Cultivating Brand Advocates – Four Remarkable Communities

Perhaps the pinnacle achievement in marketing today is to build such a strong relationship with your brand’s biggest fans, that they become true advocates – speaking so enthusiastically and positively about your brand, that others might think they actually work for you.

It is, indeed, a rare accomplishment to develop such a relationship. In part I believe that many companies do not recognize the opportunities and benefits associated with nurturing and enabling fans to become true advocates. Nor do they fully realize the path they must embark on.

Serving as a guiding light, here are five brands that have done it right:

Fiskars

Hands up anyone who would’ve thought that Fiskars, a scissors brand, would be able to develop a successful online community? They make scissors! Scissors! But guess what? They recognized a core and common passion that many of their fans have – scrapbooking – and they built a community around it. In fact, the thriving community has evolved to include a variety of different artistic categories. See www.fiskateers.com.

The lesson: A successful community doesn’t need to be centred around your brand. Find a common passion your fans have, related to your brand, and build a community that truly unites your fans provides them with value.

Intuit

Intuit is an award-winning developer of business and financial management software, having developed a variety of leading products including TurboTax, online income tax software, as well as QuickBooks, accounting software for small business. The company truly has excelled in developing a customer-centric approach to their business. For example, when using TurboTax, people have access to an entire community of other TurboTax users – to ask questions and gain insights as they fill out their tax returns. Moreover, people can also enter into a private chat with income tax professionals, before they have even paid for TurboTax!

The lesson: Brands should do what they can to pay it forward. Provide value to people before they have even paid for your product or service, and imagine the loyalty, enthusiasm and sense of community that can be be generated.

Genius Crowds

Here is a company and a community with a big twist. The community creates the company’s products, and in essence, the community is the brand. Genius Crowds is a community through which people can submit their ideas for products they’d actually like to see manufactured and sold on store shelves. The community collaborates on product ideas submitted, in an effort to help improve them, and then they vote on their favourites. Genius Crowds then reviews top voted ideas, and selects a few that have the potential – based on a manufacturing and marketability assessment – to be sold in stores.

This is a great example of crowdsourcing. In fact the first product, the Speed Bather (a dog squeegee) is now ready to hit store shelves!

The lesson:  Companies can benefit from letting their customers collaborate and participate in the development, and evolution, of their products and services. By tapping into the collective intelligence of their customers, they create opportunities for innovation.

Disclosure: I was a Community Manager for Genius Crowds when I worked at Chaordix.

Vancouver Canucks

Sports franchise brands and social media go hand-in-hand, as social media provides an amazing opportunity for fans to bond with their favorite team – regardless of where they are in the world. Canucks fans have turned to social media to share their experiences and emotions, expressing themselves through compelling content ranging from short tweets to engaging videos. At the same time, the organization itself has really excelled at leveraging social media to encourage fan participation and build loyalty – and there is little doubt that the strength of the Vancouver Canucks brand has been significantly augmented as a result.

The lesson: Be open to having your fans generate content, and help them share it on social platforms. Doing so will result in increased loyalty, and will aid in building your fan base.

Are you aware of any remarkable online communities that have helped a company cultivate true brand advocates?  Does your company have one, or have you considered developing one?

We Are All Canucks

Wow, do those words ever ring true. Thanks to a loyal, ardent fan base, and the power of social media, Vancouver Canucks fandom has risen to an entirely new level. Canucks fans have turned to social media to share their experiences and emotions, expressing themselves through compelling content ranging from short tweets to engaging videos. At the same time, the organization itself has really excelled at leveraging social media to encourage fan participation and build loyalty – and there is little doubt that the strength of the Vancouver Canucks brand has been significantly augmented as a result.

Let’s first look at fan participation in creating and sharing content. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and the blogosphere have all been significant conduits for the spread of entertaining and engaging videos, images, and opinions on the Canucks.

Numerous fun, high quality videos have been created – many by relative amateurs. This one, a parody of Rebecca Black’s viral hit “Friday”, was posted on YouTube at the beginning of April and has already garnered over 320,000 views.

People have also developed Canuck-themed avatars, posting and sharing on Facebook, Twitter and other platforms.

The blogosphere is also abuzz with postings related to the Canucks. Enter the term “Canucks” in Google Blog Search, and over one million results are returned. No, not all are related to the team – but given limited alternative applications of the word “Canucks”, it’s a fairly good indicator of the conversations that are happening.

On top of all this, Twitter and Facebook truly enhance the experience of watching a Canucks game, by enabling people to partake in banter as the game unfolds – no matter where they are watching from.

Paralleling the fan generated content, the Canucks organization has really done a great job in engaging with fans through social media.

For starters, the Canucks have built a strong presence on Facebook, with over 445,000 fans, and Twitter, with over 113,000 followers. According to sportsfangraph.com, the Canucks rank 7th amongst NHL teams with respect to total following – and second amongst Canadian teams, trailing only the Montreal Canadiens. They also have a strong degree of activity in forums hosted on canucks.com.

Of course, numbers only tell part of the story. The Canucks have used their website and social media platforms to share compelling content including, for example, polished highlight videos, player interviews, and behind the scene glimpses of team activities. They also run fun, compelling contests that fans enjoy.

One neat social initiative the Canucks have launched for the playoffs is This is What We Live For – a website through which Canucks fans can help create a mosaic. Upon submitting a personal photo for the mosaic, people are asked to mention why they are a Canucks fan, and are then prompted to share the mosaic through Twitter or Facebook.

I find the mosaic itself to be quite fitting. Yes, fellow Canucks fans, We Are All Canucks.