I just picked up a great book, Managing Brand Equity by David A. Aaker, a professor at UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business. The book discusses different assets of brands and how to manage them effectively to increase growth and profitability over time. As with many successful marketing case studies, Aaker begins with Procter & Gamble, namely Ivory soap, and explores different components of what a brand means to consumers and how it has successfully or unsuccessfully impacted a business over time. In the first 60 pages he identifies an enthusiastic community and customer loyalty as a brand asset.
Aaker points to “the Loyalty Pyramid” to demonstrate the various levels of brand loyalty.
“The top level are committed customers. They have a pride of discovering and/or being users of a brand. The brand is very important to them either functionally or as an expression of who they are. Their confidence is such that they will recommend the brand to others. The value of the committed customer is not so much the business he or she generates but, rather, the impact upon others and upon the market itself“
Here, Aaker very effectively connects customer loyalty with brand equity. This phenomenon of the enthusiastic consumer is the bread and buter of community marketing. Loyal and enthusiastic consumers are the ones community managers communicate with on a regular basis. For me, these are the MongoDB User Group organizers, the developers who always open source their MongoDB tools, the maintainers of the community drivers and the ones who speak at conferences about MongoDB. As a community manager you absolutely love these people. Your relationships with them help your product reach far beyond corporate marketing.
When your product is young, it’s important to invest a lot of time into your community to help them have positive experiences, feel part of something bigger and become successful with your product. When your product gets a larger following, it’s important to keep tabs on your community, but you also need to imbibe your brand with the qualities that made people love your product in the first place to keep the loyalty you worked so hard to build. This means providing a valuable product, and ecosystem to keep them in loyal.
What does this ecosystem look like? Sometimes it is a friendly auto-reply email to a support ticket. Other times it’s a stellar Twitter support strategy. Whatever way you choose, there are systems and processes that can be built in to your existing strategy to scale your efforts across a growing community of users. Take what used to work for individuals and scale that out to your own community of users. You’ll still be spending the same amount of time on your users, but you’ll be able to provide more value by automating the good will. This is next-level brand management.
For the comments: How do you keep your customers in love? If they don’t love you, are they loyal? What tactics have worked for you?