Brands and their Platforms

Increasingly brand communities enjoy a growing appeal among marketers and CEOs. Rather than with social media, companies want to get their message out through owned platforms and real brand communities.

While many of today’s brands entirely focus on using online communities to tease content, talk about themselves or share what good they do, success is increasingly being measured by actions taken in the offline world. With the advent of social media, companies took an “uncouciously” anti-social approach to communities by merely focusing on publishing content about their brands rather than truly enabling customer-brand interaction and fostering discussion. However, it is not the goal of a community to just have them like, comment, and share, but to connect and actively interact between individuals with similar needs, behavior, or values.

Happily, state-of-the-art marketers are demonstrating that these behaviors are slowly but surely starting to change. Marketers are putting their communities at the center of their efforts by embracing the content that is being generated by its members. By doing so, clever brands are driving an authentic form of engagement and ultimately a true brand-customer interaction. Real communities allow for peer-to-peer support to improve product usage or how to optimize tactics of an Xbox game. But more importantly, they provide an opportunity for sharing success stories about using a product or service with friends and like-minded people.

“Communities are not a random gathering of like-minded, but a group of people who have come together for a real purpose.”

Both functions support and sharing success can’t exist solely on external social networks, but need to be incorporated into a brand’s owned platform. By doing so, brands gain in authenticity and become significantly more personal which lays down the basis for them to truly connect with their community. Because of this reason, many of todays powerful brands increasingly seek to not only add the opportunity to socially interact on a general level, but to add the capability for the brands to interact with their consumers in a more personal fashion. The core benefit for this personal connection constitutes the fact that it enables a more meaningful conversation between brand and consumer, establishing continuous interaction, increasing the bond, and ultimately improving the consumer-brand relationship.

However, in todays content-saturated world consumers only connect to brands in a very relevant way. In other words, they’re not looking for any random value added but seek for true, meaningful conversations. Communities are not a random gathering of like-minded, but a group of people who have come together for a real purpose. It is that particular reason which is the vital criteria for a community to be successful.

We now from social media that people truly want to connect, however, for a brand is it crucial where the community should reside. Of course, social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram or Pinterest have huge advantages, particularly due to the fact that hundres of thousand potential consumers already have an account. Though, from a brand’s perspective, communities that reside on a brand’s website or owned platform allow brands to develop even deeper relationships with their consumers. Companies with owned community platforms are able to manage and own data about their consumers, and leverage all benefits that come with it.

Over the last decades, brands as Harley Davidson, Starbucks, Procter & Gamble, and Oracle have already been operating successful communities. The Harley Davidson Brand Community — Harley Owners Group (HOG) has been around for a long time, allowing for fans to come together wherever they may travel or live. HOG is a brand community which lives from its unique lifestyle which stands for nothing else than pure freedom. Starbucks built a remarkeable community around My Starbucks Idea. Participation in this community allows customers to directly interact with the company, suggesting changes, improvements, and new ideas. Since launch in 2008, Starbucks has been actively listening to its customers and has implemented hundreds of ideas that came from its devoted followers. Meanwhile, Proctor & Gamble’s established the Being a Girl community for its Tampax and Always brands, an online platform entirely dedicated to discussing the process of becoming a woman ranging form menstruation to love affairs. Not only fast moving consumer goods, but also Sotware can have large and well-functioning communities. Probably one of the best examples here is Oracle which counts thousands of community members dedicated to helping out new users.

Obviously, creating loyalty programs is nothing new and has been around for many years. Though taking loyalty to the next level by leveraging loyal customers to promote the brand through personal recommendation and thus drive new sales has gained a lot of interest among marketers and chief executive officers. From wealth management to food to pet accessories, a lot of capital is being invested in this idea, which is deemed as crucial when trying to establish true advantages over competitor.