No matter the name of your brand, the industry you operate in, the products you make or the services you sell; your potential customers, fans and followers are your most valuable asset. They are the thing that improves your brand awareness. Through shared experiences, engagement, advocacy, sales and revenue, happy customers are the difference between a company that’s surviving and a brand community that’s thriving. In this handy guide to online customer communities, we’ll take a look at some good brand communities examples, the benefits of creating a strong customer community and some of the best ways to build an online community.
One of the simplest, most affordable and effective ways to create a really happy customer base is to build a brand community for them to join and participate in. Successfully creating a customer community around your brand can turn your brand into a lifestyle, rather than just a product or service. So, let’s look at some of the best brand communities examples.
Building an amazing brand community was what took Apple from near bankruptcy in 1997 to being the leading contender in the race to become the first Trillion-Dollar Company in 2018. Steve Jobs really understood the importance of building a lifestyle rather than a product.
And that’s exactly what Apple has achieved. First with the iMac, then the iPod and now the iPhone. On the surface, they were selling tech products. Sure, they would be really useful, like any other mobile phone. But they wouldn’t change your lifestyle. Right?
Wrong! Apple’s awesome marketing campaigns never just focused on the tech product themselves. They sold a lifestyle. The people you see in Apple’s advertising campaigns illustrate the huge number of opportunities that can be unlocked using Apple products. Apple fully understood their target audience and created a team of brand enthusiasts happy to wax lyrical about their products.
Groups of people easily making plans and meeting up with each other. People running together and tracking their fitness progress. People taking beautiful photos of beautiful scenery and sharing them with each other. These aren’t all things that were naturally associated with smartphones and tech when Apple first started these campaigns. But they are now. And that’s part of what made them so successful.
All of this together sold a beautiful lifestyle. It wasn’t just about the tech. It was about the opportunities that this tech offered and the connections that could be made using Apple products. And Apple really lent into this community-driven lifestyle aspect of their brand identity, with ideas and educational initiatives like Apple field trip and Apple Camp.
Through all of this, Apple became part of a lifestyle and, around that lifestyle, a community of loyal customers grew. This brand community is without a doubt the saving grace of Apple and the driving force behind its massive, rapid growth and one of the best examples of brand messaging to add to our list.
Harley Davidson is another great brand building example. In 1983, the motorcycle manufacturer founded the Harley Owners Group (HOG) – the world’s greatest motorcycle club. HOG offers Harley owners a chance to become part of a like-minded, lifestyle club. Benefits include HOG events, HOG handbooks and a quarterly magazine. Just for HOG members.
The beauty of this brand community lies in its simplicity and brand message. It’s not offering its members anything out of the ordinary. And what’s on offer doesn’t cost Harley Davidson a lot of money. But it really harnesses the fact that Harley Davidson’s target audience see their motorbikes as a lifestyle.
Harley-Davidson lent into the rebellious, free, independent lifestyle that people naturally saw in their product. And it became the main thing that huge groups of in the US – and then the world – had in common. All Harley Davidson had to do was gather these people and bring them together into a closed community. Which is exactly what they did with HOG.
Harley-Davidson is one of the brand communities examples that has been on the market since 1903 through some difficult economic times and turned them into the successful, thriving company that they are today.
3. Fender Guitars
If you’re a guitar player (like me :)) or you engage with the Fender brand, you may have noticed that Fender are stepping up their online community game. Fender are proud that their guitars are for life. They are quality-made guitars that will grow old with the owner and only sound better with time. This is one of Fender’s unique selling points.
The problem with this, however, is that this limits the amount of repeat custom they will ever receive from their customers. Sure, there are those super-engaged customers who have the cash to build out a collection of Telecaster and Stratocaster guitars. But that will most likely be limited only to a small group of super-engaged customers. For the majority of people, they’ll only ever buy one or two guitars from Fender.
So, Fender introduced their brand community: Fender Play – an online guitar forum and teaching service for budding guitarists. Customers pay a monthly fee to become part of the online Fender community and be taught how to play guitar by some of Fender’s professional musicians. Customers can connect with each other, whilst establishing a deeper connection with the Fender brand message. We were very excited to add Fender Guitars to our top brand communities examples list.
4. The Rolling Stones
The Rolling Stones are often referred to as the greatest rock band of all time. They have one of the most recognisable logos in the world. You know the one. And they have one of the biggest fanbases in the world. I mean, 19 million people follow them on Facebook.
Their problem, though, was that it’s really difficult to make money from a social media following. Even if it’s 19 million people.
This is because advertising on social media is expensive. According to AdEspresso, the average cost per click on Facebook advertising in 2017 was $1.72. Furthermore, the cost of reaching 1000 people on Facebook is around $10.
Now that may not sound like much. But that means it would cost The Rolling Stones ~ $190,000 to reach all of their fans with their advertising on Facebook. And that’s before they’ve even clicked on anything!
The Rolling Stones wanted to get some of their control back. After all, these people are their fans who want to see content from the band they love. They shouldn’t have to pay to reach them.
So we helped them build a place where they could gather their most engaged fans. A dedicated app community in which they can communicate with 100% of the superfans who follow them. There are no complex algorithms that decide which content makes it into their fans’ news feeds. There are no other distractions in the app; no other brands competing for space. It’s just them and their customers.
And the fans are happy. They have a place to interact with each other whilst seeing exclusive content from The Rolling Stones and communicating with the band they love. The result is a really strong brand message and community. We are really proud that one of the best brand communities examples is hosted on one of our online community platforms!
5. Matt Hancock
Matt Hancock is a British politician and one of the most surprising brand communities examples. He’s both Minister of Parliament for West Suffolk and secretary of state for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport. This essentially means that he fulfills two roles politically.
Firstly, he’s in the Prime Minister’s cabinet. As Minister for Digital, Culture Media and Sport, he leads on policy decisions around things such as arts & culture, creative industries, sport and tourism. These decisions are made at a national level and affect everyone in all areas of the United Kingdom.
Secondly, Matt is a Minister of Parliament (MP) for his constituency – West Suffolk. This means that he has been elected as the parliamentary representative for the county of West Suffolk. In effect, he is the voice for all of the people in West Suffolk in terms of policy. Therefore, it’s really important that he knows what’s going on in his constituency and what matters to the people he represents, so that he can raise these issues in Parliament and help his constituents.
In our platform, Matt saw an opportunity to help him perform these two roles. By building a brand community with us, he established a new form of direct, Digital democracy. One in which he could gather an audience of his constituents from West Suffolk to communicate to them whilst connecting and interacting with them.
Matt uses his app to tell his constituents about the work he’s doing but also – more importantly – to listen to their concerns and find out about the issues that really matter to them. His constituents have their own wall on which they can raise issues and discuss things with each other.
The app’s native post-ranking system automatically pushes the posts with the most likes and comments to the top of the wall. Hashtags gather together posts about the same topic. This means that Matt can instantly see which topics are trending or are a concern for a high number of people.
Whilst this may not be a traditional understanding of a brand community – as Matt is in a government role – his app functions in a similar way to a brand community. He is gathering a community, not only of his supporters but also those who question his policies, in order to engage them and build a brand community around the role of secretary of state for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.
6. Glow Guides by Madeleine Shaw
Madeleine Shaw is a well-known and much loved Health and Wellness influencer. She is known particularly for her lessons in yoga, mindfulness and healthy cooking. Madeleine has established a large social media following but – as is often the case – found that she could not engage or monetise that social following.
She wanted to bring her most engaged fans, followers and students into her own brand community, into which she could build in-app purchases and turn all that engagement into revenue. So that’s exactly what we helped her do!
Madeleine’s brand community app is one of the most interesting brand communities examples from the commercial standpoint. The app is free to download and free users get access to a limited amount of the in-app content. They see what Madeleine is posting about and can see some of the classes and recipes.
But, if her fans, followers and students want unlimited access to all of her content, classes and recipes, they need to purchase Madeleine’s 8-week health and wellness program for £49.99/$70. This is a one-off purchase and gives app users access to eight weeks of structured recipes and classes as well as unlimited access to all content in the app.
And this is the fundamental difference between her online brand community app and social media. She has much more control over how she publishes content and monetises her following. When posting to the app, Madeleine and her team have the option to make posts exclusive, meaning that only paying users can see that piece of content.
This allows her to build exclusivity and value into her content, which in turn allows her to make money from her online brand community.
Building a brand community: Putting it all together
Now that you’ve seen some great examples of brand messaging and brand building, it’s time to do the same for your business.
Whether you’re a small business or a behemoth like Harley Davidson, the core concepts of brand building remaining the same. Find your target audience, see what resonates with them and provide a service that helps you increase brand awareness.
Whether you choose to build your brand community on social media or a private social network, the same holds true: your brand is your lifeline and you need to make sure you foster it.
Here are some great brand community building tips you can use:
- Brand building is hard, especially when you want to create a community. Be patient and don’t try to rush the process
- If you already have an active following on social media, use your social networks to set the standard for your brand message
- Take note of examples like Harley Davidson and their Posse ride event. See if there are things in your industry that can bring your target audience together.
Are you ready to start brand building?
Hopefully we’ve given you some good insight into the best brand communities examples and how they can help you achieve your objectives. You’d be surprised at how beneficial an online community can be for a brand, regardless of the industry it’s in or the products and services it sells.
Whether you’re a small business or larger company, creating a sense of brand awareness about who you are and what you do will ensure your target audience becomes more than just potential customers, but loyal fans too.
As you can see, some of the world’s most well-known and loved brands have achieved that status by using the concept of a brand community to gather a highly engaged following around their brand.