5 great examples of brand communities
Need some inspiration for using online communities to boost your brand? Feast your eyes on these...
The term ‘brand community’ was first first suggested by Albert Muniz, Jr. and Thomas O’Guinn back in 2001. The concept being that brands build not only a community of occasional customers, but one of engaged content followers and product ambassadors. These are likely to create a buzz around your brand and your latest releases and content without any further incentive from yourself.
We wrote recently about how community marketing is changing. In recent years it’s been seen as synonymous with social media or purely about customer communities and customer service. We see it more as a combination of content marketing and thought leadership, but with the key added element of building relationships with people, rather than with a brand.
Building these kind of relationships takes time, but the benefits are powerful. Brands gain a dedicated customer base of engaged individuals to discuss ideas and share content with (and who will, in their turn, engage with new potential customers). And their community gains valuable content, insight and personal interaction from a brand they trust.
But how does that work in practice? Which brands are already doing this well? Here are some examples from both B2B and B2C companies.
In 2012, Adobe acquired existing online design community platform, Behance. Behance is a network for creative people and was (and still is) highly-regarded in the design community. It allows people around the world to showcase their own work and discover the creative work of others. So why did Adobe decide to acquire it (for $150m, no less)?
Adobe makes a considerable profit from selling creative software like Photoshop and Acrobat, and increasingly renting it via Creative Cloud. Therefore, enabling a network like Behance, puts it at the centre of the creative community, bringing together everything from its essential software to professional socializing.
It also allows Adobe to bring community features to the creative cloud, creating myriad two-way links between its community and the products that it offers.
This won't shock to you I’m sure, but Apple sell A LOT of smart devices and each one ships with Apple Music already installed.
Yet Spotify has roughly twice as many paying subscribers to a very similar service. How? Well, Spotify have a young, engaged and dedicated fan base who will stand by them forever (see photo!).
Spotify’s community solves a number of business challenges, from customer support to enhancing brand value. It’s a place for music lovers to discuss the industry, suggest ideas to Spotify (in terms of platform improvements), and get user support from the company.
It also enables Spotify’s Rock Star program, which gives users the chance to write helpful posts and answer questions from other users in order to earn points. They can spend the points on merchandise, Spotify Premium and even gig tickets. A nice incentive to encourage user generated content.
3. The Value Exchange (powered by Zapnito)
In their own words, The Value Exchange (TVE) is “designed to be the one-stop-shop for everything that financial advisers, mortgage brokers and benefits consultants need to help their clients enjoy a longer, healthier more financially secure life.”
Created as a partnership between insurance company Vitality, and the publications Money Marketing, Mortgage Strategy, Employee Benefits, it offers the brands the opportunity to showcase their expertise directly to their chosen audience, through providing valuable insight and thought-leadership content.
This is not only a safe and secure space for members to discuss ideas and content with each other but also to ask questions of experts who could bring new insight to members’ clients. This recent post for example offers advice to ‘Help your clients navigate through these changing times’, in reference to a changing economic and political landscape.
The PlayStation Plus community forms part of the PlayStation Network (PSN), which is a digital media entertainment service provided by Sony. PSN was originally intended solely for the PlayStation video game consoles, but its success has led to it launching on smartphones and other smart devices too
Members of the community can connect with other players around the world and play online games together in real time. As a big Fifa fan myself, it’s a community I’ve been involved with from the inside.
Priding itself as “the world’s biggest community of online gamers”, PlayStation Plus provides forum functionality where players discuss games and consoles. This not only enables customers to have their say about exciting gameplay or relevant updates and improvements (which game creators and Sony can learn from) but also helps users who are having trouble using the system (as illustrated below).
The content also works to attract new customers through conversations around ‘best buys’ and new releases.
A great example of an expert community, supply chain specialists Kinaxis run a closed community that delivers in depth knowledge and insight from both the Kinaxis internal experts and their customers.
Every Kinaxis customer and partner also has their own private space in which to collaborate and all registered users have the ability to join other groups of like-minded peers for discussion and networking.
For Kinaxis it serves the multiple purposes. Providing product knowledge to customers, showcasing their insight and expertise to a broader audience, facilitating networking between current and potential customers, and delivering support on their products.