The best brand communities are built upon shared values, common interests, and meaningful connections.
When you think about community, what comes to mind? Maybe it’s your close-knit group of friends, your neighbors, or your fellow team members; maybe you define your community as your city, state, or region; maybe it’s all the people and places that have come to feel like home.
The idea of community means different things to different people, and brand communities are no different. Whether it’s a place fans meet to discuss common interests, an online forum that encourages discussion, or just an unspoken sense of shared values, communities can help consumers connect and identify with your brand.
Look to these 21 brands for inspiration:
GoPro is no longer just a product, but a platform for fans to share their passions and adventures. The company’s marketing strategy is driven by user-generated video content that entertains viewers while demonstrating the quality of its cameras. The GoPro community has become massive, with “at least 6,000 GoPro-tagged videos uploaded to YouTube every day.”
The best brand communities are made up of fiercely loyal customers, which is why Jeep tops our list. Purchasing a Jeep is about more than just the vehicle itself; the brand embodies a specific, adventure-filled lifestyle that owners proudly celebrate. Jeep helps fuel this sense of community by hosting yearly “Jamborees,” where owners gather together for a weekend of fun.
AirBnB is community-driven by nature. The vacation rental service gives travelers who value cultural immersion a chance to “live like a local” — so it’s no surprise that a community of adventure lovers quickly sprouted up around the brand. Using their “Create AirBnB” platform, the brand invites fans to design their own logos, expressing what makes their homes and communities so special.
Barbie has been around for decades, amassing more than 100,000 collectors over the years. The Barbie Collection site is frequented by many of these fans, who gather to discuss common interests and connect with other enthusiasts.
5. BOB Gear
Fitness groups seem to stick together, which is why the jogging stroller brand BOB has such a dedicated following. BOB and Fit4Mom partnered up to bring their fans together for weekly Stroller Strides fitness classes, which incorporate strollers into their workout routines for busy moms (and dads!).
6. Simon & Schuster
In 2014, this New York-based publishing company launched Off the Shelf, a book review website. The site’s daily reviews are written by Simon & Schuster employees and guest contributors, attracting literature enthusiasts from far and wide.
Years ago, Pabst Blue Ribbon began taking advantage of the growing buying power of millennials by veering away from the traditional ideals of beer connoisseurs. By focusing on younger consumers, they managed to increase their sales by “more than 200 percent since 2004.” While the PBR brand community does not necessary occupy one place physically or digitally, its focus is more on connecting groups of people with shared values in the real world.
Lomography is a camera company that encourages experimental and creative photography, with a portion of its website dedicated to showcasing fans’ work. Followers of the brand have submitted over 13 million photos to date.
Members of the My Starbucks Idea community gain exclusive features like complimentary drinks upon initial signup and access to a mobile app. Best of all, fans get the opportunity to suggest corporate changes they believe would make their experience more enjoyable. By acknowledging the concerns of its dedicated community, the brand has managed to gain over 150,000 registered members.
The Playstation Community features forums and blog posts that promote engagement among fans. Here, gamers can discuss strategies, share progress, and make friends with like-minded players. Users’ profiles are connected with their social media accounts on YouTube and Twitter, creating a cohesive, multi-channel brand experience.
Lulu’s ambassador program partners with yoga instructors in various communities, outfitting them with complimentary clothing and merchandise in exchange for teaching free classes — dressed in their new Lulu gear, of course. Sponsored events such as these are a great way to raise brand recognition while building a community of fans and friends.
Fashion is a means of personal expression, so brands like StitchFix have a unique opportunity to create communities of likeminded clothing lovers — which is just what they’ve done. Fans share and view their favorite styles on the Stitch Fix Pinterest board, and are rewarded for every friend they refer to the subscription-based apparel service. This strategy has proven successful, as word-of-mouth referrals now account for 95% of new StitchFix customers.
It’s not always easy for huge brands to build a sense of community, especially when their fans are scattered all over the world — but Nike has found a way. The Nike+ program features apps and wearable tech that allow fans to track their fitness progress and compete with other members. Because Nike’s audience is so diverse, each app appeals to a different crowd, whether you’re a sports lover, avid runner, adventure-seeker, or fall somewhere in between.
Sephora’s BeautyTalk community gives customers a platform for discussing and reviewing the latest and greatest cosmetic products. By encouraging users to share photos, how-to videos, and general tips with each other, Sephora gives them a chance to meaningfully connect with the brand instead of just buying the products.
15. Red Bull
The challenge that food and beverage retailers often face is that their product is consumed, discarded, and more or less forgotten within minutes. This popular energy drink brand has fostered a community of supporters by selling t-shirts, hats, jackets, watches, and other branded apparel. Transforming the brand into a fashion statement turns regular fans into Red Bull ambassadors.
MySears Community gives Sears shoppers a place to ask questions, discuss products, and share ideas. The user-friendly interface is easy to navigate and fun to browse, resulting in 1.3 million visits to date. Not too shabby.
17. Harley Davidson
Harley Davidson has created one of the largest and most dedicated fanbases of any brand. Motorcycle owners gather by the thousands to discuss common interests on the Harley Owner Group page. Here, bikers can interact with each other, share stories from the road, and feel like part of a larger community.
With 1.9 million members and more than 200,000 sellers, Etsy has become one of the largest digital marketplaces. Buyers can support small businesses without leaving their homes — a major draw for Etsy members. The advantage Etsy has over other retailers is that its marketplace serves as its business platform as well as its digital community. Here, consumers and sellers feel like part of one big family.
Saab is another car manufacturer that has gained strong support from its consumers over the years. The brand hosts an annual owners’ convention to celebrate its history and reinforce values that align with its customers’ ideals.
Kraft’s online community gives consumers a place to share recipes and cooking stories. Food is by nature a vessel for culture, family, and community, so giving fans a way to interact with the brand in personal ways has proven hugely successful.
Apple is the perfect example of how brand communities can be developed and maintained by creating a social movement that reflects the values of your target audience. The brand urged consumers to “think different” back in 1997 — a motto that would come to define a generation of loyal fans who swear by the superior quality of Apple products and continue to identify with the brand values today.
Marketing is not just about selling a product or service — it’s about values, common interests, and aspirations; it’s about bringing people together, cultivating a strong sense of loyalty, and building relationships that last a lifetime.