What is a Branded Community?
Modern brands use communities to connect with their customers. These communities come in many different forms, but often they are built online. These online communities are digital spaces created and owned by organizations where people gather and connect over their love of a brand, whether it be the brand’s products, services, or mission. Other times these communities are used to connect employees, investors, or other stakeholders.
Learn more: What is an Online Community
Whether you are building a community using mainstream social channels, like Facebook or Reddit, or you are using a community platform, like ours, branded communities can be powerful tools for marketing and other departments. Organizations that launch branded communities are building deeper and more meaningful relationships with their customers.
When done right, branded communities allow your organization to:
- Gain direct access to your customers, get to know them better, and create better experiences
- Shape the conversations happening about your brand
- Source user-generated content
- Conduct less-costly and faster market research
- Boost brand awareness, loyalty, advocacy, and positive brand sentiment
- Access rich insights and data with increased privacy
- Co-create with your customers to improve products, services, and processes
- Decrease support costs as members help each other
- Increase engagement and participation
Just to name a few…
To help support our definition of a branded community, we’ve provided 10 examples of brands using online communities to connect with their customers, users, and members.
LEGO Ideas (LEGO)
LEGO Ideas is the ultimate example of a successful brand community. The community has over 1.8 million members connecting over their love of creating and building with LEGO products. Since March of last year, over half a million new members have joined the community. Originally created with Adult Fans of LEGO (AFOL) in mind, the group welcomes people of all ages, whether you are five or 95. The only requirement to join is a love of LEGO (and parental permission if you are younger than 14).
Beyond being a space for people to share and feel a sense of belonging, LEGO Ideas is also a hub for co-creation, innovation, and collaboration. Members are encouraged to create and share their own unique product ideas and vote on submissions from others. By collaborating with their products' biggest users and fans, LEGO has been able to launch new fan-created products every quarter. Creators are given credit, earn kudos from other members, and even get a portion of the product sales.
Their recent 90th Anniversary activity received over 75,000 fan submissions in less than a week!
Members’ ideas are not only being brought to life and filling shelves around the world, they are creating content that LEGO can use across social media channels and marketing campaigns, and they’re helping LEGO make better decisions about what product lines to invest in.
The community has three main sections:
- Activities: are fun exercises that encourage members to practice their creative skills.
- Contests: allow members to compete with other LEGO enthusiasts for prizes and exclusive access to rare items.
- Product Ideas: members can become LEGO Fan Designers by submitting their very own product ideas.
You can also find communications from the brand through staff picks and blogs, and browse categories based on interests.
Learn more: LEGO Customer Story
Beauty Insider Community (Sephora)
Sephora’s Beauty Insider Community is a dedicated online space for makeup enthusiasts and skincare fanatics alike to come together to ask questions, participate in fun challenges, share photos of their latest looks, swap tips and tricks, and try out new products.
The beauty of the Insider Community (pun intended) is that you don’t have to be an expert to join. Regardless of someone's experience level, members are able to connect over their shared love of cosmetics and learn from other members.
The Beauty Insider Community includes five main components:
- Community Home: the community home is a place for members to start discussions, ask questions, stay up to date on the latest beauty trends, and give and receive product recommendations.
- Groups: community members can join groups based on their specific interests and needs. This ensures members are engaging in content that is the most relevant to them.
- Gallery: the Gallery is where members go to share photos of their latest looks and find inspiration from others. Members can tag products and appear on website searches for that particular product.
- Ratings and Reviews: whether you’re trying out a new product, or have a go-to favourite, ratings and reviews let you share your opinion and view feedback from others.
- Questions and Answers: this allows members to ask questions, view responses from other members, and provide answers when they’re able to.
As members move through the community they’re adding value for themselves and other members as well as the Sephora brand. The community gives Sephora access to user-generated content and customer testimonials, as well as real-time member feedback.
According to David Spink's most recent book, The Business of Belonging, members who participate in the forum spend two times more than their average customer and their power members spend 10 times more than their average customer.
They also just rolled out the Sephora Beauty Insider Community Ambassador Program.
Harley Owners Group (Harley Davidson)
Harley Davidson is a legacy brand with a cult-like following. Their brand community, the Harley Owners Group (HOG), is no exception with over 1M members and counting. Operating both on and offline, the community connects Harley owners across the country with the express purpose of promoting the Harley lifestyle.
The community provides members with special benefits, private events, and exclusive access to the Harley brand. These ride-or-die members (hey look, another pun) are able to connect with other people who share similar interests, experiences, and most importantly, a deep-rooted love for riding Harleys.
A few of the member benefits include:
- HOG rallies, events, and chapters where you get to connect in-person with other members.
- Exclusive access to HOG magazine featuring previews and reviews, members’ stories, and the latest gear.
- A members-only website that serves as a go-to source of information, benefit details, unseen photos and videos, and more.
Having an entire community dedicated to Harley owners encourages advocacy and boosts brand loyalty, which helps the brand maintain customers and more easily adopt new ones. The community has even opened up new revenue streams for the brand, including a line of member-only merchandise.
Creator’s Studio (Rust-Oleum)
Creator’s Studio is a community made for creators, crafters, and do-it-yourselfers. The community connects passionate DIYers in an online space to solve challenges, collaborate, and co-create with one another.
Community members are able to participate in challenges and activities, provide feedback through surveys and polls, put their knowledge to the test with quizzes, and connect with other members and Rust-Oleum with discussions.
In a community filled with other passionate crafters and makers, members of Creator’s Studio feel a strong sense of belonging. They gain direct access to the brand they love, are able to improve their skills and learn from others, and receive exclusive access to products and events.
Like many other consumer brands, Rust-Oleum relies on third-party retailers to sell their products. Without a direct connection to their customers, Rust-Oleum was missing out on a significant amount of value that comes with a direct brand-customer relationship. Creator’s Studio serves as a way for Rust-Oleum to connect with and learn about their customers.
The Creator’s Studio adds value in a number of ways:
- It gives Rust-Oleum direct access to their product’s biggest users
- Allows them to foster meaningful connections with members, boost loyalty, and create positive brand sentiment.
- Through member participation and feedback in the community, Rust-Oleum is able to make better and more informed decisions on products, services, and processes.
- Acts as a continuous source of user-generated content that can be used across channels.
Creator’s Studio is an excellent example of how brands can leverage online communities to connect and engage with their customers in ways they otherwise would be unable to
Learn more: Rust-Oleum Customer Story
Duolingo is a brand community centered around a shared goal: increasing access to free language education. Duolingo’s success and ability to scale as a brand is a direct result of creating a true community for its members.
Although Duolingo’s team has remained relatively small over the years, since launching publicly in 2012, Duolingo has amassed over 100 language courses and 300 million users. This is all thanks to their committed community members who developed the content needed to scale these language courses.
Duolingo’s Incubator is the program that allows these passionate members to contribute ideas and create new language courses. Beyond just encouraging members to connect and share online, Duolingo has also empowered its members to organize in-person events where language learners meet up and learn from each other in their own communities.
Engaged customers are often the best-equipped people to support other customers. When you provide these people with the space and capacity to contribute and help each other, you can see how quickly they start making an impact. “By giving your customers the opportunity to connect and support each other, you can deliver exponentially more value at a fraction of the cost of traditional business tactics,” says David Spinks, co-founder of CMX and author of The Business of Belonging.
Duolingo has created a global community of language learners. Members get access to better content, are able to improve their language skills, connect with other people who share the same goals, and feel a sense of ownership and belonging as they contribute their own knowledge to help community growth. In turn, Duolingo is able to improve its product and service offerings and scale its business at large.
Salesforce Trailblazer (Salesforce)
The Salesforce Trailblazer Community is another excellent example of a community built around a specific product and shared goals. The community brings Salesforce users (Trailblazers) together to learn, collaborate, and get the most out of their unique Salesforce implementations.
The most powerful part of the Trailblazer Community is its ability to empower users. The community has transformed everyday product users into passionate and engaged community members. Trailblazers are more than just frequent users of the Salesforce product, they are game-changers, leaders, and life-long learners who want to excel in both their careers and communities.
The community focuses on learning and collaboration and is designed to support these goals.
- Home: acts as a central place for navigation and highlights top contributors in the community.
- Answers: allows members to easily navigate and search for topics they may need help with.
- Help: gives members access to detailed content and resources to help them with their Salesforce product(s) and experience.
- Events: browse in-person and virtual events to connect with peers and experts. [insert joke about how wild the Salesforce conferences are known to get]
- Collaboration: acts as a navigation feed to share content, view posts from others, and visit other member profiles. Profiles show members' contribution levels by displaying the number of posts and comments they’ve contributed, comments and likes received, and titles such as ‘top influencer’.
- IdeaExchange: allows members to share ideas, collaborate with others, and solve business challenges.
- Featured Groups: members can join specific groups based on interests, areas of expertise, or challenges they’re trying to overcome.
- Known issues: enhances trust between members and Salesforce by being transparent about known issues within the community and the Salesforce product.
Through the community, Trailblazers are increasing their return on investment, learning how to use Salesforce products more efficiently, and creating life-long connections with other members along the way. A 2019 Impact Survey revealed that more than 80% of active community members say that participating in the community helped them increase return on their Salesforce investment, improve productivity, and increase adoption.
While members gain value from the community, Salesforce builds an engaged and loyal customer base and reduces the need for customer support because members are supporting each other.
Peloton Facebook Group
Peloton’s branded community has a few different moving parts. Members can find and follow friends on their Peloton accounts. Peloton’s website has a community section that highlights member stories, but the real Peloton community is the Official Peloton Member Page on Facebook.
The community has over 400,000 passionate Peloton users and enthusiasts who actively connect and share with other members.
Through the community, members can:
- Motivate one another
- Be held accountable by other members.
- Get help using Peloton products and finding the right classes
- Give class recommendation to others
- Share fitness updates and weight loss journeys
- Ask questions and receive feedback
- Share recent struggles, successes, and triumphs
As members continue to grow, connect, and get to know each other, they even feel comfortable discussing non-exercise-related things, like mourning the recent loss of a loved one or overcoming life challenges. The Peloton Community is a community in its truest definition, “a group of people that care about each other & feel they belong together.”
Hey Peloton, let us know when you’re ready to make the shift from a Facebook group to a Community Platform, we’d be happy to help!
Unlike the first seven examples we’ve provided where brands formed their own communities, the Tech Ladies community is the brand.
What started as a small coffee shop meet-up in 2015 has since exploded into a community of over 100,000 women and non-binary people in tech connecting both on and offline. The objective of the Tech Ladies community is to share experiences and stories and to support career development in the world of technology.
With both free and paid options, the Tech Ladies community provides:
- A supportive online group
- A free job board
- An email newsletter
- Global events
- Accessible and relevant content
- Opportunities to learn
- Help with career growth
All in one place.
Community members are able to network professionally and personally with other members, connect over shared experiences as women and non-binary people in the tech space, and give advice and receive feedback. The community has nurtured a sense of security and a safe space for like-minded people with similar interests and goals.
The Tech Ladies community is a testament to how some of the strongest communities are built on shared experiences.
Instant Pot Facebook Group
When people genuinely love using your products, it's likely that they’re looking to connect with other people who share this same passion. The Instant Pot Community on Facebook is no exception. The community has a whopping 3M members that have joined to connect with other regular Instant Pot users.
Labeled as a social learning group, the community sees about 10K posts per month from people sharing, connecting, and learning. It’s totally public and free to join, all you need is an Instant Pot and a love for cooking.
What makes this brand community such a success is people’s willingness and desire to contribute and see what others are doing - members are always eager to share and learn from each other.
The Instant Pot Community allows members to:
- Swap and share recipes
- Ask for advice and receive feedback
- Trade tips and tricks and best practices
- Share images and videos
- Get praise from other members
- Connect over a love of cooking
- Troubleshoot problems (even down to how altitude affects cook time)
When you create a shared space for the people who use your products the most to connect and share, what you get in return is an always-on community that you can tap into for insights or check the pulse of your customers.
A Bra That Fits Subreddit
This last branded community example is a true support community, in every sense of the word (sorry, last pun). A Bra That Fits started as a subreddit (r/ABraThatFits) in 2015, and has since grown to over 277K members. Like ‘Tech Ladies’, the community came first, and through its growth, it formed the ‘A Bra That Fits’ brand.
In addition to Reddit, they also have an active following on Instagram, TikTok, and a healthy community of 10K people on Facebook. While most brand communities are contained in one space, A Bra That Fits has proven you can find success in going where your audience already is.
If you haven’t caught on already, the community’s objective is to educate people on bra sizing and help them find, well, a bra that fits.
Members get access to:
- Ongoing support and advice
- Resources, content, and knowledge sharing (including their custom calculator)
- Open discussions with people who share similar struggles
A Bra That Fits is a community formed around knowledge sharing and it found success connecting members and giving them the space and the resources needed to overcome their shared struggle.
That’s a Wrap!
Well, there you have it! 10 examples of brands using online branded communities to connect with their members, and connect their members with each other. We even snuck in a few examples of branded communities built on our very own Community Platform (oh hey, LEGO and Rust-Oleum!)
If you are interested in learning more about online branded communities, and how your brand could benefit from one, check out our Platform Features, subscribe to our YouTube channel, and visit our learn page.
- by Kennedy Lukey
- by Chad Neufeld
- by Amanda Moloney
- by Amanda Moloney
- by Chad Neufeld
- by Leisa Northcott
- by Leisa Northcott
- by Chad Neufeld