What Makes a Brand “Community-able”?

It’s been too long since I posted to this blog. So I hope at least a few of you are still out there. I was busy with a fascinating project for a Fortune100 client that I am delighted to say went extremely well. And I’m currently at the NHH Business School in beautiful Bergen, Norway, the famous “Gateway to the Fjords.” Thanks to the invitation of my wonderful host, Prof. Ingeborg Kleppe, I’m teaching a Ph.D. level course on the topic of Consumer Communities, the online and offline manifestations. I’m enjoying my contact with students, who incorporate and blend a bunch of global influences, including Russian, Swedish, Italian, and Taiwanese, as well as Norse.

The topic of communities has been on my mind a lot lately, and I thought we had some amazing comments to my past few entries. If you haven’t read Greg Dunlop’s detailed and amazingly helpful comment, and Renan Wagner’s provocative and insighful thoughts, I highly recommend that you do so by clicking here and scrolling down to the comments section.

I wanted to add to this discussion by re-posing and rephrasing a simple question that someone recently asked to me at a corporate research summit:

What makes a brand community-able?

That is, what sort of a brand inspires people to form communities around? What qualities would lend a brand the legendary social significance and attractiveness that would lead to communally related “badging” activities? What would lead people to communicate deeply and meaningfully about a brand, as if it played an important role in their lives?

This isn’t the same thing as gaining so-called “emotional” or “iconic” brand status. It’s more like a cult or culty brand. It’s also related or parallel to one of the big questions in Word-of-Mouth marketing, which is what makes a brand WOMmable?  But it’s definitely not the same question.

I initially answered this question with another question.

I said that it was simply another way of asking what inspires deep loyalty and great devotion to any brand. Things like nostalgia, a powerful experience, the use of attractive and meaningful colors and symbolic vocabulary. Consumers fell in love with products, they garnered great enthusiasm, they were loyal, and they wanted to share this with others and so brand communities formed out of that. But then I thought about it some more.

And I’ll tell you exactly what I think about the topic. Tomorrow.

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