For consumer-facing businesses an engaging brand community is the ultimate asset (Hong, 2015). Brand communities are online platforms allowing consumers to participate in feedback, advocacy and support, non-geographically bound (Peterson, 2014) and are a business strategy rather than marketing. They exist to serve us, the consumers who play a vital role in the brands ultimate legacy (Muniz, 2001).
There are many successful communities across a wide scope of industries all catering for different products and meeting the needs of different consumers. Even tax companies can create brand communities with H&R stating:
“In todays turbulent world, people are hungry for a sense of connection; and in lean economic times, every company needs new way to do more with what it already has. Unfortunately, although many firms aspire to customer loyalty, marketing efficiency and brand authenticity few understand what it takes to achieve these benefits.” (Fournier, 2009)
Community based brands are needed to build loyalty, not by driving sales, but by helping consumers meet their needs. One of the most important steps in the consumer decision making module is that the information a consumer needs to make a purchasing decision is available, something that a brand community can positively contribute to.
I love how this has been achieved by Sephora’s Beauty Talk. Often people are more interested in their social links that come from brand usage than they are of the brand. So consumers join communities like beauty talk to exchange information such as reviews, tips and tricks.
Just from looking at the community there are so many users actively looking to engage with others about their daily use of products, whats trending and product usage.
Communities now embrace user created content for authentic and personal customer engagement (Thumm, 2015) through the use of hashtags or progress pictures. One scroll through instagram and it is easy to see how quickly content is generated.
“We planned to use what we learned about our clients passions from the ongoing dialogue to continue to develop new ways to meet their needs” – Sephora on Beauty Talk
It is evident that these sites offer so much to a marketer. By creating profiles and linking themselves to their array of social media platforms and loyalty cards marketers have a world full of user data at their fingertips.
I believe the greatest part of a brand community is the idea that engaging consumers with each other outside of the consumer experience in the name of the brand can be beneficial for both parties.