Why Campbell’s Soup Can’t Build a Magnetic Community Brand

When Campbell’s soup announced their rebrand for a new generation, they said quote,

“We’ve been on a journey to reimagine this iconic brand and appeal to new generations of consumers who are cooking at home more than ever, while still honoring our rich history,”

Linda Lee, Chief Marketing Officer

The chief strategy for this iconic brand was to make NFTs, or Non-fungible tokens.

If you’ve raised your eyebrow, you’re not alone. Putting aside what NFTs are, how they work, or the ethics of their production and sale, let’s talk about the Campbell’s rebrand and why they will still fail to turn their audience into a community.

What makes the difference between a brand that can’t build community and one that can?

and how do you build a brand that attracts community?

There are 3 main differences between an Audience Brand and a Magnetic brand that are needed to convert an audience into a functioning community:

  1. The brand’s product or service must clearly display the brand’s mission and values.
  2. The brand must feel and sound both human and flexible enough to create an in-group as users get to know the organization behind the products or services.
  3. The brand must make their users feel successful and exclusive, not just happy.

How Campbell’s Generated Relevance but Failed to make a Magnetic Brand

When Campbell’s hired Andy Warhol to build a movement with 32 pieces of influential pop art, Campbell’s became the main topic of conversation. They were the talk of the art world. But it wasn’t their company that stole that light. It was their product and only their product.  None of the conversations about the can were about Campbell’s importance to mothers or their history through the great depression. Their values were absent, and instead, the conversation was about the splendor of consumerism and a contemporary world where art was no longer made for art’s sake.. 

 Still, the campaign was immensely successful. Bad press was good press. The public focus on the can was a huge PR win for the company, and their can is still iconic to this day. They’ve rooted themselves in the rich art history of the modern world – but it’s not about them or their buyers.

Where was Campbell’s, the company brand, in today’s NFT conversation?

They do not own their NFT campaign. It’s just about the can again. It generates PR and relevance but lacks substance enough for Community. It will sell products and put Campbell’s on pantry shelves, sure, but how often have you heard moms, foodies, food-stamp recipients, or any of Campbell’s target market bond over their love of Campbells? How often have their users’ conversations gone beyond cracking open a can to discuss Campbell’s influence on their lives?

Barring their more philanthropic ventures, which do not sell them, I’d guess, “not at all.”

Campbell’s’ brand is not lacking in the relevance or audience needed to produce a community. It lacks their audience’s capacity to wear Campbell’s brand, and share it with others.

Let’s talk about a magnetic brand that does convert audiences to the community

Let’s take a quick step back and talk about a well-known stadium community – a decentralized community that’s generated around an influencer or content that people share with each other. We’ll look at a company that has gone all-in on community branding and has taken a core role in fostering conversation that isn’t about them. Linus Media Group (LMG).

Linus started as a tech channel on Youtube and has grown into a massive tech-review company. They have built a well-trusted brand on values of transparency, watchdog consumerism, the right to repair your own tech products, and doing the work to elaborate on their hot-takes regarding new devices. Their service is to provide honest reviews and use influencership to both pushes for, and rails on their big-name sponsors.

2 community-relevant events, in particular, have produced precisely the kind of conversation Campbell’s lacks: first was their coverage of Intel’s inferior chip releases, and most recently, they went viral for their response on Apple’s decision to make the Apple studio monitor’s power cable non-detachable (why would you do that apple? Seriously?)

Despite Intel being a proud sponsor of the channel, Linus called them out in a shockingly honest review. Later, Apple’s power cord shocked Linus’s viewers when he recorded himself pulling the cable out on their video podcast and spent most of the episode discussing why this was unacceptable.

So what has made Linus Media Group’s Brand Magnetic while Campbell’s is not?

  1. Linus Media Group made content that clearly relayed their Brand’s mission and values. 
  2. They created a parasocial relationship between their hosts and users so their brand would feel increasingly interpersonal as users got closer to it. 
  3. They’ve generated a sense of expertise in their audience by encouraging strong opinions in a dedicated space.
  4. They’ve made their brand’s mission, values, and identity wearable to produce the evangelism that brings new audience members into their community.

The thing they’ve done differently from Campbell’s is that they’ve inextricably connected their product to a sense of shared identity among their members.

So, how do you make a magnetic brand as iconic as Campbell’s but as community-centric as LMG? 

For your Magnetic Brand to be both iconic and community-centric, you need 3 things:

  1. A rock-solid connection between the product/service you sell and your brand identity..
  2. A malleable brand voice that is diverse and human enough for users to wear and share.
  3. A clear onboarding path to move your users from useful to integral for their identity.

Wrapping up this review…

As we wrap this up, I want to clarify that Campbell’s is a fantastic example of a brand. Understanding how their soup can become as iconic as it did or how the company became a household name is essential in making a good brand. But it’s also necessary to understand where it’s gone wrong in building a robust online community.
If you’re looking to strike a careful balance and make a community-centric brand, I’ve produced 2 exercises as part of my “magnetic brand dossier workbook” that I am giving away for free to help you do this.

The Brand Identity Blueprint gives you a brand as strong as Campbell’s.

The Brand Voice adds all the necessary community underpinnings to generate a community

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Venia Logan

I’ve spent the past 9 years learning the diverse skills necessary to create strong stable online communities that put your brand’s services at their center. ​​I started my own YouTube channel in 2010, and RESCQU.NET in 2013. I worked for Constant Contact, and returned to college for a specialization in online community management. Then I attained all 12 certifications from DigitalMarketer and helped dozens of communities. Spend fewer resources advertising to cold contacts or buying paid media and get back to focusing on what you love by growing a community that is financially and socially rewarding for you.