social identification with that particular group.

we imageWhat makes my various social identities even more valuable to me are the connections I make within them; it’s an opportunity to interact with like-minded people and build relationships. I’m not alone in this – you probably subscribe to all kinds of social identities, from gender or ethnicity, employer or occupation, perhaps a religion or political group, even sports teams. Without them, as social creatures we would likely feel incredibly isolated and detached.

Why is it important that we feel a sense of belonging in any of these groups? In short, it comes down to human nature; this need to belong is so primal, so fundamental to the experience of being human that we seek it out every day. And what’s more, we’re seeking it out from a new source: our favorite brands. Consider brands like Harley Davidson and Disney – they have an emotional, fervent following that identifies as part of a tradition and legacy. This brand affinity is quickly becoming one of the prominent ways we are subscribing to identity groups.

Therein lies the opportunity for brands: each and every one attracts at least one identity group, be it moms, children, cyclists, car enthusiasts, etc. When your messaging triggers a particular social identity, customers begin to align with your brand for a sense of belonging and connectedness. And with this sense of belonging, comes community. This type of messaging is far more effective than traditional push ads in its mission, transparency and ability to create community: you’re not simply selling a product; you’re selling a product that reinforces what your brand stands for and the existing connection consumers have with your brand. In a sense, your product becomes a token by which consumers can state “this is who I am; this is what I do,” and of course, identify other people they can relate to.

I’ve seen this with plenty of brands, but want to highlight one in particular: Jeep.


Jeep is THE off-roading vehicle. There is no mistaking the outdoors-loving consumer-base the carmaker targets, and its branding is spot-on for triggering corresponding social identities.

The carmaker has also discovered the power of a branded influencer community, calling theirs the “Badge of Honor” community for enthusiasts to check in and post photos of their trail rides.
Jeep Screenshot 1

Each check-in and successful completion of a trail earns drivers rank and points within the community – who doesn’t love a little friendly competition? Each trail has its own newsfeed, complete with photo sharing and check-ins. There’s also a community-wide feed to stay up to date on all trail activity from fellow enthusiasts.

Jeep Screenshot 2The Badge of Honor community demonstrates Jeep’s understanding that it is so much more than a brand – it’s a lifestyle. This community further strengthens the social identity of Jeep’s most avid fans by allowing them to engage with one another in realtime.

[If you'd like to learn how a branded community like Jeep's can strengthen your brand's identity, get in touch for a Mavrck demo here.]

We’ve explained why display ads in particular are an ineffective marketing tool. Below are some examples of brands that aren’t just promoting a product, but are aligning a lifestyle, triggering social identity and creating community through effective messaging:

Under Armour

No muss, no fuss. Under Armour is as much for athletes as it is the everyday fitness fanatic. Just as Nike’s “Just Do It” became its iconic slogan, Under Armour’s is now “I Will What I Want” – catchy words with a powerful message: You’re in control of your own success, be it on the field, the track, the court, or in life.


Ignoring all the text in this ad, I can look at it and know right away that Patagonia values connecting to the outdoors and making it comfortable for people to do so no matter the forecast or temperature. They aren’t about fashion trends  – they’re about functional style that lets you live the adventure.


CrossFit is the poster child for successful rebranding, a la Reebok. With a tagline of “United by Fitness”, the brand is easy for consumers to identify with. If you’ve ever been to a CrossFit gym or heard a CrossFitter talk about their training, there is definitely a sense of camaraderie that seems to make the Olympic-inspired workouts almost bearable. Almost!

With the success of their intense training programs, Reebok has launched a line of CrossFit branded footwear and apparel. This is a prime example of a product serving as a token by which consumers can outwardly represent their identity group.


Guacamole, anyone?

When hunger strikes, there are a lot of options for fast food – so why choose Chipotle over the others? The chain has aligned itself with a demographic that cares about quality as much as convenience. From supporting local farms to focusing on the freshest ingredients, Chipotle’s fans know it’s so much more than just a burrito.

The North Face

The North Face is on a mission to encourage outdoor exploration and conservation. These values are at the core of the business model – the technology behind their apparel facilitates exploration, and the company’s recycle-reward-renew program is green-friendly. Customers can recycle their used apparel and footwear at participating retail stores and receive a coupon towards their next purchase.

The retailer also invites consumer engagement on a personal level, asking them to share videos of how they “defy convention.” Thrill seekers and adrenaline junkies, unite!


Whole Foods

You can walk into Whole Foods and see its values at work . With sustainable and local agriculture, high quality food, conservation, healthy living, and community development at the core of their values, their advertisements target health nuts and foodies alike. Even their grocery bags have a message to share.

Did any of these examples inspire you? If you’re interested in taking your messaging to the human level, we’d love to share our insights with you and help you better engage with your most powerful brand influencers on our platform. Drop us a line or request a demo!

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We all know word-of-mouth is the most effective form of marketing, but word-of-mouth automation at scale has always been a challenge. At Mavrck, we harness the power of human-to-human marketing at scale by tapping into your most valuable asset: existing customers with influence.

By focusing on influential customers who engage a high percentage of their friends around a brand's relevant topics or keywords, Mavrck's patented micro-influencer marketing platform powers consumer brands like Hershey's, Sears and Unilever to discover and activate millions of their micro-influencers to distribute content and drive conversions across social networks.

On average, our "always-on" activation engine will get 3 friends to convert for every 1 micro-influencer activated.