Why Community is the Last Great Marketing Strategy – with Mark Schaefer

Mark Schaefer is an acclaimed marketing consultant, keynote speaker, podcaster, and university educator. He is the author of 10 books, including “KNOWN,” “Marketing Rebellion,” and “Cumulative Advantage.” His books are used as texts at more than 70 universities, can be found in more than 700 libraries, and have been translated into 15 languages.

'Belonging to the Brand', Mark's latest book talks about three megatrends indicating the community will be a huge part of marketing in the future. Number one is mental health. The issue of mental health grabbed his attention when he saw a headline in New York Times saying Gen Z is the loneliest generation which was very heartbreaking to him. Number two is the way of doing advertising and marketing. The traditional way isn't working anymore as people are avoiding and blocking ads. It has become harder to reach people, especially young people. Number three is the technological changes that are enabling new ways to belong. Specifically, Web3 tokenized economies, NFTs Metaverse, and artificial intelligence to some extent. Mark said young people these days are not on Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter but they're on Discord, Fortnite, and little digital campfires hiding out from the rest of the world. Mark believes there are vast implications for technology so the community will be a significant part of marketing going forward.

Mark said great branding is about creating an emotional connection between your brand and your audience so people can have expectations about what you do. A lot of brands these days are using social media to reach people they might not normally have connected to, people living in different regions. Brands can build a strong relationship with people by persuading them enough to follow their pages or subscribe to them. This way, people become the audience of a brand. However, the next step of this is community. Being a part of a community allows people to become friends, collaborate, and co-create together. The focus of the community is helping people connect because if they're connected, they'll want to go there every day. You can have people support you in good or bad times in the community which is certainly important in a world where mental health is such a big issue. So, unlike the audience, the community is not just good for a business, it's good for the world. Nevertheless, Mark stated that it’s really hard to build a community in saturated times like now. He has been in marketing for a long time, and he believes this is the hardest time to be in marketing. But even though building community is a lot of work, it's rewarding at so many levels.

Today's guest is Mark Schaefer. We talk about his newest book: “Belonging to the Brand: Why Community is the Last Great Marketing Strategy.”

According to Mark, most communities fail to make a big mark because of the misalignment with the culture and the purpose. Many businesses start a community to sell more stuff, which is a wrong move. Businesses need to focus on something important to them as well as to their audience. He is a teacher who is passionate about the future of marketing so, in his community, they talk about ideas like artificially generated images, Chat GPT, TikTok, and Metaverse instead of him trying to sell. He gave the example of Harley Davidson. The purpose of their gigantic community is to help people fulfill their dreams through the motorcycle lifestyle. Every person from the top of the company to the bottom is devoted to that one goal. All their products show an intersection between the company’s goal and the expectation of people which makes them successful.

Mark stated that his book ‘Belonging to the Brand' views the community through the lens of brand marketing. 70% of communities today are devoted to customer service. But focusing too much on customer service make the brand miss out on other important aspects like building strong relationships, collaboration, and co-creation with the audience. People in a community are more like advocates of it rather than simply an audience. So, according to Mark, the community must be viewed as a source of building relationships that lead to people helping each other and collaborating in positive ways.

Talking about token-gated communities, Mark said that he loves the idea of tokens. He tried it in his community but it did not go well, but he would love to get back to it in the future. He likes rewarding people with something if they do something nice for him or his community and it’s going to be his main priority in 2023.

Discussing his journey, Mark said one thing he did right in the community was setting a tone for the culture, an expectation that it would be a positive community where he would not tolerate toxicity. He has been successful in doing so. He has got an amazingly diverse group of people in his community from all across the globe who radiates positive energy.

Mark believes having a community helped him write his books. When he was doing his research, a lot of things happening in the community made sense to him. He said the most prominent role of him in his community is nurturing the culture and making sure everybody is adhering to that and all he wants to do is acknowledge people, making them feel they are heard and appreciated. He wants everyone in his community to feel welcomed and important. Although most of his community is free, they also have a premium option for people to meet legendary marketing icons like Tom Peters, David Meerman Scott, and Nancy Harhut and to get to know them.

Concluding the discussion, Mark mentioned that people from any part of the globe can reach out to him and can book an hour with him for discussion on his website.

Mark Schaefer and Joeri Billast in San Diego

Mark Schaefer and Joeri Billast in San Diego

KEY HIGHLIGHTS       (see clickable version on www.cmo-stories.com) 

[01:03] Who is Mark Schaefer? 

[01:44] Why is the community the future of marketing? 

[05:55] Can you explain the difference between audience and community? 

[09:58] Why do you think it is hard to start to build a community? 

[11:40] Why do you think that most communities fail? 

[15:45] How can we measure the success of the community? 

[20:18] What are your thoughts on communities and Web3 technology?

[22:56] Are there some lessons that you have learned? Things that you would have done differently? 

[24:48] Did the experience with being present in discord help your writing the book? 

[29:05] How people can reach out to you? 


“The reason the community is will be a significant part of marketing going forward, that it's been an overlooked opportunity for decades.” 

“The goal of great branding is to create an emotional connection between what you do and your audience.” 

“Community is not just good for business, it's good for the world.” 


Book: https://www.amazon.com/Belonging-Brand-Community-Marketing-Strategy-ebook/dp/B0BQCRN6JQ/

Blog: https://businessesgrow.com/ 

RISE Community: send a message to Joeri if you're interested


LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/markwschaefer/ 

Twitter: https://twitter.com/markwschaefer 


About the author, JoeriBillast

Fractional CMO
Web3 Marketing Strategist
Bestselling Author on Amazon
Host of the Web3 CMO Stories podcast