Value for Customers
A brand community consists of a group of customers who share similar values, standards and culture while recognizing bonds of membership with each other and with the whole community.
Benefits of deploying a brand community systems include customer brand loyalty, positive brand image, reduced marketing spend (since brand message is passed on through WOM within the community), innovative products and services, and the likes.
But to sustain these intertwining relationships, the organization or brand should be perceived as adding genuine value to members of the customer community. For this in turn will tend to initiate the creation, delivery and exchange of value between members of the brand community.
So how does an organization create value in a brand community?
As you are aware, a value is a constellation of benefits the customer feels or thinks he’s getting from using a brand. Benefits may be either rational or emotional but the good brands deliver both.
To understand how brand communities create value for customers, however, it will be necessary to first establish that value creation tends to be stimulated by a set of value-creating practices. But these practices are supported by an anatomy (or structure) consisting of three parts:
1.Ground rules of engagement of community members- general information and expectation about the brand community; the ethos, values, and expected behaviours of members; the brand community promise – what you should expect from the community etc.
2.Demonstrable skills and abilities of members of the community – BMW stimulate the creativity of members through an ideas competition for telematics and online services as well as driver assistance systems of the future
3.Community engagements that serve to stimulate emotional commitment of members of the community
According to Schau, Muñiz Jr., & Arnould members of a brand community derive value and satisfaction from the actions, interactions, and projects that a brand encourages or enhances.
In other words, community members’ perception of value goes beyond the consumption of the brand but also include all the actions and activities the brand seems to be supporting.
There are about twelve identifiable brand community practices (co-creative activities) which will create value for customers as well as foster robust interactions between members of the community.
These practices centre on four thematic community-based activities:
Social networking: Here, members are involved in connecting with other members of the brand community. Oftentimes, the relationships forged herein may even transcend brand use.
Social networking activities can either be done online or offline. While offline connections depend on physical locations – where members can meet e.g. a concert like Star Trek, the Harley Davidson’s museum, MTN’s marathon in Nigeria etc. Online connecting activities are driven essentially on the collective interest of the group – Procter & Gamble’s Online Advisory Community which allows consumers to co-create, co-design and launch new products.
Social networking activities include:
1.Welcoming – old members of the community introduces the community to newer members while helping them learn the ropes faster. It’s a kind of mentoring process that helps the newcomer established and ‘initiated’ in the group.
2.Empathizing – experienced members can help newer members how to establish their presence in the community if the latter appear to be struggling because it might be a road once travelled by the former.
3.Governing – this is a way of managing the relationships among the members of the community which may include the established mode of communication; the identification of opinion leaders who have some influence within...