Using Online Communities to Grow Your Brand

24 Jul

A Looser Form of Brand Control
In order for a brand to succeed on the Internet a looser form of brand control is necessary. The inevitable active participation of consumers needs to be actively encouraged. One way of achieving this is by providing an unmoderated discussion forum, such as a Facebook fanpage or being present on Twitter. This ensures that a brand becomes part of a community. To an extent this is making a virtue out of modern necessity. Power has shifted from businesses to customers.

An example is AT&T which was able to react to customers outcries on twitter over the pricing of the new iPhone. They were able to act based on this feedback and thus squash any negative word of mouth spreading online like a wildfire.

The benefits to a company that has flexible design and production processes are great; flaws can be picked up and failure patterns can be identified sooner than they might have been. Design changes can then be made sooner, resulting in a better product, happier customers, and improved brand equity.

For example, customers on twitter complained about the arrow keys on the series 9 Dell Laptops being too small. In direct response to this Dell made sure that the arrow keys on the new series 10 Laptops are big enough.

There is a misguided perception that such collaborations between businesses and their customers can be potentially damaging as user comments can be unhelpful in the short term. But by encouraging unmoderated discussions, not only do new brand identities emerge, but also the distinction between the brand owner and its consumers disappears, thus increasing consumer identification and loyalty with the brand.

The Demise of the Brand?
Many experts are predicting the demise of marketing and branding on the Internet. We would argue that a closer understanding of the nature of branding on-line indicates a strengthening, not a weakening, of the importance of branding. By developing enhancements suggested or approved by the customers themselves, brands are responding to the marketplace in a way that protects them from a downward pressure on price and volume of sales.

The future of communication is online, the future of branding is personal.

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