In-Person 2.0: From Tupperware Parties, Members Lounges & Community-As-A-Moat
Betaworks launched Betaworks Studio last year. Hearst Magazines launched The House that Elle Decor Built @ 108 Leonard, a place to host their events for the various brands. Lexus has launched Intersect, a five star restaurant and community hub. BMW Mini owns and operates A/D/O, a cafe & coworking “creative” space. Bumble has launched their Hive popups around the nation. We wrote last week about the reclamation of retail, but brands that you’d never think of operating a physical space are starting to take their place.
We’re calling this latest trend In-Person 2.0.
In-Person 1.0 was conferences and meetups, in short, event-based. In the last 10 years, every major tech company has launched a conference (Dreamforce, Concur Fusion, etc.), often together with a bunch of local meetups in satellite cities. They recognized that by getting together their entire ecosystem in one spot intermittently they could accelerate the flywheel of customer adoption, loyalty and education.
But In-Person engagement and community is being taken to the next level, as brands as diverse as Rent the Runway recognize the value of showrooms to Amazon AWS outfitting lofts.
This is a realization that one of the strongest moats is community. And these brands aren’t the first to realize it.
Tupperware Parties originated when Earl Tupper, the founder of Tupperware poached Brownie Wise from Stanley Home, a cleaning products company that had pioneered the Home Party. Brownie built out Tupperware’s own series of house parties, which served primarily as a way to educate potential buyers, but had two major side effects.
One big one was empowering women as business owners, many of whom had been forced back into the home as GIs returned from World War II.
The second was as a permanent moat to their business — women made new friends, connected with old ones at Tupperware parties, were rewarded for sales with invites to their big annual conference, and despite the fact that they don’t really happen anymore in modern America, the fact that we all know what they are has given Tupperware lasting brand value. All by curating in-person local events and turning newly re-confined housewives’ living rooms into clubhouses.
Harley Davidson Biker Gangs
Harley Davidson rescued their company from near death by reinvesting in their community. They realized that a natural community of motorcycle owners had arisen, and they doubled down, sending their own employees to their events instead of hired hands, starting the Harley Owners Group (H.O.G.) membership club. To quote a great HBR article you should read: “community-building activities were treated not solely as marketing expenses but as companywide, COO-backed investments in the success of the business model.”
There have been more modern examples — American Express is one with their Centurion lounges in airports. BREX, a competitor to AMEX, has taken a play out of this book and launched their own lounge in San Francisco, a nod to their many startup clients.
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These brands are realizing something important, Community is Your Biggest Moat.
Brands are building permanent gathering spots as they realize in-person interaction has evolved to the next level — you need a permanent spot to gather your community.
To quote from that HBR article again, “Often, people are more interested in the social links that come from brand affiliations than they are in the brands themselves. They join communities to build new relationships.”
Brands are starting to finally get that picture.
Maxwell’s big vision is to help enable the next generation of community entrepreneurs to build social spaces — that will often be individuals, the type of person who would normally open a bar, but very often we expect that to be brands — car companies, media companies and more