Everyone (at least we hope and assume…) is part of a certain community and there are infinite examples of communities that can be found in daily life. But how many brand communities can you think of? Are you a member of one yourself… or do you want to become one?
Lugnet, My Starbuck IDEA, ORACLE community, Being girl are only some examples of communities that are based upon a certain connection with a brand. A brand community can be defined as ”A brand community is a specialized, non‐geographically bound community, based on a structured set of social relations among admirers of a brand” (Muniz,JR & O’Guinn, 2001) Having an active and involved brand community can be seen as one of the greatest assets of a company, but only if it managed correctly.
An example of how it could benefit both the community and the brand is HOG: the Harley Owners Group. Their relationship goes beyond affection or a simple connection with a brand, because Harley Davidson is embedded in their routine, in their daily life and especially in their heart. However, due to the social interactions among individuals, people start to build up relationships with each other NEXT to having the affinity with the company and companies are afraid that the communities are becoming more focused on the social connections and events inside the communities than about about sharing their passion of the brand.
One of the questions that could follow out of this information is: Are you loyal to the company or to a brand when you are a member of a brand community? Well, that’s the same question that Marzocchi et al. (2013) had when they started their research about the effect of identification with the company and/or with the community to build up loyalty in a brand community. Since the digitization and adoption of the Internet individuals could get more easily in contact with others to share their passion (or sometimes their envy) about companies and start up or join brand communities. Marzocchi et al. (2013) used an experiment in a setting where the sample which shows similarities to the population of the HOG; motorcyclist at the World Ducati Week and therefore the results of this research can have valuable information for HOG and Harley Davidson.
Marzocchi et al. (2013) tried to answer the research question: “how important in building loyalty in a brand community are identification with the brand owner and identification with the community, respectively? The authors try to provide a better and deeper understanding of the identification-loyalty dyad in a context, where there is a broader system of relationships.
This research shows that there is evidence that consumer’s identification with a brand community has a positive relationship with two constructs: attitudinal and behavioral loyalty. Furthermore, it has a positive influence on the favourability and constructiveness of comments about the company. A higher identification with a brand will then lead to a longer time commitment (attitudinal) and more sales (behavioral) with as an extra even more positive (e-) WoM! The research found no evidence of a direct impact on resilience to negative information or propensity to comment. Another finding is that the strongest influence of cohesive communities is related to a stronger affective response and trust in the brand, but that effect is mainly indirect. Next to that, the research confirmed that having a positive relation with the brand is very relevant for the creation of the loyalty related constructs. Due to the nature of the sample for this research, this findings can only be generalized for products or services with a hedonic and emotional content, luckily this is the case for HOG.
A company like Harley Davidson, which community can be seen as a very specific and intimate should embrace their community and treat identification as an antecedent of brand trust and brand effort. By building up relationships with their community it is a way to increase brand equity for the company and should therefore be an important agenda topic for managers that are involved in the marketing section of a company. By getting in detail, the needs and wants of the company aswell as for the community, it should be possible to decide which investment portfolio is the most suitable for companies who already have or planning to invest in managing brand communities and are striving to increase brand equity.
*Marzocchi, G., Morandin, G., & Bergami, M. (2013). Brand communities: Loyal to the community or the brand? European Journal of Marketing, 47(1/2), 93-114.
*Muniz, A.M., & O’Guinn, T., C., (2001). Brand Community, Journal of Consumer Research, Vol. 27, No. 4 (March 2001), pp. 412-432