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Brand Communities - Brands in Strategic Marketing Guest Lecture 12.10.2011

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Henri Weijo's guest lecture on brand communities at Aalto University, Oct. 12th 2011. The lecture discussed some of the philosophical underpinnings of "community" before moving on to discussing brand communities as both a source of academic interest as well as business ventures.

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Brand Communities - Brands in Strategic Marketing Guest Lecture 12.10.2011

  1. 1. r an d !B unitiesc o m mHenri Weijo
  2. 2. Who?•  Henri Weijo•  2002-2008 MsC. in Marketing•  Doing my PhD on consumption communities:: Communities of consumption: Why they come together, stay together, grow and begin to fall apart
  3. 3. Brand communities•  Brand communities continue to be a hot topic in marketing•  I’ll go through a bit of their history and academic underpinnings
  4. 4. community!
  5. 5. What’s a ”community?”•  A seemingly straightforward idea, but it’s actually one of the most debated concepts in ALL social sciences•  It has puzzled philosophers like Weber, Durkheim and Mauss with no clear consensus emerging•  First emerged in the English language in the 14th century
  6. 6. Tönnies’ ”ideal” dichotomy•  Ferdinand Tönnies’ (1887) : gemeinschaft und gesellschaft  community and society•  ”Society” refers to groups sustained by instrumentality to their members’ aims and goals (mechanical, contractual, rational)•  ”Community” refers to groups that are held together by feeling of togetherness and mutual bonds (natural, serendipitious)
  7. 7. Some characteristics•  There are some common characteristics we have come to know about communities•  Thorne (2006): membership…shared location…shared cultural practices and values… interpersonally meaningful relationships…commitment…reciprocity… collective goods and resources…sense of shared identity…generally social formations that are durative over time
  8. 8. Some characteristics•  However, they are contested•  For example, virtual communities (Rheingold, 1993) for example severely problematizes the notion of ”place” in communities•  And of course, consumption communities are just the tip of the iceberg in terms these ”new” types of communities
  9. 9. 1. Consciousness of kind2. Shared rituals and traditions3. Sense of duty and moral obligationMuniz & O’Guinn (2001)
  10. 10. Communality?•  There are two competing views on whether we are becoming more or less communal (as a whole)•  The ”less” crowd says traditional communities are under threat (e.g. ”Bowling Alone”)•  The ”more” crowd embraces new forms of community (e.g. Maffesoli ”Neo Tribes”)
  11. 11. What’s a ”community?”•  ”Community” is a typically priviliged and idealized account in social sciences (e.g. Etzioni, 1995) –  ”What is most important, perhaps, is that unlike all other terms of social organization (state, nation, society, etc.) [community] seems never to be used unfavourably” (Williams, 1976)•  Some claim the concept has become so diluted it means nothing and everything (e.g. Fernback, 2007)
  12. 12. ”We need morecommunality in Finland!”
  13. 13. Consumption communities•  Consumption communities have become a staple topic in the field of consumer culture theory (CCT)•  We’ve learned of brand communities (Saab), subcultures of consumption (Harley Davidson), fan communities (Star Trek), brand cults (Apple) and others
  14. 14. Consumption communities•  However, these are not just different names for the same phenomena•  There are distinct differences between them•  How they interact is a major dividing issue
  15. 15. Consumption communities•  For example, subcultures have certain similarities with brand communities (e.g., shared ethos, acculturation patterns, status hierarchies)•  However, subcultures usually go against society and culture at large, often in a anti-commercial ethos
  16. 16. Consumption communities•  Brand communities, on the other hand, embrace society at large•  They often also have a pro-market ethos (Muniz & O’Guinn 2001)  NOT always!
  17. 17. !Brand communities!”Community is formed around one good or service,not many. They are explicitly commercial socialcollectives centered around a brand, not incidentalcontact with commercial space. […] This is aboutbrands. This is the tie that binds.”Muniz & O’Guinn 2001
  18. 18. Brand communities•  Academic interest in brand communities started to emerge in the mid 90s•  But thanks to the online age, the interest has boomed•  Brand communities have become an integral part of marketing strategies
  19. 19. Brand communities•  ”Liberated from geography” (Wellman, 1979) and ”influenced by a mass- mediated sensibility” (McLuhan, 1964)•  Brand communities are imagined communities  (Boorstin 1974) “created and preserved by how and what men consumed.”•  Explicitly commercial social collectives centered around a brand
  20. 20. How do brand communities form?•  It usually requires a rather strong or even iconic (dare I say niche?) brand to get a community going•  If the brand has a strong competitor or seems somehow ”under threat”, the better•  Apple, Saab, Jeep, Harley Davidson, Holga,
  21. 21. ”All of this highlights the active rolebrand community members have in thesocial construction of brand meaning,and thus the brand. This involvesaccommodation, negotiation, textrejection, interpretation, evaluation, anduse of communal symbol systems. In ourbrand communities, the marketer is oftenregarded as having too much say in thebrands future. The brands veryownership is contested.”Muniz & O’Guinn (2001)
  22. 22. So why arebrandcommmunitiesimportant?
  23. 23. Marketing purpose of BC’s•  It’s very ”marketing du jour” to speak of involving your consumers through ”co- creation” (Prahalad and Ramaswamy, 2000; Prahalad and Ramaswamy, 2002; Prahalad and Ramaswamy, 2004a; Prahalad and Ramaswamy, 2004b)•  Brand communities are an obvious target for these efforts, because that’s where your consumers are
  24. 24. Marketing purpose of BC’s•  Brand communities are seen as a source for (marketer perspective): –  New ideas (speeding up R&D) –  word of mouth (or basically, marketing) –  even free labour (Zwick et al 2008)
  25. 25. ”[Brand] community is a potentstrategy if it is approached withthe right mind-set and skills. Astrong brand community increasescustomer loyalty, lowers marketingcosts, authenticates brandmeanings, and yields an influx ofideas to grow the business.”Fournier & Lee (2009)
  26. 26. Different types of communities•  People (and managers in particular) sometimes forget that all brand communities are alike•  Some are closer to the company or even maintained by them (e.g. Cova & Pace 2006)•  Some are loosely organized and very ”far” from the company (e.g. Jenkins 2006; Ludicke 2006)
  27. 27. Different types of communities•  Right now brand communities have become a tad synonymous with online communities•  However, the online element is only a slice of the community life•  In fact, communities that meet physically are more likely to be stronger (generally speaking)
  28. 28. Fournier & Lee (2009)•  Fournier & Lee list 7 myths of brand communities (from a marketer’s perspective)•  Published in Harvard Business Review
  29. 29. • MYTH: A brand community is a marketing strategy• REALITY: A brand community is a business strategy
  30. 30. • MYTH: A brand community exists to serve the business• REALITY: A brand community exists to serve the people in it
  31. 31. Schau et al 2009:•  Brand community practices: – endow participants with cultural capital (and create competition) – produce a repertoire for insider sharing – generate consumption opportunities – evince brand community vitality
  32. 32. • MYTH: Build the brand, and the community will follow• REALITY: Engineer the community, and the brand will be strong
  33. 33. QUESTION: In what kind of(if any) community are YOUa member in or are awareof?
  34. 34. • MYTH: Brand communities should be lovefests for faithful brand advocated• REALITY: Smart companies embrace the conflicts that make communities thrive
  35. 35. • MYTH: Opinion leaders build strong communities• REALITY: Communities are strongest when everyone play a role
  36. 36. ... (2) which will 1. Keep these guysattract a following for happy, or at leastthe brand… tolerant of the brand by defending the populist world and its ethos ... (3) and the rest will follow Holt 2004
  37. 37. • MYTH: Online social networks are the key to a community strategy• REALITY: Online networks are just one tool, not a community strategy
  38. 38. • MYTH: Successful brand communities are tightly managed and controlled• REALITY: Of and by the people, communities defy managerial control
  39. 39. Other best practices•  Pretesting marketing communications/products within the community•  Making the community members feeling like exclusive customers•  Increasingly, increasing transparency about the organizatio to create trust
  40. 40. Other best practices•  Knowledge sharing, educating•  But overall, just being there and listening (I think) is the best practice for brand communities right now•  If you don’t know how to engage your consumers, you might do more harm than good by going in
  41. 41. Where are BC’s going?•  The ”hot topic” status of brand communities may have hurt the academic discussion a bit•  Now everything is a brand community•  The term is being thrown around loosely
  42. 42. Where are BC’s going?•  Marketers aren’t entirely without fault here, either•  Some communities have had to resist cooptation and are not necessarily too enthusiastic about this newly found interest
  43. 43. Where are BC’s going?•  Is it enough that consumers ”know” there are ”others like me” how like the brand?•  When is a consumption practice a ritual, when just ”the way you use it”?
  44. 44. !RESEARCHER: Why do you think [the community] is holding together?!!PARTICIPANT: Well, relating to that I’m going to be quite cynical and say and it’s staying together because of the old flame. [...] And I’m not really surprised, because I think the for discussion forums as such has passed. People aren’t as such interested in discussion forums, but the discussion forums that were born during their boom period, they have this sort of staying power and they’re going to be up and running for as long as the active members are willing to feed it.!
  45. 45. Conclusion•  Brand communities: hot topic both in management and in academia•  ”Community” a very loaded and troubled concept philosophically•  But as future marketers, right now I think the best practice is to be ”there”… watching and learning
  46. 46. Researching brand communities•  Ethnography (particularly netnography) a key approach•  However, some really interesting quantitative approaches as well, for example network analysis
  47. 47. Researching brand communities•  If you’re interested in doing a master’s thesis on brand communities (or any consumption community), the department has a lot of expertise in supervising the work

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