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Branding Essentials: Build Customers and Engagement First

Updated: Apr 30, 2021

In the old economy, a company found a hole in the market, filled it with a product, determined a price, and drove the product into people’s lives with heavy advertising and distribution. The only choice customers had was to buy or not to buy. The real power lay with the company, whose leaders were seen as authority figures.

Today’s customers reject this authority, and use the access they have to ever increasing amounts of information to make a decision. They have a measure of control over the products they use and love. They no longer buy brands. They join brands.

In the image above, the top left is the brick and mortar model of the brand life cycle. Based on the logic of the factory; the company creates the brand through products and advertising, the brand attracts customers through a media outlet catering to a captive audience, and the customers support the company through repeat purchases. Makes sense, right?

Your brand isn’t what you say it is. It’s what your customers say it is. Having a brand strategy will sharpen your focus.

The circle on the right is the model of a brand life cycle in the digital economy. It’s similar, but with one important difference. Instead of creating the brand first, the company creates customers, through products and social media. The customers build the brand, through purchases and advocacy, and the customer-built brand sustains the company through “tribal” loyalty. This model reveals a profound and counterintuitive truth: a brand is not owned by the company, but by the customers who draw meaning from it.

Harnessing the Power of Tribal Marketing in Social Media

Customers want a vote in what gets produced and how it gets delivered. They’re willing to roll up their sleeves and help out by promoting the brand to their friends and contributing content, volunteering ideas, and even selling products or services. This “word of mouth” and influencer aspect to marketing brands has always been powerful. In the era of tribal marketing, social media platforms are doing all they can to entice users and the power of “word of mouth” is greatly amplified. Today, Snapchat announced it will be "rewarding" users who post top viewed video content with a payout of $1m daily. With social channels competing for content makers, a company’s willingness to be transparent and partner with top content makers will set them up to benefit and grow.

Engaging with customers on digital marketing platforms and social media is an essential part of growing your brand.

When set up to work for your brand, your social media channel will provide you the tools to receive instant feedback from the customer field on ways to improve overall experience and engagement with your brand. Tribes can even offer ideas for new products and guide you to areas of interest to grow the product line of your brand. It’s truly a new brand world.



A version of this blog post is published on



Know your company needs to grow deeper roots in the digital economy but not sure what steps to take to make it happen? Floh Creative has launched successful brand campaigns for entrepreneurs, Entertainment Studios and Fortune 100 companies. Using our discovery framework, we help define and position your brand and produce actionable insights for growth.

Ready to talk more about strategy? Call us at 310-564-6881 or visit us online at to learn more.


Mary Ellen Schrock is the CDO and Chief Disruptor of Floh Creative and loves building successful brands. As a bright, intuitive creative she has a passion for solving complex design and marketing challenges, especially when they require translating branding needs into compelling concepts and brand stories.

Marty Neumeier: The New Brand Model

1 Comment

Annah Brice
Annah Brice
Nov 24, 2020

This is super informative! Thank you for posting this. I’ll be in contact!


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