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Building Brand Community


Understanding brands connects the corporate investment in meetings and events.

BY PATRICK MCGOVERN

What if your brand, or client’s brand, was so powerfully attractive you could merely announce the date and location of an event and know that customers, staff and suppliers would show up in droves—preferring to use their own transportation—and even bring friends and colleagues to join in? This can be achieved by focusing on building brand community.

One of the best-known examples of brand community is the Harley Owners Group (H.O.G.), a network of enthusiastic brand ambassadors more than 1-million strong, whose members have, since 1983, gathered at countless local, regional and international events and ‘friendship rides.’ For another well-known example of a strong brand community, think Apple Macintosh. These brands, and others like them, command such loyalty that financial analysts revere them for the value of their brand equity alone. Year after year, they maintain an enviable strength of attraction.

BRAND COMMUNITY
Not working for Apple or Harley? Stop feeling sorry for yourself and take a lesson from them. You, too, have a brand community. It may already be stronger than you think. And, as a meetings and events professional, you can have a big influence on providing that community with added strength and vitality.

At this point, let me define brand community. Today’s smart marketers see their brands as destinations that customers populate. People are attracted to the brand, and become part of its community, because it consistently delivers on a compelling promise of benefit based on the perceived values they share with it.

The concept of seeing brands as communities is not new, but its importance is becoming more obvious in a world where online communities of all types have gained a powerful voice; a world where customers increasingly assume you know who they are, and that you understand the unique relationship they experience with the brand. In this environment, any marketer who doesn’t take into account the principles of brand community building is falling behind the times.

This approach to understanding brands offers a high-level, yet highly practical, perspective that connects the corporate investment in meetings and events with the ultimate objectives of business: performance, profits and enhanced brand value. It answers the ‘why?’ in the business value proposition, because it shows how the investment drives success and furthers the objectives of the organization.

RELATING TO BRAND VALUE
Seeing your brand as a community also provides a framework for interpreting the significance of the abundant data we now collect on every possible interaction. Meeting and event planners have no shortage of data—and it’s growing all the time. The problem is, the numbers have little meaning to the C-level decision-makers in your organization until they are related to brand value.

As a meeting planner, your expertise is in creating face-to-face opportunities for communication and innovation within your own—or your clients’—organizations. You take on the challenge of bringing together individuals in live venues where they can express and share the values that connect them to the brand.

It follows that if you know what attracts people, you know their priorities and the messaging that resonates with their perception of the brand. This knowledge satisfies a number of key business objectives. One of the most important is how to maintain authenticity in the way the organization and its staff talk about the brand.

In this column, I have provided a brief introduction to a powerful marketing concept. Next column: How to make building your brand community a key part of the stated objectives of your meetings and events, and do it in a way that provides measurable results that are clearly attributable to your efforts. Stay tuned!

Patrick McGovernPatrick McGovern is partner and chief strategy officer at Blade Creative Branding, based in Toronto. pjmcgovern@bladebranding.com



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