Brand Communities: Can they Work?

Posted by Rahul Sethi on 11:28 AM

Since last year, one trend that seems to be catching up with marketers is that of building communities online through brand related social networks. The question is – will they/ can they be leveraged effectively by marketers.

I just came across a few Stats with respect to India’s 1st full-fledged Brand Community – Sunsilk Gang of Girls.

There were 6 lakh members

35, 000 Groups or ‘Gangs’

Hits in excess of 2 million (remember ‘hits’ does not say anything – have a look at my article on ‘Web Metrics’)

Average Time Spent – 15 Minutes (Pretty close to Facebook!)

9, 500 Bloggers

So the numbers are impressive and it seems like a worthwhile investment because brand related networks essentially:

- Permeate the brand into consumers’ lives

- Participative Belonging. Closeness to the brand is achieved

- Share connections and experiences. Winner is the Brand

- Consumers drive the attitude of the brand (this may not always be a good thing)

Even thought the Gang of Girls figure was impressive, HUL has not really revealed the cost of marketing Gang of Girls, which had a pretty huge media budget.

I understand that Gang of Girls was a trendsetter and that is why it may have spent large sums of money on media but expect other social networks to get popularized virally over the Internet. It makes more sense, is more cost effective, and guarantees impressions, well almost. FoxyMoron would be more than happy to help :)

I think brands have essentially 2 ways to capitalize on Social NetWorks:

1) Build Networks that are not directly related to the brand but are related to the category.

2) Build Networks related to the Brand. Eg. Gang Of Girls

The idea of building social networks related to categories has been largely unexplored. This essentially allows brands to extend the pie and subliminally push the brand and its values and attitudes.

Often users may be skeptical to associate themselves completely with brands. GoG was successful but I don’t think we’ll see those kind of numbers for too long. Consumers are extremely aware and are not looking to ‘sell their souls’ to every brand they see.

Even social networks that are completely associated with brands will have to generalize content with respect to the product/ service category. “Engagement” and not “push” is the name of the game.

Expect to see a lot more brand related social networks in 2008 but expect them to have niches and smaller, more engaged audiences.


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