Community Before Customers — Building Your Brand

You’ve spent months thinking about launching your first brand. You’ve found a theme, contracted designers, found an amazing printer, sourced blanks, built your website and then the day comes. You go live and…nothing. Sure your friends and family visit your site and maybe even buy a t-shirt to show their support but other than that it’s crickets.

What went wrong?

In a nutshell you’ve put the cart before the horse. You’ve concentrated on what often feels like the fun part, building the brand. In the meantime you’ve forgot the most important thing, the customer. Who’s going to actually give a shit enough to buy your product. I can speak first hand from this exact experience when building my brand Pong Deck (A Beer Pong Product and Clothing Line) a few years back. I was absolutely sure that Pong Deck and the tees associated with them were going to be a hit. After all, I paid attention to all the details, had the best quality product at the right price and something unique people would love. While I did enjoy some success it could have been better, much better.

It’s all about building a community first.

What I should have been doing while finding artists, sourcing blanks, researching inks and building my site was creating content that the beer pong community would be interested in.

This could have been anything from articles on:

  • Different variations on how to play beer pong
  • Proper throwing techniques
  • List of the coolest custom beer pong tables
  • Interviews with professional beer pong players
  • Coverage of the World Series of Beer Pong
  • List of the colleges in the US that play the most beer pong

This list could go on forever. The point is what I should have been doing is creating content around the theme of my brand that I thought my future potential customers would be searching for and enjoy reading. Providing value, building trust, establishing community before trying to make the sale.

A brand that I’ve seen nail this is DeliFreshThreads. In a recent interview with Biggie of DFT, he spoke about creating content for his blog well before he started selling t-shirts. Taking that a step further he’s started hosting in person events called SANDWICHEATUPS where he meets his community at various sandwich shops to talk sandwiches. He doesn’t even sell his shirts at these events (which seems a bit crazy to me) but I respect what he’s trying to do, build a community first because when you do that the customer will always come next.

Whether you’ve started your brand already or are looking to launch a new brand I’d highly suggest taking the time to think through what value in terms of content and community building you can bring to the table well before you expect someone to fork out their hard earned cash for your brand.