Your Brand Doesn’t Belong to You: The Age of the Brand Community
Your customers have a lot of potential when it comes to creating and maintaining your brand. Here's how to tap it.
Despite the previously popular belief, brands don’t belong to a single team or person. They’re the responsibility of a whole organization - you can learn about this in our guide to Brand Stewardship.
Brand identities are created by designers, developers, and marketers. Brand experiences are offered by sales representatives, frontline employees, HR departments, and customer support teams. And brand perceptions are enhanced by the work of partners and vendors.
However, we don’t often consider the impact our customers have on the creation and maintenance of our brands. As a result, we don’t fully tap into their influence, and we miss out on opportunities to expand our reach through them.
Fortunately, it’s easy to create space for customers to shape and enhance your brand. All you have to do is spark the creation of a brand community and get out of the way so your customers can make it their own.
What Is a Brand Community?
Brand communities are groups of people that form around brands simply because they love certain aspects of the brand. They may share a passion for the products or services or just appreciate the culture and values the brand promotes. Regardless of the specifics, these people come together over a shared fondness for a brand’s offerings.
Now obviously, a definition can’t fully capture all the nuances of a brand community. So, to give you a little more context, here are 3 examples of brand communities that are thriving in 2020.
3 Brand Communities Taking the World by Storm
The athletic world loves Lululemon. And not just for their athletic gear either. The fact is, Lululemon is one of many brands that successfully sell a “lifestyle” on top of the high-quality products they manufacture.
How do they do that? A few different ways. For one, they post inspirational quotes and create shared hashtags for their community members, rather than simply posting about their sales and products on social media.
At the same time, they create opportunities to engage with their community in real life – by selling products at yoga studios and HIIT gyms, hosting athletic events and classes of their own, and offering healthy refreshments in some of their stores for guests to enjoy.
This approach has built an impressive community around Lululemon’s brand, as customers regularly spend lots of money on their products (often upward of €60 for a single shirt or pair of leggings). They also engage with the brand on social media by sharing posts with Lululemon’s hashtags, and many set aside their Saturday mornings to attend exclusive Lululemon events. The community has even sparked the transformation of many customers into brand advocates who share their newfound love for the “sweat life” with friends and family.
All that being said, it’s no surprise that those in Lululemon’s community are lovingly referred to as “Luluheads.”
Anyone who’s ever heard of Harley Davidson knows they don’t just have a proud following, they have an exclusive community.
But the members don’t just wave at each other on the road or stop and chat at gas stations. They actively participate in community events, sport company logos, and patches, and read an exclusive Harley Davidson magazine that’s sent out multiple times a year.
Harley Davidson even hosts events (like ride alongs) that only those who own a Harley are allowed to attend. This, while many outsiders may feel left out, has made a strong and happy community.
If you want to see a brand with a fanatic following, look no further than Nike. Despite the large price tag, people all over the globe are willing (and eager) to pay top dollar to sport the Nike logo in a small corner of their shirt, shoes, or shorts.
And while some are more casual shoppers, others are determined to only wear Nike products (rather than buying a competitor’s like UnderArmour). There are even some who travel long distances to visit a Nike Outlet or set aside part of their vacation specifically to visit The Nike Store. Why? Because they love it that much.
At the same time, many Nike wearers also use Nike’s exclusive apps to connect with others who play their sport, start pick-up games, access top workouts, track their performance, and keep up-to-date on the latest trends and news.
And most follow Nike on social media channels like Instagram and Twitter. It’s no wonder, though. Their messaging resonates with people, regardless of whether you come across it on Instagram, YouTube, or on television at halftime. And their products are great.
3 Amazing Benefits of Using Brand Communities to Build Your Brand
At this point, you’ve likely realized there are many of the benefits that brand communities offer businesses. You may even be able to guess what they are. But to make sure we leave no stone unturned, here are a few of the major benefits that brand communities bring to the table.
1. Easier Retention (More Loyalty, Less Money)
It’s no secret that retaining customers is a more effective and affordable way to make sales. After all, loyal customers make up nearly 65% of a business’ revenue. And they’re more likely to stick with you and purchase products regularly, even if your price tag is larger than your competitors’.
But one thing you may not know is that brand communities are actually a great way to boost customer retention (and grab all the benefits we just mentioned). The reason for that? Brand communities keep your customers connected to your brand, even when they aren’t actively buying anything. They also give your customers lots of ways to interact with your brand – like attending classes, engaging with other customers, and connecting with you on social media.
This means your customers can develop a deeper relationship with your brand, and incorporate your products into more aspects of their life.
2. Authentic Brand Ambassadors (Awareness & Referrals)
Another really great benefit of brand communities is the added reach it gives your marketing efforts.
Think about it this way: As customers get more involved in your community (and the community becomes part of their personal lifestyle), they’ll be more likely to talk about it with friends and family and encourage people to join them.
And since 90% of people trust word-of-mouth referrals made by friends and family, this advocacy can lead to an uptick in new customers and brand community members. And the best part about it is, it’s free.
That means, by simply giving your customers a way to engage with your brand and each other, you can actually raise your overall sales numbers.
3. More User-Generated Content
Your audience cares more about what your current customers have to say about you, than what you have to say about yourself. After all, your salespeople, marketing team, and customer support team have a lot more skin in the game than your customers do. And your customers are less likely to be biased.
One of the key ways your audience can get access to your customers’ opinions is via user-generated content (or content that’s created authentically by your customers).
And brand communities offer an opportunity for your customers to create more user-generated content, as they encourage people to share their experiences on social media, talk about your brand in their blog posts, share video reviews of your products on YouTube, and lots more.
This means your leads can learn about your business from their peers, while your community members can engage more deeply with your brand. Everyone wins, including you.
Building an impactful brand takes a lot of time and people. But there are ways to make it easier. By creating brand communities that give your customers partial ownership over your brand, you can tap into their influence, reach, and credibility as well.