FEATURE30 May 2024

The ordinary life: How research helped Reach understand what community means

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Features Impact Media UK

Brands often seek to align with big cultural moments, but communities form through more mundane, everyday experiences, a study by newsbrand publisher Reach found. By Katie McQuater

photograph of man pouring a majestic beer in a cosy pub

“‘Community’ has become such a buzzword, ” says Hanna Chalmers, founder of The Culture Studio, discussing the trend for brands and marketers to home in on ‘communities’, often with no understanding of either the term or the communities.

Research by The Culture Studio with newsbrand publisher Reach sought to explore what community means in the UK, how communities are formed and what makes them tick. “Post-Covid, everyone was talking about communities and everyone assumed that you would know what they were talking about, but we wanted to take a step back, ” says Jenny Shevlin, head of planning and insight at Reach.

A first phase of cultural analysis identified three types of community: fan, local and values. The research then faced a challenge: traditional recruitment fell down when finding communities for participant observation. “Initially, we worked with a very trusted recruiter, but they really struggled to recruit a community – because it is difficult to identify who the leaders of a community ...