Brand Community in Marketing

A brand community is a group of customers who are invested in a brand beyond what is being sold. These customers want to become a part of the brand itself. It is a community formed on the basis of attachment to a product or marque. Most marketers will say a brand is strong when it’s the first one that comes to mind in its industry. Recent developments in marketing and in research in consumer behavior result in stressing the connection between brand, individual identity, and culture. Among the concepts developed to explain the behavior of consumers, the concept of a brand community focuses on the connections between consumers. The community is managed by paid community managers who are part of the marketing, branding, sales, customer service, or customer relations department.

A brand community can be defined as an enduring self-selected group of actors sharing a system of values, standards, and representations (a culture) and recognizing bonds of membership with each other and with the whole. It is a community in which consumers who share a set of social relationships based upon usage or interest in a product gather and mutually interact. Brand communities are characterized in shared consciousness, rituals and traditions, and a sense of moral responsibility.

The community is usually run by a for-profit company and their core business is not to run a community.  When consumers arrive at a brand they form a brand community. They usually sell some service or product, and the community directly or indirectly orients around that but often isn’t part of the core offering itself. Companies have come to realize that communities can serve their purposes in a variety of ways. Their voluntary membership in that community is created because a brand possesses values that the consumer identifies with. At the core of it is a realization that they don’t have to provide all services top-down to their customers or potential customers, but through a community can empower users to support users. Also, on a brand community, members seek the consensus of affective link and emotional support.

The term “brand community” was first presented by Albert Muniz Jr. and Thomas C.O’Guinn in a 1995 paper for the Association for Consumer Research Annual Conference in Minneapolis, MN. In a 2001 article titled ” Brand Community”, published in the Journal of Consumer Research (SSCI), they defined the concept as “a specialized, non-geographically bound community, based on a structured set of social relations among admirers of a brand.”