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Monday, December 19, 2005

Building Branded Community

It's a tricky proposition to create websites that support a brand while providing value to consumers. Consumers will quickly see through overzealous attempts to develop a cool factor around products that don't warrant it, such as was the case with the Sparkle Body Spray on MySpace.

But for products that have developed a passionate following, a website that gives enthusiasts something more while enabling fans to extol their passions can extend brands. For example, Director Kevin Smith has created a meeting place for fans of his six movies including Clerks, Dogma, and Chasing Amy. Smith regularly contributes photos via Flickr (including some of his house), blog postings, and behind the scenes news about his current projects at the ViewAskew website.

The website is also a great marketing vehicle as Smith shamelessly plugs DVDs, his retail store, and "inaction" figures celebrating the slacker characters that have struck a nerve with younger audiences. Smith gets feedback from his audience while fans get unique information that reinforces their allegiance to his brand of humor.

Similar Bruce Willis has invested considerable resources to by responding to fan queries, enabling fans to riff on his extensive movie career, and offering audio from his band as well as some personal information. The site, which is currently being overhauled, helps identify the action star as a brand and reinforces fan interest in his career.

This branding concept could be effectively applied to characters both real and imaginary (Captain Morgan, the "Can You Hear Me Know?" guy at Verizon, or Jared from Subway through blogs and delivering valuable content if done with humor.

One product that could be saved from potential oblivion through a similar campaign is TiVo. The company has incredible user approval and a passionate fan base, yet the company only recently launched a somewhat limited blog, hiring a fan to answer questions and periodically post.

TiVo could do much more to encourage fans to share their stories or reinforce their branding online, such as sharing TiVo lists, giving previews of technology in development, or producing exclusive data such as the most TiVoed shows. I'm guessing that each dollar invested online would be paid back several fold in brand awareness and product sales.

By John Gartner at 01:43 PM | Comments (0)

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