The myth about brand communities

Mark Bubula
Human Brand Strategy

The brand itself is rarely central to brand communities. It's the values, beliefs and lifestyles that the brand represents that bring people together.

No matter whom you read or how you slice it, there are some common rules for understanding and building brand communities. While at Olson, I helped identify ten dimensions of a community that marketers can use to understand, build or create brand communities. Given community-building's roots in 120 years of anthropological study, it's not surprising to find the literature on the subject filled with similar lists and tools.

Reviewing these lists provides a great opportunity to sharpen our brand community building skills. The lists range from core principle and practices to deeper nuanced analysis, to the exploration of myths and misconceptions.

So what's missing? All refer to consumption of the brand as the defining characteristic of a brand community, suggesting that the brands are at the centre of these communities. In some rare cases, this is no doubt true, but what is being missed is an understanding of how brands can become members of existing communities -communities formed not around brands, but around human values – where the brands' role is not to be the centre of attention, but rather the background facilitator of community well-being.