Millennials, and especially Gen-Z, have grown up as digital natives, with advertising bombarding them from all angles. The noise level competing for their attention is always high. Because of this, millennials are turning more than ever to their peers for insight into what trends, products, and services to buy or buy into.

Community-focused marketing has been a key way for marketers to be more targeted in their approach, but now it's offering a unique way to rise above the noise level and join a more intimate conversation among friends.

 

The opportunity: creating real conversations among friends.

At The Odyssey we work with hundreds of small business owners and dozens of national brands to reach people from the ages 18-30. When I ask small business owners what their most effective marketing is, I almost always hear "word of mouth." It makes sense; what is more effective than a non-biased third party evangelizing for your brand to their peers? People trust their friends.

Community marketing and integrating your marketing plan within a community that aligns with people's passions and creates conversation is one of the strongest ways that we are getting the attention of this marketing jaded generation.

"We don't just think of a community as a geographic community but also a social community," said Patty Morris, who is the Marketing Director for Brand Content of State Farm. It's not just community in the traditional sense, it's the community that people connect their identities with.

 

The challenge: granularity, context, and scalability.

While few deny the impact and power of community marketing, most brands don't touch it because it's thought of as hard--if not impossible--to do at scale.

State Farm took an innovative approach when it launched Neighborhood Sessions, bringing Jennifer Lopez back to the Bronx to put on a concert and highlight stories of people in the community. The conversation started in the Bronx, but State Farm was able to amplify to the music-loving community across the country by partnering with TNT to create what Morris believes is a first-of-its-kind opportunity.

"We launched State Farm Neighborhood Sessions with the goal of tapping into networks of people that have like mindsets, and music is a passion point that connects many people," Morris said. "This had a profound impact on one community, but we had the ability to scale it nationally."

This is a great example of a fully integrated, community-focused campaign that had national impact. It was real, it was a story that real people were a part of and that they wanted to tell others about, and most importantly it aligned with the way State Farm has traditionally been integrated in neighborhoods.

 

Campaigns don't have to be so customized or so large, though. Using simple tactics like localizing templated campaigns to an affinity group and integrating influencers in the community, the story can ignite a conversation that is bigger than the brand itself.

At the end of the day, impact is what matters. While there may be more attractive and easier ways to reach a national audience, if it's not being heard, it doesn't matter. Focus your strategy on the communities that align with your market and deeply integrate. The authenticity will not only make you real in those communities, it will also create an aura that will draw people in to find out more.