10 Exceptional Examples Of Brand Communities

An active, engaged brand com­mu­nity can drive inno­va­tion and increase rev­enues and cus­tomer loy­alty. These 10 brands are lead­ing the way.

Pat Hong By Pat Hong from Linkdex. Join the discussion » 0 comments

For all con­sumer-fac­ing busi­nesses, a preva­lent, engaged brand com­mu­nity is the ulti­mate asset. Research has shown that branded com­mu­ni­ties not only drive greater reach, but also add value at the other points of the user jour­ney, such as encour­ag­ing con­ver­sions, or improv­ing exist­ing cus­tomer rela­tion­ships. How­ever, across many indus­tries, active and engaged brand com­mu­ni­ties remain few and far between. Here are 10 brand com­mu­ni­ties lead­ing the way.

Per­haps the biggest chal­lenge for brands is that build­ing brand com­mu­ni­ties requires a con­sid­er­able invest­ment in time, and com­plete com­mit­ment and inte­gra­tion from depart­ments across a busi­ness to stand a chance.

A HBR study on branded com­mu­ni­ties states that “too often, com­pa­nies iso­late their com­mu­nity-build­ing efforts within the mar­ket­ing func­tion. That is a mis­take. For a brand com­mu­nity to yield max­i­mum ben­e­fit, it must be framed as a high-level strat­egy sup­port­ing busi­ness­wide goals.”

Last year, we cov­ered two of the most imag­i­na­tive and pop­u­lar branded com­mu­ni­ties, the SAP Com­mu­nity Net­work, and Ran­dom House’s Fig­ment, two com­mu­ni­ties that have cap­tured the hearts and minds of con­sumers by pro­vid­ing a place to share and tips, advice, and sto­ries with like-minded indi­vid­u­als. The com­mu­ni­ties are built on the three prin­ci­ples of feed­back, advo­cacy, and sup­port which were iden­ti­fied in a 2012 Comblu report for being the pil­lars for a suc­cess­ful brand com­mu­nity.

SAP in par­tic­u­lar are oper­at­ing at the very fore­front of the indus­try in build­ing a engaged brand com­mu­nity, and it stems from the tech­nol­ogy company’s orga­ni­za­tion-wide com­mit­ment to pro­vid­ing a plat­form for social engage­ment. CMO Jonathan Becher spoke of the com­pa­nies phi­los­o­phy, in which social is seen to ben­e­fit every depart­ment, from sales, to devel­op­ment, sup­port and mar­ket­ing, and in which social inter­ac­tion is viewed as an “enabler” and “not a goal in itself”.

Recently, sev­eral brands have been step­ping up their efforts to engage con­sumers and build online com­mu­ni­ties. What’s fas­ci­nat­ing about each one is that each is uniquely dif­fer­ent, offer­ing dif­fer­ent oppor­tu­ni­ties and incen­tives for con­sumers to par­tic­i­pate and engage. Let’s look at 10 brand com­mu­ni­ties lead­ing the way.

10 Exceptional Brand Communities

1. The SAP Community Network (SCN)

With more than 2.5 mil­lion engaged mem­bers, the SCN has been called “the most exten­sive use to date of social media by a cor­po­ra­tion,” by Richard Adler from the Aspen Insti­tute. Com­mu­nity mem­bers range from huge multi­na­tion­als, such as Dis­ney and Bose, to innu­mer­able small and medium-sized busi­nesses, all of which are able to con­nect and mutu­ally ben­e­fit via the SCN. The com­mu­ni­ties real suc­cess lies in the fact that many mem­bers are highly engaged and will­ing to con­tribute time and exper­tise to grow the strength of the net­work.

Key strength: Huge, diverse, and highly engaged com­mu­nity. Users gain rep­u­ta­tion for com­mu­nity con­tri­bu­tions and there are plenty of incen­tives for users to con­tinue to engage.

2. Playstation Community (Sony)

The Playsta­tion Com­mu­nity has done an excep­tional job at pro­vid­ing an online space for gamers to con­nect. Users are able to zone in on their speci­fic inter­ests, whether it be by game, inter­ests, or the type of sup­port they need, and it’s clear to see how the net­work caters for the pil­lars of feed­back, advo­cacy, and sup­port.

The com­mu­nity is closely tied to Playstation’s linked social media chan­nels, on YouTube and Twit­ter, and users are also able to expe­ri­ence con­tent being gen­er­ated both by brands, and users them­selves.

User-gen­er­ated con­tent cre­ation is one of the great strengths of the com­mu­nity and with new fea­tures on the PS4 con­sole that enable users to upload in-game clips directly online, this is only going to increase and con­tinue to grow the strength of the com­mu­nity.

Key strength: Vir­tu­ally unlim­ited capa­bil­ity and scale in user-gen­er­ated con­tent, that both enter­tains and adds value at aware­ness build­ing, and pur­chase-point con­sumer touch­points.

3. Being Girl (Procter and Gamble)

Being Girl was cre­ated in 2000 as an infor­ma­tive resource for young, teenage girls, to con­nect and find out answers to the those dif­fi­cult ques­tions that grow­ing up entails. Like a dig­i­tal big sis­ter, the com­mu­nity enables open dis­cus­sion and the abil­ity to ask the res­i­dent expert, Anna, for advice on top­ics such as men­stru­a­tion, eat­ing dis­or­ders, acne, and dat­ing.


Being Girl has been expanded to 46 coun­tries world­wide, and its strength lies in the fact that girls all over the world can relate to each other in the tri­als of grow­ing up. Being Girl was cited in the book “Groundswell“, as requir­ing just a 1 per­cent con­ver­sion rate to offer a 3x ROI built on the brand loy­alty that the com­mu­nity inspires.

Key strength: Global reach, and builds brand loy­alty among poten­tial cus­tomers for prod­ucts in a com­pet­i­tive niche where loy­alty for a brand often lasts a life­time.

4. Figment (Random House)

Fig­ment is a branded com­mu­nity that caters to teenagers who love to read and write fan fic­tion.


Fig­ment has more than 300,000 mem­bers who can share, cre­ate, and mod­er­ate con­tent, as well as cre­ate aware­ness by rec­om­mend­ing prod­ucts. Highly engaged indi­vid­u­als become brand advo­cates giv­ing sin­cere and earnest reviews of the prod­ucts they enjoy, and this ful­fils mul­ti­ple touch­points for other com­mu­nity mem­bers. It shows how all con­sumer-fac­ing brands can gen­er­ate branded com­mu­nity engage­ment by focus­ing on speci­fic, highly engaged niches within their audi­ences.

Key strength: Laser focus on a niche seg­ment of brand audi­ence, which ensure rich engage­ment lev­els, and fan­tas­tic mutual com­mu­nity expe­ri­ence.

5. H&R Block

H&R Block cre­ated a com­mu­nity site that con­nects users to a tax pro­fes­sional for quick responses to tax-related ques­tions via the “Get Answers” sec­tion of their web­site. The real strength of the por­tal is in con­nect­ing users enabling them to learn and share expe­ri­ences with oth­ers in the H&R Com­mu­nity. The com­mu­nity is reported to have answered 1 mil­lion ques­tions and gen­er­ated a 15 per­cent lift in busi­ness.


Key strength: Adds gen­uine, and highly use­ful value to con­sumer lives. Allows user ques­tions to build the com­mu­nity into a com­pre­hen­sive resource.

6. Harley Owners Group (Harley-Davidson)

HOG is a spe­cial com­mu­nity. Harley-David­son enthu­si­asts share more than their loy­alty to a brand. For them, it rep­re­sents a way of life, a cul­ture, and it is one that can be found all over the world. Since the 1980s, Harley-David­son have been dili­gently build­ing up a brand com­mu­nity based around shared lifestyle, taste, and ethos. HOG was born as a way the brand’s highly pas­sion­ate con­sumers to con­nect and engage online. With more than 1 mil­lion active mem­bers, the strength of the com­mu­nity lies in the open­ness and highly impas­sioned mem­bers it tries to fos­ter and serve.


Key strength: Incred­i­bly strong and impas­sioned com­mu­nity, one that extends beyond online com­mu­ni­ties. HOG acts as a con­nec­tor for enthu­si­asts around the world.

7. Lugnet (Lego)

Lugnet is an estab­lished web­site and the largest unof­fi­cial com­mu­nity of Lego fans. Lugnet is mainly com­posed of adult men, who build elab­o­rate Lego projects, shar­ing news and images of their cre­ations. As a focused and niche group of users, the Lugnet com­mu­nity has even been rec­og­nized by the Lego brand as being a valu­able source of infor­ma­tion. As one Lego spokesman said: “[Lugnet offers] incred­i­bly valu­able insights” in hard­ware, soft­ware, design and usabil­ity, feed­back which informs the brands pro­duct devel­op­ment, mar­ket­ing, and much more.


Key strength: A highly enthu­si­as­tic and capa­ble com­mu­nity that is recep­tive to work­ing closely with the brand to provide a source of feed­back which can inform pro­duct and busi­ness deci­sions.

8. My Starbucks Idea (Starbucks)

My Star­bucks Idea works on the same prin­ci­ple as the old cus­tomer “sug­ges­tion box” for the global cof­fee chain’s 150,000+ mem­bers. In the last six years, sug­ges­tions from My Star­bucks Idea com­mu­nity mem­bers has led to the imple­men­ta­tion of nearly 300 inno­va­tions – from dig­i­tal tip­ping, peach green-tea lemon­ade, to the hugely pop­u­lar abil­ity to enjoy free Wi-Fi. Alex Wheeler,VP global dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing for Star­bucks, said that “our pas­sion­ate cus­tomers and part­ners have been shar­ing their ideas with us on My Star­bucks Idea, and we have lis­tened and acted upon many amaz­ing inno­va­tions that we have received from this online com­mu­nity.”


Key strength: Actual imple­men­ta­tion and fol­low through of pop­u­lar ideas shows that the brand lis­tens to con­sumers, which inspire ever greater lev­els of inno­va­tion and ideas. A real asset for the brand’s con­tin­ued pro­gres­sion.

9. Oracle Community (Oracle)

Ora­cle Com­mu­nity con­nects the mil­lions of users world­wide who use the plat­form, whether for per­sonal or for a busi­ness func­tion. It enables users to ask ques­tions on ded­i­cated forums and to solve prob­lems together. Mem­bers are able to share per­sonal sto­ries, form inde­pen­dent groups, and even build their own net­works and sched­ule meet­ings.


Key strength: A great tech­ni­cal resource, which seeks to aid users in solv­ing prob­lems in any way it can. Very pop­u­lar among its tar­get audi­ence.

10. r/Nordstrom1901 (Nordstrom)

While many brands feel com­fort­able on social media plat­forms such as Twit­ter, or Insta­gram, where they are able to main­tain a level of con­trol of the con­tent on their chan­nels, the major­ity seem reluc­tant to open a chan­nel on Red­dit, put off per­haps by the unabridged open­ness of the site, and the raw­ness of user-gen­er­ated com­ments. Nord­strom, how­ever, felt ready to rise to the chal­lenge, a first for a lux­ury brand.


The brand val­ues gen­uine authen­tic­ity, which gives them the brav­ery to facil­i­tate open con­ver­sa­tion with cus­tomers via red­dit. All ini­tial signs point toward it being a highly pos­i­tive move for the brand. “We’ve been on Red­dit for about two months,” said Dan Evans Jr., spokesper­son for Nord­strom, Seat­tle. “We hope it’s another way for us to respond to and speak with our cus­tomers directly in real-time in a way our cus­tomers will enjoy.”

Key strength: Engag­ing on an open forum such as red­dit requires brands to com­mit to gen­uine authen­tic­ity, con­sumer-cen­tric­ity, and social val­ues, which ensures sen­ti­ment for the brand will win a highly pos­i­tive response. Future-proof, and long-term wins.

Why Should Brands Build A Strong Brand Community?

Each one of the above brand com­mu­ni­ties offer a unique set of virtues that ensure their suc­cess. To vary­ing degrees, each pos­sesses the three pil­lars of feed­back, advo­cacy, and sup­port that have come to define a thriv­ing com­mu­nity.

Lugnet and My Star­bucks Idea offer a unmatch­able resource for brands to gain feed­back on their pro­duct offer­ing and the influ­ence of that feed­back has per­me­ated into the cul­ture and iden­tity of the com­pany. Harley-David­son is an out­stand­ing exam­ple of how a brand can win and engen­der advo­cacy. H&R Block and Ora­cle Com­mu­nity offer valu­able sup­port resources for con­sumers.

Another cru­cial ele­ment of all of these is that all of these net­works offer a unique value propo­si­tion for con­sumers, whether it be the facil­i­ta­tion and shar­ing of infor­ma­tion (SCN, Being Girl, H&R Block, Ora­cle Com­mu­nity), or a plat­form for users to con­nect and share con­tent (Playsta­tion Com­mu­nity, Fig­ment).

Per­haps the most impor­tant take­away, and the one which required the great­est amount of com­mit­ment from an orga­ni­za­tion to deliver, is the bold­ness and authen­tic­ity that enables brands to oper­ate in a way which doesn’t require cen­sor­ship. It’s a mea­sure of how trans­par­ent a com­pany is pre­pared to be, and some­thing all brands must even­tu­ally aspire toward. The rewards for such authen­tic­ity as unmatched (hav­ing, for exam­ple, the power to trans­form strug­gling motor­cy­cle brand Harley-David­son in the 1980s into the multi-mil­lion dol­lar global brand they are today).

Build­ing such com­mu­ni­ties requires inte­gra­tion and com­mit­ment across depart­ments within an orga­ni­za­tion. HBR’s afore­men­tioned study sum­ma­rized:

In today’s tur­bu­lent world, peo­ple are hun­gry for a sense of con­nec­tion; and in lean eco­nomic times, every com­pany needs new ways to do more with what it already has. Unfor­tu­nately, although many firms aspire to the cus­tomer loy­alty, mar­ket­ing effi­ciency, and brand authen­tic­ity that strong com­mu­ni­ties deliver, few under­stand what it takes to achieve such ben­e­fits. Worse, most sub­scribe to seri­ous mis­con­cep­tions about what brand com­mu­ni­ties are and how they work.”

It means that brand com­mu­ni­ties are not, as they are often per­ceived, a lone mar­ket­ing or cus­tomer sup­port objec­tive, but a busi­ness strat­egy that demands authen­tic­ity as a pre-req­ui­site. In estab­lish­ing one, a brand can look to grow and evolve with the expec­ta­tions and needs of its most valu­able cus­tomers.

Pat Hong

Written by Pat Hong

Editor at Linkdex/Inked, Linkdex

Pat covers the SEO industry, digital marketing trends, and anything and everything around Linkdex. He also authors Linkdex’s data analysis and reports, analysing the state of search in various industries.

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