All posts by fonsschuurmans

Consumer engagement in a virtual brand community


A community has little value without contributions from its members. If no one were to post anything on social media, those platforms would quickly lose their members. For a brand community, the story is similar. As we have learned in the lectures, successful virtual brand communities can drive sales and engagement. The Lego Ideas platform, that aims to have Lego enthusiasts design Lego products for actual release, wouldn’t work if the community wouldn’t participate. The terms “engage” and “engagement” are used to describe the discussion regarding the interactions that participants experience within virtual brand communities. Articles that discuss the contribution of brand communities to value creation (Schau et al.’s 2009 and Algesheimer et al. 2005) mention the aforementioned terms over fifty times, however little theoretical development has taken place regarding the concepts of engagement and consumer engagement in online brand communities. That is where Brodie et al. (2013) step in and provide an exploratory analysis regarding consumer engagement in a virtual brand community. 

Strengths of the paper 

This paper provides insight regarding the nature of brand communities and their effect on consumer behaviour, using Brodie at al.’s (2011) five themes that underpin the working definition of consumer engagement. These themes required further research to strengthen the working definition, and strong support was found within this paper. This study has focused on a very small community where six highly frequent members produced more than 50% of all community content. This makes the dynamics of the community easier to grasp for the researcher, and through face-to-face interviews with these contributors a deep understanding of the community was developed. As such the findings of this research are highly applicable to this specific community

Weaknesses of the paper

 Brodie et al. (2011), developed five themes that underpin the working definition for which further support was found in this paper. However, if a writer finds strong support in a paper for an earlier paper published by him, this can be slightly biased. More notable is that this study is solely based on the study of a small brand community with only six ‘highly engaged’ members. Though communities can vary in size, a community of six highly engaged participants is very limited and can barely be called a community. Furthermore, testing hypotheses on this specific group of people will most likely not be generalizable beyond the group. As such, since only a single community was studied that was very small of scale the results of this study only forms a marginal base for further research. Further research should compare a number of communities that differ in type of brand and size. Only then can customer engagement be studied in different settings and be compared to each other.

Another area where this research could have been improved was if not only the active contributors would be studied but also members who only view content. The 90 9 1 rule as taught in class, shows that this research tried to provide a working definition for customer engagement based on the 1% that actively contributes. To understand engagement in my opinion it should be studied why active contributors are contributing, but on the other hand also why the majority who only views content doesn’t contribute. By taking multiple perspectives on engagement (active vs. non active) a more developed working definition can be constructed.

Managerial Implications

 For managers understanding how consumers engage in specific brand communities is relevant for several reasons. The literature review in this research namely presents how consumer engagement improves loyalty, satisfaction, empowerment, connection emotional bonding, trust and commitment. Though virtual brand communities are no silver bullet for company growth, understanding how consumers engage can facilitate better decision making when dealing with online communities. As highlighted before the results presented by this study offer limited generalizability, but its literature review offers a broader perspective on its findings.


Algesheimer R, Dholakia UM, Hermann A. The social influence of brand community: evidence from European car clubs. Journal of Marketing 2005;69:19–34. (July).

Brodie RJ, Hollebeek L, Juric B, Ilic A. Customer engagement: conceptual domain, fundamental propositions and implications for research. Journal of Service Research 2011;14(3):1–20.

Brodie RJ, Hollebeek L, Juric B, Ilic A. Consumer engagement in a virtual brand community: An exploratory analysis. Journal of Business Research 2015: 105-114

 Schau HJ, Muñiz Jr AM, Arnould EJ. How brand community practices create value. Journal of Marketing 2009;73:30–51. (September).

Duolingo: Making money from your translations


Most of you will know the app Duolingo. For those who don’t, it is a language-learning app that is used worldwide with 200 million users that can choose many languages to learn. Maybe you have tried to learn Spanish, French or another language on the app. What most people like about the app is the way it brings gamification to learning a language. Also, and not unimportant is that the app is free to use. But how does Duolingo make its money?

How did Duolingo start?

Duolingo started by a question raised by Luis von Ahn (the founder of RE-CAPTCHA and Duolingo) in 2009, wondering how the internet could be translated into every major language using the knowledge of a 100 million people for free?

People initially wondered why translations couldn’t just be done using computer translations. However, computer translations at this moment and even more so back in 2009 were not good enough to translate texts on the internet without mistakes. Besides, another option, using professional translators, would require an enormous investment that no firm is willing to pay for.

How did Duolingo manage to ‘recruit’ a 100 million people to translate the internet? The two main obstacles they faced is that there is a lack of bilinguals in the world and a lack of motivation to translate texts for free. They solved both issues with one solution.

Millions of people worldwide want to learn a new language and usually pay quite a hefty fee for doing so, either by paying for classes or for software. Duolingo lets users learn a new language for free using their app while simultaneously translating the web. As a beginning user, you’re given very simple sentences/words from the web which you must translate. The quality of your translation is then checked with the results of the translations of other users, and after a translation has been cross checked several times it gets combined into a verified translation. As you progress you will start getting more complicated texts which both helps the learner and Duolingo.


The company was started with the concept of a fair business model for education. Currently the business model for education is that the student pays for his courses with fiat. However, many students worldwide don’t have the funds necessary to pay for education. As such they can pay in a different way by using the app and investing their time in learning the language. By doing so they create value for Duolingo by translating text on which they can monetize by selling the translations to companies who want them. Though this was the initial core revenue model, nowadays Duolingo is focusing more on gaining revenue from their Test Center Certification Program as it is not the mission of Duolingo to become a translation business but to stay an education company. Moving forward the new direction of Duolingo is emphasising on becoming an adaptive platform that tailors teaching to the strengths and weaknesses of individual learners driven by feedback from language students using the app. The ultimate goal for the company is to give every student access to a private virtual tutor with the use of their technology.