What’s the reason for the new Rolls-Royce brand community?

Rolls-Royce, the legendary British marque that is world-famous for its impeccable perfectionism and exclusive clientele, has just launched a brand community app – Whispers.

Brand communities are increasingly popular among automotive marketers these days, but this is one of rare distinction. A virtual members club reportedly offering experiences like backstage access to the Grammys and Academy Awards as well as exclusive access to the Olympics and Wimbledon, Whispers offers the very best to those who expect nothing else.

But, most importantly of all, it allows users to connect with fellow Rolls-Royce owners and so creates a unique brand community. This is an add-on service for any buyer – whether automotive or otherwise – but the value of this to even an already-exceptional brand cannot be understated. This makes Whispers more than just an app; it is a golden ticket to a social and cultural network of some of the most distinguished people in the world.

Brand community and loyalty

The notion of a membership club for car brands is nothing new in itself. Either brand-led or customer-led, they usually involve meet-ups, exclusive magazines or content and partnership deals focused around the maintenance or upkeep of the car.

But the concept is getting a fresh look, and the Rolls Royce brand community Whispers is one of a wave of new automotive offerings that is tapping into key trends and expectations in the 2020 marketing landscape for both consumers and brand alike.

While marketers are often primarily focused on acquisition and tend to instinctively default to it, customer retention is increasingly important and especially so for luxury brands. While luxury brands have always seen retention as a vital part of the marketing mix, they must also contend with greater competition than ever before and creating a brand community can be an effective response to this challenge.

Creating a brand community and offering impeccable service helps nurture genuine word of mouth. Our Automotive Marketing Report outlines the new and complex world that today’s car buyers live in and just how significant word of mouth is when it comes to choosing a new car. It plays an additional – and arguably more powerful – role in the acquisition process which has become increasingly complicated and lengthy, especially for a high-ticket-price offering.

The changing face of brand communities

In our The Power of Brand Communities report, we reveal how advocacy is a key benefit and especially so for younger audiences. According to Global Web Index, the 25-37 demographic of millennials are now reaching their peak spending age. A changing of the guard is well underway and they, not their Baby Boomer forebears, are becoming today’s foremost cultural trendsetters.

Growing up in the digital era, they have famously re-evaluated their approach to traditional goods and services and the very concept of luxury itself has evolved. Ostentation is out and experiences are in. Conspicuous consumption has taken a back seat to conscious consumption. Caviar and champagne are being replaced by wellness retreats and curated zero-carbon adventures.

There are also a number of specific takeaways for luxury brands. Firstly, male millennials can be serious spenders – with many now progressing in their careers before settling down and starting families. Secondly, ‘self-treaters’ spend more on travel, household items and particularly automotive products than the average luxury buyer. Thirdly, a love of experiences and travel in purchasing mindsets indicates that great emphasis is placed on status and uniqueness. In all of these cases, a brand community can help harness these trends in a brand’s favour.

What next for brand communities?

Brand communities are also of major interest to tomorrow’s luxury customers in the form of Generation Z – a generation that has come of age with social media and has long considered using it to be instinctive. Already, 50% of this 16-24 demographic said they were members of at least one brand community. Generation Z is especially likely to discuss brands or products they’re connected with, often offline as well as online. Of those polled, 31% said they frequently discussed a brand and 57% sometimes discussed a brand – a decisive 88% in combination.

But, as we showcase in our Brand Communities report, a brand community is a very different proposition via social media. It’s how – or should that be where? – a group of people who have developed an emotional attachment or affinity towards a brand congregate in today’s communications environment, and we should remember that they will all have other components of their identity too.

Any community tends to reflect a shared sense of purpose, passion and values. For example, an audience that takes a keen interest in travel will probably appreciate an open, cosmopolitan approach to life and this can help guide thinking on voice, tone and subjects for targeted content. Using this factor intelligently and following a general trend can help strengthen a community or protect a brand from making a wrong move.

In light of all this, it makes perfect sense for Rolls-Royce to depart from its historical model and launch the Rolls-Royce brand community. Simply put, Whispers is a serious attempt to build a foundation for its future business.

We look forward to seeing how this community builds and what impact it has but, in the meantime, we can undoubtedly expect other brands to follow suit.

You can find out more about automotive brand communities through our report, Power of Brand Communities – Automotive Edit.