Why forecourts, atrium and rituals can help you build your brand, marketing and product

Philippe on

We are always looking for new people to meet, new customers for our product, new goals to reach with our digital marketing or product marketing. We want still to expand to have better KPIs, better metrics, to be the next million followers page or the next Facebook. Should we not put more effort and attention into our current community? Should we not try to get more attention and understand more what our current followers want? Should we not go slow to go fast?

People are looking for their new atrium

If I had to find the most suitable image in history for a gathering place for a community, I would choose the atrium in ancient Rome or the forecourt of a church. The population gathered in those place, the tribe forming there and its specific behaviour could be observed in those places, on the front of churches or in the neighbourhood bars. It was generally at the centre of the city, and pure luck did not do it. It is because those places were the neuralgic centre of towns. You can still feel the city soul at the centre of European villages and cities.

FieldPhoto by Jordan Pulmano on Unsplash

Far more deserted nowadays, it was and is still in a few places the weekly meeting for the villagers to tell each other gossips, tell stories, share knowledge and invite to events. I used to attend this weekly celebration when I was a kid in my parents' village in summer in Portugal. Being present on Sunday morning in front of the church had nothing to do with being religious. It was just a sacred social place, a moment in the week when people from the village were gathered at the same place. It was the meeting point of the village, as a sort of beacon. Most of these villages before the rise of cities and telecommunications lived in almost complete autarky. They lived among themselves with little interaction with cities around except for trades and government duties.

What made the strength of these communities was the sense of belonging to the village and the link between the villagers, the trade and the exchanges that could be made between them. People knew each other because they helped one another, they were seeing one another each day, they could meet at the grocery store, at the doctor or village festivals. There was one baker, one butcher, one doctor. Atrium and forecourt were places of power where politics was king. New relation, allies could be swayed and changed their banner easily.
Cities, village were entities. An entity more significant than people existed and was not attached to a person. Although people arrived or moved from the village, this entity remained present, and any new person was coming to the village had to learn the rules and to respect them.

The tribe phenomenon and the attention to the community

I think that today more than any time people have been looking for their tribe, for their belonging. I thought about that by reading books and sharing lessons learned with friends. When reading books, ideas start to form in your head, and one of them can bring an epiphany. This electroshock makes you aware of things that until then was built in your head without taking precise form. This book acts as a shock wave and puts the pieces of the puzzle back in place, and it suddenly clicks. For me, this book has been Tribal Leadership. I advise people to think about that moment in their life.

Dave Logan, Tribal Leadership author explains the mechanics of group formations and also the different levels of interactions. More importantly, it tells what characterises a group when it reaches a certain level of maturity. He takes various examples of tribes, from companies to prisons, ghettos and also presents leaders whom everyone knows such as Nelson Mandela. It explains the power of these leaders and the importance, the impact they had on their community. He also tells the rules that govern those tribes and the culture around its functioning.

FieldPhoto by Dave Logan on Tribal Leadership Website

In the same vein, Yuval Noah Harari in Sapiens exposes the social facet of the human species as a core fundamental. This facet and interactions that Yuval Noah Harari explains in his book support Dave Logan's ideas. He tells that the human species is a social species above all and that it can only work together up to a certain size, a certain critical mass. Both speak of a size for a tribe of about 80 to 120 individuals. After this size, these communities divide unless they have another greater goal, an ideology. They can also grow, and subsets are formed with different values.

These two books are an inspiration for me and support the fundamental principle of each person's sense of belonging. The forecourt of the church that I took as an example before in the villages is a meeting place for these communities. One of the things that make the culture of a group sticks is its values but also the rituals. Some public rituals known today are the roast dinner in England on Sunday, the turkey at Thanksgiving in the US or the Sunday family dinner in France. These little rituals form habits and bonds of belonging to our family or our tribe. All of this little habits, the social places such as the family tables or the forecourt of churches are the foundation of tribes.

As a brand, you have to build those rituals, those places and habits. You have to found the foundation that makes your community reunite around your voice. The question is, do you choose your community or your community wants you?

People recognise themselves in brands as they were in atrium and forecourts

In this document,
Cultural Symbolism of Brands by Carlos J. Torelli, Hean Tat Keh and Chi Yue Chiu from 2010, a quote from Nathalie Wilson, Vice President of Brand at Minneapolis based Yamamoto-Moss Mackenzie stayed in my mind:

"Brands can make people feel like they are part of a global, or local, community. Just as people go to museums to feel like they are part of a bigger world, brands can do the same thing.” - Nathalie Wilson

This quote expresses well the point shown before in the communities that are found around an entity bigger than themselves. Coca-Cola is a recognised brand around the world, and it is not just a brand of a drink, it is also an American ideal representing society and people. People identify with it, as they identify themselves with Apple, Samsung, Buffer or Basecamp.
For us, it is important to take ownership of our community and to identify first and foremost the underlying of our tribe before we can attract more people. That is why we build tools to understand better the people who interact with social networks account. You can imagine Facebook pages as atriums and the news the interaction on it as the interaction between villagers.

We do not all have the same means, and we can not necessarily have the budget or the marketing strength of a large multinational. However, it is essential to take the time to understand a tribe and establish the rules and values. There is one thing within everyone's reach which is observing and gathering knowledge by reading interaction inside groups.

The second point to notice though, it cannot be unstructured. As in village life, the priest was the person aware of all the affairs happening in the village, a person in your company should be responsible for your community. At ReponseIO, we like to call them "community hero". The people who are there to be at the helm of every single thing that happens in your community pages.

Technology to the rescue

Building a community is not easy, community heroes do not have an easy task. I think that is why we call them like that. For us, they are heroes. One of their strengths is their ability to listen to their community.

In my work, I have to build the best product for the right people, and I try as hard as I can, to spend as much time as I can reading what my community is saying, learning from them and being inspired by them.
The only way to build a good brand, to create a good product is to be inspired by your community, by your users. You need to feel for them, to feel their pain even if you do not live it directly, to feel also their relief when they find something which helps them. You need to be careful to build what’s right for them, not for you.

You need to build something that is right for them, not for you.

Without having a community of your own, observation can be a good start, and it is free. Thanks to Facebook or Twitter, for example, you can learn a lot without having access to a vast budget. Some specific hashtags or groups allow you to see the topics your target is addressing.

There are also tools like Google Analytics, Mixpanel, Intercom or the one we build [ReponseIO] ( that can allow you to make shortcuts.
Just imagine that every time someone does something on your website or on your app, no matter where they are, no matter where they come from, their names and actions are recorded. You can then connect to the platform of your choice and get access to the metrics and the life of your users/customers inside your website or app.

ReponseIO gives you the same capability for your Facebook Page. It records every interaction and provides a direct way to identify that person with access to their profile. It also makes it possible to identify in an instant the new people joining your community, the oldest ones and those with are slipping away. ReponseIO also makes it possible to understand the users according to their type of interactions. We do not all want to make our voices heard, but every interaction, regardless of its form, is essential.

The magic is there: an automatic solution that automatically allows you to listen, understand and engage with your community.

You have to care about those metrics. The villagers know the new people, the one that is not showing, the things that are said by each one, who is unhappy and who is not. This is not just about knowing and understanding your tribe; it has just to do with caring. You have to care about your tribe and share the love with them.

We will love to talk to our community and build our rituals also. Contact me or tweet me @philnpa

Philippe London
Phil is one of the co-founders of ReponseIO and works on building the best product ever. Living in London, he enjoys drinking whisky & coffee, discovering new places, good food and hitting the gym.