Many companies today come to the conclusion that it is necessary to form a community around the brand. Andrey Anders, founder of Philippe Anders, told at the marketing forum why such an “interest club” is needed, how it works for business purposes, and what it takes to create it.
Community for a brand is a tool that allows not only to establish contact with the target audience, but also to bind customers to the brand, because people usually remember not the symbols, but their feelings from communicating with the company. To create such a community, you will have to make efforts, but the experience of the world’s leading companies shows that with the right organization, it eventually works better than advertising. The community may even be the main way to attract the target audience.
What does brand community give companies?
The desire to communicate with people with similar interests is our natural need, which we only need to support by providing comfortable conditions for communication around the brand. In this case, a product with a clearly expressed value can become something that unites people, as it was with Apple products.
The idea itself is not new: for example, Harley-Davidson created HOG (Harley Owners Group) — the official community of motorcycle owners of this brand — back in 1983. Over time, it gradually moved from offline to online, retaining the basic universal functions that allow the brand:
communicate the company’s ideals and goals to a wide audience;
create and enhance the company’s reputation and customer trust;
build a loyal audience;
promptly respond to customers issues, the difficulties they face when using a product or service;
analyze and identify the needs and expectations of the CA;
check out new ideas and get user feedback quickly.
If everything is done correctly, community members will independently promote the brand, and more effectively than advertising, because they believe in what they will tell their relatives, friends, employees — a large Internet audience. And such PR will work better than the same information posted on a banner or received from a seller.
Often, users themselves help the company save on technical support, because active members of the brand community, using their own initiative, answer questions from other visitors and protect the reputation of the brand.
In addition, in communication with community members, you can get interesting ideas for improving the project: criticism can also be useful, because it will tell you what should be improved. It is important to understand what the buyer really needs, and the community is a great opportunity to find out about it quickly and without additional costs. This is what the Starbucks international coffee chain did: fans of chatting on the My Starbucks Idea forum share suggestions for improving the operation of the cafe, each of which is voted for by other participants.
What is the Internet community based on?
There are several ways to form a community. One option is to grow from scratch by creating a group on social networks or with your own resources (a longer way). Another is to interact with already existing communities that share the same values (relatively quickly gives a surge of interest).
There are many examples of formal communities around the brand, mostly publishing company news. But a living community is one that is united by an unreal idea: it is always different from those created artificially.
The advantage of social networks when forming a community is that there is already a potential target audience, but you will have to adapt to the peculiarities of each network. For example, take into account which users prefer depending on gender, age, or social status. And also the difference in the design of the content. It is worth choosing a resource based on the characteristics of your audience. Instagram Facebook, VKontakte, Facebook, Odnoklassniki, YouTube, TikTok (in this order) are among the TOP 6 networks of Russian users in 2019.
The advantages of your own site are the ability to create your own rules, analyze processes more deeply, create a space that is convenient in all respects for visitors, choosing a visual design, etc.
The main conditions for the formation of a community:
a product that is of value to consumers, attracting people with similar interests and views;
the existence of real, clearly defined customer pains that will be addressed: the community works effectively if it is created for a specific need;
availability of a platform for communication: on a social network or on your own site;
useful content: it is important that the information is not only interesting, but useful, only then will users have a desire to discuss it and share it on their page.
How the brand community works
While potential customers do not know anything about your company and are not familiar with each other, they will not wait with interest for new posts, mark “Like” and repost them. The community should be formed around a loyal audience: those who already use the product and share information with friends or online. They need to send the invitation in the first place.
People who just communicate online become a community when interaction with administrators and other users begins. Then every newcomer will be able to support existing discussions, feel a positive atmosphere, saturated with good reviews.
An important factor in brand promotion are the so—called evangelists, i.e. regular customers who are satisfied with products and services, and therefore sincerely defend and defend them. They can also be team members: for example, everyone likes to read interesting stories, and if you ask employees to tell you what they are interested in, why they work in the company and why they value it, it will create a positive image and will be perceived by the CA. It is possible that the employees themselves will want to share this information on their pages, and users will find out who exactly is behind the company name.
No less significant characters are ambassadors, or brand ambassadors: they do not encourage others to purchase the product directly, but they tell their audience about it, for whom they are opinion leaders, unobtrusively, but constantly advertising the product.
When forming a community, it is important to take into account not only the portrait of the target audience, but also its hobbies that go beyond the interest in a particular product. For example, if a company specializes in selling sports goods, it is not worth building a community solely on the love of users for sneakers and fitness bracelets. The audience is unlikely to regularly discuss only their characteristics. The Redmond company took this into account and created a website with recipes for connoisseurs of multicookers, the Red Bull brand launched projects for music and esports fans, and The North Face, the most famous outdoor brand, not only offers a huge range of clothing and sports equipment, but also organizes training and festivals.
Merch can be a unifying element for community members: its creation is not only an opportunity for additional income, increasing audience loyalty, but also identification with community members. For example, Louis Vuitton merch is the same image as the clothes of this brand.
One of the ways to stimulate user activity by creating a loyal audience from just interested community members is gifts in the form of free tickets, cumulative bonuses, etc. As well as mentioning the name of users as co—authors of the changes they proposed, which turned out to be really useful.
Benefits for community members
Firstly, the presence of space for self-realization: this idea was adopted by the LEGO company, creating a community of LEGO Ideas, which brought together amateur designers of all ages. On the site, you can post photos and videos of your designs and get advice on modernization and even put your creation up for a vote. The company encourages such activity, collects ideas and regularly organizes contests.
Secondly, it allows you to test products, get access to private events, information about promotions, loyalty programs. For example, the Lululemon brand, positioning itself as a chic yoga and fitness clothing, has gathered 3.4 million people from all over the world on Instagram alone. This became possible due to the fact that brand community LULU united supporters of the healthy lifestyle cult, for whom it regularly organizes online and offline events.
Thirdly, the opportunity to be in a community of people equal in status, views on life, and sharing the same values. Thus, PHILIPPE ANDERS company creates a closed club for its clients, in which those who have purchased goods for a certain amount during the year receive discount cards, closed master classes on business communication, trips on sports cars, yachts, etc. are planned for them.
When creating a brand community, it is important that the community is created around the natural interests of the audience, and not around a specific group of products. Then the purchase offer will not be perceived negatively;
find ideas that are interesting to CA;
generate engaging content and make high-quality visual design;
identify brand ambassadors;
create and actively maintain a friendly atmosphere;
stimulate user engagement;
do not lose touch with the audience: if a person asks a question or makes a suggestion, he expects a response, not silence, which means it is important to respond promptly to requests.
If you build a strategy correctly, over time the efforts will pay off, and the brand community will actively promote the project.