A Netnographic Study of The A1 Chase An online commercial community


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This is a netnographic study - an online approach to ethnography - of “The A1 Chase”, a commercial community launched by Audi Ireland in September 2010 on Facebook, during an online communication campaign for the release of the new Audi A1 in Ireland. The author explores and analyses the relationship between the brand and the community members as well as the community’s culture thanks to non-participatory observation and discourse analysis as research tools.

Brands planning to interact with social networks are today facing dilemmas to engage their audience. On one hand they may seek to control the communication environment making sure that the message come through clearly. On the other hand, a true social network implies members feeling a sense of ownership of the community and there is evidence that individuals may be resentful of corporate intrusion in what is perceived to be their own community space (croft, 2008; Hitwise, 2008 in Palmer and Koenig-Lewis, 2010).

With the emergence and growth of social networking sites, and especially “fan” pages on facebook.com leading social networking site, setting communities has never been as easy for brands that planned to interact with their audience. These “fan” pages, used for brands to engage their audience online and communicate with long-term and short-term objectives are producer-led communities because they are mostly led by brands.

The young adult audience is largely present on social networking sites as they spend several hours a day connecting with their peers. Several studies have shown that teenagers and young adults tend to be more difficult for brands to reach with classical mass media for several reasons:

- They consume less mass media than their elder peers.
- If they consume mass media they are likely to be consuming other media at the same time, especially digital media so their brain time available is low.
- They have become more resistant to mass marketing and it is very difficult for marketers to engage them with traditional messages

These are some of the multiple reasons why brands are looking forward to engage their audience online, being as close as possible to them and starting the conversation on the social networking sites channels.

Why choosing the Audi A1 Chase campaign Facebook “fan” Page community?
The Audi A1 chase campaign gives us a genuine example of what a short-term producer-led community is.

This research provides marketers and community managers insightful information on the brand-community interactions and a better understanding of community response to brand incentives in a social-networking site context. Developing a better understanding of the consumer and community response can lead to more effective practices in terms of engaging a community of consumers in a social networking context.

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A Netnographic Study of The A1 Chase An online commercial community

  1. 1. A Netnographic Study of “The A1 Chase” An online commercialcommunity created and animated by Audi Ireland June 29, 2011 Jonathan Vielmas
  2. 2. Introduction Why a community management problematic ? Why “The A1 Chase” community ? The Objectives of the Study: To gain a better understanding of community management issues, in the context of social media, through the examination of:  Brand-audience relationship  Community’s culture and centrality of consumption activity
  3. 3. IntroductionPresentation Structure:1. The Context: “The A1 Chase” Community2. Methodology: A Netnographic Study3. Findings and Implications
  4. 4. 1. The Context: “The A1 Chase” Community
  5. 5. 1. The Context: “The A1 Chase” CommunityAiming the new A1 to a younger Audience for the Car launch inIreland Audi set up a whole online experience as a campaign: A two weeks online and offline “treasure hunt” game allowing winner to drive away the Audi A1 http://vimeo.com/15646704 A Facebook page hosting the community to support brand communication and permanent communication between the participants +
  6. 6. 1. The Context: “The A1 Chase”CommunityThe combination of the Facebook page “The A1 Chase” and theonline Treasure hunt gave birth to a community featuring: Interactions as shown by thousands of „wall posts‟ and comments written by community members A real community culture with production of user generated content and emergence of „insiders‟ Branded communications and branded content +
  7. 7. 2. Methodology: A Netnographic StudyWhat is Netnography ?Adapted from Ethnography as a research tool. Studies peoplebehaviors, opinions, motives and concerns in onlinecommunities. Allows to dig into community’s culture andidentify membership and relationship patterns.Observational Netnography or Participatory NetnographyA Netnographic Study is thus adequate to examine:  Brand-audience relationship  Community’s culture and centrality of consumption activitySource : Kozinets (1999, 2002, 2010).
  8. 8. 2. Methodology: A Netnographic Study Data collected through Netnography:Artifacts (Texts such as downloaded files of user postings,transcripts of virtual worlds or chat sessions, videos,pictures, music, e-mail exchanges) + Researcher’s Fieldnotes Qualitative data analysis for Netnography:  Content analysis  Discourse analysis  Semantic analysis  Semiotics  Social Network Analysis
  9. 9. 2. Methodology: A Netnographic StudyHow was the netnography of “The A1 Chase” leaded ? Non-participatory observation of the community activity. Discourse Analysis of member interaction and Artifacts (user generated poems to celebrate the A1 Chase experience).
  10. 10. 3. Findings and ImplicationsOn Brand-Community relationships: The brand created a total experience of game and then behaved as an administrator during the campaign. There is no intense interaction between the brand and the members in the community. This intense exposure to the brand occurs through the gaming experience. The participants are satisfied by the global experience but sometimes blame the brand for its lack of communication.
  11. 11. 3. Findings and ImplicationsOn Community Culture:The nature of the interactions between the members of thecommunity is mainly bound to the activity of consumption (The A1Chase):  This is the subject that drives community members discussions  The activity of the community slowed down and ceased after the operation  The content (poems) created by insiders shows that the activity of consumption is central to the community culture“Insiders” are the main culture creators of the community:  They wrote poems about the chase and created content  They were the last members to be in activity  They know each other and exchange personal communications  They identify themselves as insiders
  12. 12. 3. Findings and ImplicationsWhat happened ? A strong brand experience and the use of onlinesocial media to give birth to a Community around a brandedproduct.Implications from a Marketing point of view:  This engaging experience creates much more contact with the brand and the product than traditional media  Branded communications through playful experience and social dimension differ from intrusive marketing communications  Community members are encouraged to share and discuss about their experience, thus launching the conversation and the word of mouth  This practice seems interesting to target a new audience and make them realize that the product is actually tailored to their needs.
  13. 13. ConclusionThis final year dissertation was an opportunity to graspthe challenges of leading academic researchLiterature on consumer groups, online communities andsocial media was reviewed.A netnographic methodology to analyse “The A1 Chase”was set using non participatory observation and discourseanalysisThe results reveal that a strong brand experience andthe use of online social media to give birth to aCommunity around a branded product is a new andinteresting practice that deserves further research.