The following is the abstract for a chapter I’m writing in Doug Evans‘ soon-to-be-released book, ‘Psychology of Branding’, New York, USA: Nova Science Publishers.
This chapter aims to show that understanding and building brand communities is essential to the success of marketing and the brands with which you work. It examines the global evidence and experience of brand communities from research and practice, from both the commercial and public sectors. It begins with an overview of traditional approaches to branding, marketing and communications and introduces the disruption caused by new technologies and ideas. It then examines ideas of community found in a wide variety of fields, including psychology, sociology and anthropology. It introduces Muniz and O’Guinn’s idea that the brand community is “a specialized, non-geographically bound community, based on a structured set of social relationships among admirers of a brand. It is specialized because at its center is a branded good or service. Like other communities, it is marked by a shared consciousness, rituals and traditions, and a sense of moral responsibility.”
The chapter then describes how to understand and build more effective brand communities. It draws on community psychology, which provides an ecological perspective with the person-environment dynamic as the focus of research and action to address a commercial or social issue. It also introduces the idea of a sense of community as a way to understand these dynamics. Change agents, eg. opinion leaders, peer educators, community facilitators, counsellors, outreach workers etc, can assist in building and strengthening brands, influence relationships and can shape behavioural norms. We know from work done on sustainability that involving the intended beneficiaries of the program and their communities is important, however why and how this is done is critical.
The chapter then examines how working with a variety of partners from the private sector, industry groups, government agencies and community organizations brings to the table new resources, expertise and networks to help build a brand community. It shows that capacity building for brand communities is a process of strengthening the abilities of individuals, organizations and systems to sustainably and effectively respond to their needs. The chapter draws on the author’s experience managing and researching projects in Asia and Australia. One of the cases covered is Hello Sunday Morning, an online community changing the culture of alcohol in Australia. Another case is on approaches to building a brand community in Indonesia to improve sanitation. From the commercial sector, new technologies are making it possible to reach new consumer markets, lift more people out of poverty and provide access to communities previously out of reach – bringing change and highlighting commonalities. The chapter closes with a discussion of the implications for brand communities and recommendations for more effective marketing and stronger brands to enable commercial success and improved social impact.