A couple of years ago some professors conducted research published in the Journal of Marketing. Using social practice theory, they studied 9 brand communities from various product categories to discover 12 common practices consumers realize value beyond what firms create or even anticipate. I thought I would take some time to explain these practices with examples, but also ask you to consider whether you are leveraging these insights to optimize collaborative value creation. Through these 12 practices, consumers can affect the entire marketing mix, enable brand use and encourage deeper community engagement.
1. Welcoming – Greeting new members and assisting in brand learning and community socialization. Welcoming can also be negative and discourage participation. When I started following @JHUCarey they sent a quick note welcoming me to their Twitter brand community with, “@Kquesen Great to connect with you! Looking forward to your tweets. 🙂 ”
2. Empathizing – Lending emotional support to other members, including support for brand-related trials (product failure) or life issues (job). Apple’s new version of Keynote is simplified, but also deleted features upsetting Apple community members. Here is one member empathizing with those trials starting by saying, “Relax and breath.”
3. Governing – Explaining behavior expectations within the brand community. I return to Apple Support Forums for their governing example. The Community Etiquette guidelines are simple, yet enforced. One member remarked how his first post expressing frustration over Keynote ’13 was removed for obscenities. He removed them and the comment was returned to public view.
4. Evangelizing – Sharing brand “good news” and inspiring others, which may involve negative comparison to competing brands. This summer the Android Community website published a blog post evangelizing Android, “iPhone 5S specification rumor wrap-up: this is no Android competitor.” It spurred 26 emotional comments from brand enthusiasts.
5. Justifying – Rationale for devoting time and effort to the brand. Lego Certified Professionals does a great job of justifying more time spent with the brand by explaining their existence as “… a community-based program made up of adult LEGO hobbyists who have turned their passion for building and creating with LEGO bricks into a full-time or part-time profession.”
6. Staking – Recognizing variance within the brand community membership and marking intragroup distinction and similarity. Yahoo Answers provides staking with Top Contributor badges for its most active brand community members.
7. Milestoning – Milestoning is noting seminal events in brand ownership and consumption. When Facebook surpassed a billion users it was a big deal. The facesoffacebook.com is milestoning by cramming every user onto a single page of over 1.2 billion colored pixels that can be zoomed to reveal individual faces.
8. Badging – Badging is translating milestones into symbols. Samsung Nation is an online loyalty program that offers virtual rewards to consumers who talk up the electronics giant and offers badging such as a virtual “Twitterati” turquoise circle for posting links to samsung.com.
9. Documenting – Detailing the brand relationship journey as a story. Chipotle Grill’s “The Scarecrow” does an excellent job at documenting their brand story as over 11 million now know their commitment to food with integrity.
10. Grooming – Caring for the brand and optimizing use patterns. The Home Depot’s YouTube Channel is a great place for grooming the brand’s “You Can Do It” image including their “How to Tile a Bathroom” video with over 1.3 million views.
11. Customizing – Modifying the brand to suit group or individual needs by changing factory specs or enhancing performance. NikeiD has built a community around customizing by allowing “you to personalize your performance, fine-tune your fit and represent your style.”
12. Commoditizing – Recommendations directed at other members or at the firm (you should fix this/do this/change this) improve products brought to the marketplace. Five years ago Dell brought commoditizing to a new level with IdeaStorm, which has received nearly 15,000 suggestions and has made 500 refinements based on them.
That is my year end top 12 list. I hope you found practices to implement this year that will add value and increase engagement in your brand communities.