A Phenomenon Called Brand Community!

by Kapil Vaishnani  |  17th May, 2019 in Branding

What does the word community mean to you?

A group of people with shared interests or people who have something in common. Your favourite brand of jeans could have a community. Or there could be a community of people who meditate together. Today, community and brands go together. Huge corporate business houses are taking the word community rather seriously and it’s not difficult to guess why?

Communities, especially online communities form a crucial link ‘online sales conversion’ to happen. Creating a community that can trigger sales directly or indirectly is no mean a task. Internationally, it’s a catchphrase already; although back home it’s not a big hit yet.

“Having a website that gets visitors is nice, but if most of what you learn about your visitors is what you see in Google Analytics, then there’s a lot you still don’t know,” says Kristen Hicks in a column for HostGator, a global web hosting service provider. In short, it is not about the ‘clicks’. It’s about ‘knowing your customer’.

The best in the business do it in a very subtle and indirect form. Let’s study a few brand community examples:

  1. AmericanExpress has an open forum where industry experts provide advice. The company leverages the amount as per this expert advice.
  2. Sephora has its own online community where they discuss beauty tips, share ideas and pictures wearing the products. The platform has helped Sephora to understand their clients’ needs and come up with a bunch of new ideas.
  3. Lego Ideas is a community where you can share your design ideas for ages between 5 to 95. You can also check other people’s ideas, vote and the most popular one goes to the market. If your Lego design clicks, it will be sold with you getting a percentage of profit share. The market results show that stuff like, Lego brand community is great way to engage the customers.
  4. Plant Power Journal is a sharing platform of an herbal tea brand. Users can share their DIY ideas, traditional herbal recipes. And discuss about the communities where the herbs for the tea brand are grown. This more of a review page than an online platform. It represents a more credible source where people can see and share their experiences.
  5. Made, a furniture retailer has started an online community to connect present customers to reluctant customers. The undecided customers can visit a customer who has brought the product already. Looking at it in a more real setting and connecting with new people. Based on the concept that everyone does not have a knack of purchasing furniture from a showroom.
  6. The Playstation community has grown immensely also raking in the popularity of the gaming community in general. There different forums for different game and general discussions where gamers can communicate. To make the competition factor more interesting the platform awards trophies to the winners.
  7. The Kraft community is a place where people can talk about their cooking experiences, share recipes, follow each other and so on. It has turned out to be more than just a website.
  8. The AirBnB community represents love for nature, adventure, culture. The brand vouches to give a native vibe while they select their service. The holiday rental platform invites fans on Create AirBnB to design their own logos to express the speciality of their culture.
  9. Brand Barbie has over 100,000 collectors after decades of presence in the market. Their website The Barbie Collection where fans discuss their common interests.
  10. My Starbucks Idea community has over 150,000 members, as they join, they are treated with a complimentary drink. In the group, people give corporate suggestions to better their experience as a customer. The Starbucks brand community represents a brand which values customer opinion.

The brand community for each of these ten businesses, show how with a little creatively and resourcefully a consumer can be engaged, entertained and retained. With the added benefit of promoting its brand values and thoughts organically.

A word of caution!

Avoid any kind of controversies. “It would do more harm than good to your brand name,” warns the author of Steps to Successful Forum Marketing in an article for a web hosting firm for small businesses.

Brand communities denote three characteristics as per Muniz and O’Guinn (2001):

Shared Consciousness – is an instant connection with people who use and love the same brand. For instance, a community dedicated to Wrangler jeans, as they talk about what they like about the product and what makes it tick. They will feel as if they know each other since a long time. Without any face to face contact it creates a bond of shared consciousness.

Rituals and Traditions – The Harley Davidson brand community has a special handshake which gives the feeling of oneness to the owners. One of the best brand community examples, where a ritual fosters bonding. Something which could go beyond the virtual world. Any distinguished form of public greeting or acknowledgement forms the rituals and traditions.

A Sense of Moral Responsibility – Once the community is formed and gets going the members naturally feel responsible towards each other. If there was a community for Apple users, helping each other explore the features of any of its product would be a given. Research on friendships states that indulging in mutually inspiring activities creates a stronger bond. The brand community environment is conducive to this form of bonding.

Remember that Brand Community is not a sales exercise. It a process where the consumer can be a part of a brand story. It’s about similar values, dreams, social connect and brand loyalty. As a community creates user-generated content, the user becomes the brand ambassador.

Looking at brand community examples like Starbucks brand community, Lego brand community, Harley Davidson brand community and the Barbie brand community the successful legends. Everything discussed above makes perfect sense. In all, brand community is a motivational platform to keep connecting and spread the love for the brand.

So how about creating a community for your brand?

Share your thoughts and feedback on this post.

Founder - Chairman, Litmus Branding Pvt. Ltd.
Kapil Vaishnani founded Litmus in 2001 to water his passion for creating brands. Kapil’s a creative brain hitched at business. He firmly believes that focused communication is the key and it must carry a purpose that serves both brand and business. Simplicity is Kapil’s power gear that has shaped some of the prominent brands in India and globally. His passion-filled sportsmanship with multi-disciplinary talent is brimming with experience of 20+ years. Talk sense and he is all ears.