Brand communities are not necessarily a new thing – they sometimes constitute membership clubs – but are (and should be) increasingly part of the loyalty marketing mix providing a unique experience for consumers beyond the much more casual connections created through direct marketing or social media.
Definition of brand community
‘A brand community is a group of people who have developed an emotional attachment or affinity towards a brand after purchasing their products or engaging with their services in some way. The community reflects a shared sense of purpose, passion and values, inspiring them to seek connections beyond interactions on social media.’
Arguably, this should be the ‘holy grail’ of marketing. However, the marketing communication mix often focuses at the front end of the sales channel and the poll we conducted in our report where we quizzed 100 B2C marketers confirmed this. We discovered that 35% of marketers say new customers are their sole focus compared to just 26% who are targeting retention.
As a result, so many brands are doing a disservice to their most engaged audiences, who crave a deeper experience – and in return are more likely to become brand advocates.
Benefits of brand communities
The bottom line is indeed the bottom line: how we treat our existing clients is key in increasing repeat customers. Focusing on retention by just 5% can boost profits by up to 90%, according to a survey by Invesp.
But sales are not the only benefit: advocacy is a key benefit too – and especially for the 16-to-24 year old audience. This demographic are much more likely to discuss brands or products they’re connected with directly with their friends offline once they’ve seen or received news or information from the brand. Of those polled, 31% admit to frequently discussing the brand and 57% sometimes discussing the brand.
Repeat customers are active consumers
Gone are the days where consumers are passive recipients for brands – they are now active participants in brand worlds. Brand communities therefore play a key role in this two-way communication. And what’s encouraging is 52% of consumers (of all ages) say they could be encouraged to join a brand community with 22% wanting first access to sales and promos, and 17% exclusive experiences; 16% value an early look at new products/services.
Brand community examples
There are a variety of brands across all sectors already working in this space and reaping the benefits from outdoor clothing brand Patagonia to beauty experts Sephora, from sportswear giants Adidas to motorcycle brand, Harley Davidson, whose community we’ve long nurtured.
Patagonia nurtures its fanbase through its Patagonia Action Works connecting people with local initiatives to help counteract climate change, Adidas turns its consumers into brand advocates by making the experience fun; while Sephora has given its most ardent customers an open line of communication to its experts and fellow shoppers through a dedicated makeup app. You can discover more about these brand communities in our report.
Ultimately, the opportunities in this space can’t be ignored – to do so is like leaving money on the table.