Thursday, October 20, 2011

Making Brand Communities Work

What has the potential to be a powerful market-research lab, early-warning system and customer-loyalty builder? I guess the title gave it away.

I was inspired this week when I found an old article posted on Wall Street Journal regarding online communities. The authors remind us of the potentials of insights and the opportunity for strengthening the bond between our brands and the customers we work to satisfy with brand communities. If you remember my last post, I reinforced some of the struggles that market research leadership faces: time and money. Communities can offer insights, at a reasonable price and with a quick turn around:

"At a fraction of the cost of traditional marketing programs, a well-designed brand community can be used to conduct market research with very quick turn-around; generate and test ideas for product innovations; deliver prompt and high-quality service to customers with a problem; strengthen the attachments that existing customers feel toward the brand; and increase good publicity through word-of-mouth."

To get it right, here’s what we can do:

  1. 1. Stop controlling everything. Whether it’s good or bad, let it fly. Having an outlet where the person knows they are being heard is sometimes all they need. Allow the customers to help each other and discuss any negative or positive experiences with the brand

  2. 2. Welcome diversity. Don’t only seek visitors who fit the profile of the brand, rather seek potential customers who may bring a well-rounded outside perspective to the brand. Find people that use the brand differently, at different frequencies, and watch them converse.

  3. 3. Give visitors ways of interacting. Don’t just have the community to garner a relationship between a brand representative and the customer; give the customers a way to communicate with one another (hence the brand “community,” right?). Allowing a customer-run site that has options for personal profiles, pictures, histories, etc. lets people feel that they are a part of something special and create bonds with people that share similar interests.

  4. 4. If you can’t be like the fan sites, at least monitor and support them. So you can’t start your own brand community. If you have a brand that people are passionate about and seek feedback from others via the web, the sites are out there for you to monitor and support. Whether people are getting together to talk about their passion or their disappointments for the brand, the insights are meaningful and worth following.

While the article is aged (2009), I find the content incredibly relevant as many of us are still trying to find our ways in the world of communities.

For more insights of online brand communities, visit The Market Research Event in Orlando!

Garrett McGuire (@GJMcGuire) is a Consumer Insights Analyst for a major retailer. His areas of focus are advertising research, brand equity, and providing consumer insights for many marketing initiatives. Prior to his current position, he was a graduate student at Michigan State University where he began his blog, "The Journal of a mAD Man," that explains the theories and methods of advertising.

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