Brand community is a community created independently or by a company to express shared interest in a particular product or “brand.” This is literally anything that stirs interest, such as a type of car, computer manufacturer, handheld device, or specific cookware. Community location can be online, or events could be held in the real world where brand enthusiasts can gather together. Company-sponsored events feature activities or engagements likely to be enjoyed by brand enthusiasts.
Throughout history, private individuals have formed enthusiast groups that center around activities or products. In recent years, companies have shown increasing interest in developing brand communities. Many companies do significant research to determine what interests people with brand loyalty share, and then they may create online communities or have events for brand loyalists in order to reinforce interest in the brand. This may create lifetime preferencing of the brand.
People who are loyal to a brand to the point where they would participate in a brand community can become a legion of word of mouth advertisers. They may passionately advocate that friends or family should drive a specific car or use a certain computer, in addition to buying the brand each time they require replacement. The more members of the brand community feel they are cared for by the company and other brand users, the more likely they’ll try to convince others to use the brand, too.
Construction of a brand community depends on the company, and constructions of these communities are not just aimed at passionate adults. X cereal company might build an interactive website to promote Chocolate Oats, which is aimed at children. It could provide access to some of the interests kids share, like a variety of small, easy to play games. To promote brand loyalty with parents, there could be links to nutritional information, parenting tips, etc., so that an entire family hopefully becomes a part of the community. How successful X cereal company is really depends on quality of the website and accuracy with which the company has gauged the interests of its brand loyalists.
Most types of the brand community are established online as part of a company website, but many companies also have events. Apple® Expo brings together brand loyalists with many demonstrations of products or introductions of new ones that can be very exciting to those interested in the brand. On the other hand, it tends to be easier and cheaper to make use of websites, and these can be considered Web 2.0 or interactive.
Some argue that brand community is not truly about brand; it’s about underlying interests. A few people suggest that when people no longer own the brand, they often stay involved in a community because of their connection to others or because the community speaks to underlying interests. This argument posits that loyalty to community becomes more important than loyalty to brand, and if so, company creation of communities doesn’t necessarily result in creating lifetime customers.