Is content dead? No. But to connect with Gen Z and younger millennials, your content strategy must revolve around building a customer community.


Today, we are super excited to weigh in with Mark Schaefer on this episode of the Publio Podcast. He is a marketing consultant and the author of 10 books. His latest, Belonging to the Brand: Why Community is the Last Great Marketing Strategy, presents the latest shift in thinking to embrace customer community for marketers.


Belonging to the Brand: A Conversation about customer community and More with Mark Schaefer


In today’s constantly dynamic marketing environment, staying adaptable and relevant is essential to success. According to Mark Schaefer, marketers must be willing to embrace change and experiment with new approaches. With emerging trends being driven by millennial and Gen Z consumers, finding and building your customer community is essential.

Marketing is distinctly different from other professional areas such as accounting and finance, as its strategies and activities are constantly evolving. To be a marketing leader and succeed in marketing, “you have to be a change junkie,” Mark explained as the interview began.

“With the advent of artificial intelligence, the pace of change has accelerated even further, and marketers must be agile and adaptable to keep up.”

“Almost every success I had started as just a little side project or an experiment, and some work and some don’t. It keeps me fresh and, and keeps me relevant.”

That’s bold and humble all at once. Just the sort of presence you need to succeed in today’s media.


Schaefer learned his craft by studying under arguably the most well-known marketing and management mastermind of the 20th century, Peter Drucker for three years.

Bonus Content: Hear what Mark learned from Dr. Drucker and how that makes him successful today.


Content Shock Impacts Everyone


Content Marketing has been a key driver of marketing success in recent years. Mark acknowledges that content has played a significant role in his own success, from starting a blog in 2009 to launching a podcast in 2012, and consistently writing books over the years. 

”I’ve never taken out a paid ad in my life.” 

While publishing owned content is still about quality and thought leadership, Mark highlights the difficulty of this strategy in the ever-increasing challenge of “Content Shock,” a term he coined in 2014. Content Shock refers to the saturation of content in certain niches or verticals as businesses increasingly catch on to the power of content marketing. The world has been built around ranking on search engines for thirty years. 

“You are really not going to be able to compete.” 

The game has changed. Schaefer says that SEO content is now more about establishing your personal brand and developing authority than “ranking” on Google. The cool thing is that if you follow SEO best practices, you will also produce content that appeals to humans, – your customers, not just search engines. 

“It sort of unleashes an arms race and at some point, you’re just not going to be able to compete anymore,” Schaefer explains, making it ever increasingly difficult to stand out and get attention.  You have to compete on your competitors’ level – Success is all about performance. This idea is central to Publio’s recent white paper, “A Call for Better Performing Content: The Emerging Role of Chief Content Marketing Officer


Combat Content Shock with Your Customer Community


Customer communities that encourage meaningful conversation are the new content. 

“Life now happens on and offline.”

While he didn’t get much into case studies, Schaefer often shares examples of brands that have successfully built customer communities, such as Harley-Davidson, Apple, and Starbucks. One we did touch on was M. M. Lafleur, a fashion brand for professionals that has a huge community of women helping and networking with each other on a range of topics from personal to professional. These brands have created loyal communities of passionate customers who not only buy their products but also engage with the brand, advocate for it, and even co-create content for it.

As social media platforms evolve with algorithm changes and privacy concerns, marketers need to adapt their strategies to find ways to engage with their audience authentically. Mark emphasizes the importance of building trust, being human, and creating value for your community members to foster a sense of belonging and loyalty.

Industry events in the marketing world have become critical. While these have traditionally been important for networking and learning, Mark acknowledges the shift to virtual events and the resulting virtual fatigue. We are challenged to find innovative ways to make virtual and in-person events more engaging and valuable for attendees. 


Youth Drives the Adoption of Customer Communities


For younger generations, it’s not just about broadcasting messages; success happens when you build genuine connections and relationships with your customer audience. 

“Social listening platforms are becoming obsolete because young people are not on Twitter.”

“They’re not on LinkedIn,” Mark explained. “They don’t want to be judged, evaluated, or marketed to. Brands must find entirely new ways to connect to them.”


Building genuine connections and relationships with our audience creates a more meaningful and effective marketing strategy for the future. That’s where companies like Discord and Twitch come into play, Schaefer notes. Their platforms provide spaces for communities to gather and meaningfully engage in real-time and asynchronous conversations across the world. The customer-community-led marketing platforms enable new strategies and are becoming increasingly important for brands. 

This latest shift in technology and culture is not just in the content, media, or platform: It is your voice and your credibility. It is making the physical and virtual worlds blend as one experience. 

“Almost every successful online community has an offline component. Even Twitch has an annual conference where people can get together and see their favorite streamers and video game players.”


The Rise of Customer Community


The rise of customer community-led marketing strategies highlights the increasing importance of building relationships around your brand.

It doesn’t matter whether you are a solopreneur or a Fortune 100. Successful brands create a space where people can come together, provide feedback and support each other. Building a customer community allows for deeper engagement, loyalty, and advocacy, which ultimately leads to business success. 

Mark cited these statistics in another interview on Forbes Magazine’s website:

  1. Sixty-six percent (67%) of brand community members say they are loyal to the brand
  2. Twenty-seven percent (27%) of customers say belonging to a brand influences their decision to do business with the brand. 
  3. Sixty-six percent (66%) of companies claim their community has an impact on customer retention.

These figures present a pretty compelling argument for adding community building to your marketing mix. 

Takeaway: One of the keys to building community is a strong personal brand and to be generous with others in achieving their goals.


How Do I Connect With Mark Schaefer?


One of the things that makes Mark so interesting is his accessibility. Have an idea? Want to start a conversation about how building a customer community can be a game-changer for your business? 

Mark suggests those interested first check out his book, “Belonging to the Brand: Why Community is the Last Great Marketing Strategy.” 

“Our customers are craving connection and belonging more than ever, and this presents a huge marketing opportunity.”

He also mentioned his previous book, Marketing Rebellion: The Most Human Company Wins. This is all about putting people at the heart of your marketing.” It’s a key ingredient to building community.  

You can find all of Mark’s content on his website, including a blog, podcast, and “tons of free resources.” 

If you’re looking for some personalized advice about your customer community or other marketing topics, you can even sign up for an hour of Mark’s time for some one-on-one consulting. 

Appropriately, Mark closed by saying, “My community is open to everyone and it’s on Discord, so it’s a fun and amazing place to connect and learn [about the future of marketing]. Can’t wait to see you there!”

We can’t either. 


Publio: A Fractional CCMO for Your Company

Are you a CEO seeking to grow your business? As a Fractional CCMO (Chief Content Marketing Officer), Publio specializes in helping clients differentiate their offerings and create content that stands apart from their competitors.

Curious to learn how Publio can help your business? Schedule a free consultation with us today.

Listen to the Publio Podcast


Join conversations with executives, agencies and thought leaders on marketing strategies that generate ROI. We discuss innovation, marketing, business, events, books, successful must-see strategies, and anything that is positive and refreshing. Find us on Spotify, and follow your North Star.

Are you responsible for your company’s marketing and sales success? Pull up a chair, grab some coffee, tune in, and connect with YOUR customer audience.