Brand Communities – The hidden strategy of the world’s top brands

From yoga buddies to motorbike gangs, these ordinary groups of people, who share the same interest are most likely not formed together by self initiation; but rather, curated and planned by brands alike. These are Brand Communities, a tool in which brands use to engage their most active customers to not only engage with each other, but boost their products’ online and offline exposure through the power of community.

 

On March 28th, 2019, we were invited by Dr. Marko Skoric, professor of Psychology and New Media at City University of Hong Kong, to give a talk about Brand Communities and their marketing implications.

  Lululemon’s active community engaging in an outdoor yoga session on the Great Wall of China

 

All around the world, from small to large, many companies invest part of their marketing budget into building strong communities made of their target audiences. International brands like Nike, Harley Davidson, Lululemon and AirBnB, are brands who have done this successfully. What makes them successful you may ask? The power to make others perceive these communities as if there were no brand behind it. These branded communities are so strong, simply because people perceive them to not run or organized by a for-profit corporation.

 

If we look at it from a short-term perspective, investing in brand communities may not seem very profitable; however, the benefits of a strong and well-managed community lead to long-term advantages, positively affecting customers’ brand loyalty and retention.

  The Harley Davidson community begins on their online forum that then leads to offline group’s perks, meet-ups and events

 

There are 3 main benefits from forming a successful brand community.

 

Firstly, it’s time to distribute your customer service. Save time on Q&As, tips and assistance. The Apple Support Community is a great example, where users help others solve their Apple related problems. Not only do you reduce the costs of customer assistant center, it also benefits by connecting and boosting community interactions.

 

Secondly, sharing real-life experiences lead to more boost on social media. When more people share their stories, it inspires other members to embrace the brand experience. And with the social media being the strongest platform for sharing, more people share with hashtags, geotags, selfies, videos and so much more that link back to brands.

 

Thirdly, there’s nothing better than new ideas and more product innovation. When people feel highly engaged with a product or service, they will naturally come with feedbacks and constantly ask and push for new things. Be like the Lego, where it’s brand community run contests on a weekly basis to get fresh new insights for designs. Eventually, the best one is implemented, created and sold to the public; benefitting the builders and Lego with a ‘free’ new idea.

  Lego Ideas Webpage where users interact, engage and meet new Master Builders

 

A great brand community benefits all parties, but ultimately we question what do customers want in exchange for their loyalty to a specific brand? The answer is straightforward, but not always easy to achieve; they want a real and meaningful experience.

 

Nowadays, most communities exist mainly online and struggle to get people together in the offline world. Hence, here are three simple steps that can help to better understand how to build, maintain and engage a community online and offline.

1. ENGAGE PEOPLE THROUGH DIGITAL CHANNELS

The fastest way to boost the number of community members is by using integrated digital channels such as social media, blogs, forums and websites. Never has the creation of a unique hashtag been so important.

2. CREATE A SENSE OF BELONGING

If users will be able to identify themselves with the values that a brand community is advocating, they will be more likely to feel a sense of belonging. Evoking a strong brand image is extremely important, hence why establishing the core values, missions and visions of any brand is key.

3. USING O2O STRATEGY

Although virtual platforms offer a great base for a community, it is crucially important that people also feel connected to the brand in the offline world as well. All these aspects go full circle, and using a holistic approach to your marketing campaign will keep your brand in the top of your consumer’s head.

Nike Run’s Club uses an online app to market, set offline events and drive people to run more and track their progress

 

With these strategies, a brand’s community will grow organically, leading to more members, and thus, bringing in more advocates to spread the word. Remember, the key to success is building a real and engaging brand community: that perceived as natural, with the brand inputs ‘hidden’ to the layman’s eye.

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