Do people love your product or service? Do they evangelize it on social media? Do they defend your company in the comments of unflattering news articles? Do they wear your t-shirts, put your logo stickers on their cars, or start online fights with the customers of your competitors?
If not, then you have to admit that you either have an average product, or you haven’t worked hard enough to cultivate a serious following for your brand. Fortunately, there’s an easy way to solve that problem and catch up.
In a recent Atlantic Magazine article entitled “Turning Customers Into Cultists,” the author talks about Apple as the poster child for “cult followings” in the business world (shocker, I know).
To be sure, Apple initially built its fanatical following on great products. But at a certain point, Apple became less about the product itself and more about the congregation.
As the brand grew, people began self-identifying as “Apple Fans” in droves, with some going as far as tattooing the company logo on their body parts. The Apple logo became an identifier of an entire mindset and world-view. Thanks to the community’s continued support, Apple broke through from a rational purchase decision to an incredibly magnetic lifestyle.
“People are meaning-seeking creatures,” says Susan Fournier, a professor of management at Boston University. “The brands we buy and wear and use are symbols to express our identities.”
Like cosmic dust flying around the universe, people from all over were slowly pulled together by a tiny gravitational force that Apple generated. Even though Apple went through tough times when the world all but abandoned their brand in favor of cheaper PCs, their community never wavered. The people who loved their products couldn’t be convinced to switch or leave. And that is the power of brand community.
A strong brand community, like any tight-knit group of like-minded people, helps companies bridge the transition between rational, price-sensitive needs and emotional, price-is-no-object wants. It provides the “numbers” part of the phrase “safety in numbers,” offering support and comfort for its members — the community provides insulation against haters when the media, a competitor, or Wall Street publicly trashes the brand.
Yet Apple didn’t start their company with a brand community, mostly because they didn’t have to — the Internet filled that void. Almost immediately, countless websites cropped up to serve and foster the Apple community. Their fanatics shared tips and tricks, solved problems, and promoted new or hidden features, all without any effort from the company itself. Unfortunately, the community was scattered across multiple websites over which Apple had little influence or control.
Today, Apple has a thriving community under its own banner, proving that even the most valuable brand in the world sees its immense long-term value. And if the company with the world’s largest ad-hoc, DIY fan base thought it was important to build their own branded community, then building a branded social community with class-leading technology like tibbr probably makes sense for your brand, too.
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