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2 great case studies for Brand Communities: Nike and adidas

In 2009 when Facebook created brand pages, it was very smart to  adopt the terms “fans” and “community”. These little 2 words partly explain the huge boom of the “brand’s Facebook page”. The social media had found the 2 words that marketers wanted to see…  In a nutshell, marketing for marketers.

The result was a race for fans, and marketers who began to talk seriously about their fans and their communities…
It’s key to understand that for many brands who do not control their distribution channels (and are therefore in B2B2C), Facebook pages represented a unique opportunity (along with CRM) to connect with the end customer.  But it had to be explained to marketers that these people were not really “fans” and not really congregating in “communities”.
Today these concepts are relatively clear to marketers, even if there are still some who resist and pretend not to understand.

Thankfully, some brands grasp the implications of the word “community”…
Anyone with a minimum of social media experience knows that in order for these to be effective, they can’t be reduced only to marketing.  On the contrary, the idea is to build relationships with a view to ultimately constituting a form of social capital. This takes time.  It’s a long-term investment, without any immediate return.  As perfectly explained in this article (that I strongly recommend reading) and the diagram below, social capital is one of the 3 keys to achieving sustainable return on investment:

social-capital-venn (1)

In the field of athletic wear, Nike and Adidas each launched programs related to running, both of which are worth analyzing.

 

Nike threw the first punch


The Nike video was pretty clear on the way they went about it.  All you have to do is look around on the social media (the race takes place on June 7) to measure the effectiveness of this campaign and the number of women who have signed up. Of course, the bib numbers have to be picked up in a Nike store, where all sorts of promotional deals are offered and product flies off the shelves.
This campaign is widely recognized and there isn’t a single doubt as to its effectiveness.

 

 

Adidas’ Boost program taps locally


I would rather spend more time on the Adidas case, which is a local operation (Paris – France), organized  by the Ubi-Bene and Isobar agencies, making it that much more community-oriented.
As explained in an interview, they had the smart idea of creating running groups neighborhood by neighborhood. Then they integrated various opinion leaders who had naturally emerged within the community.  This community isn’t built around the brand but around the pleasure of running together.
The agencies developed this principle of ramification (battles between neighborhoods) in order to add appeal to the project.  But what I find to be most interesting, is the way the community was structured over several months.

The brand facilitates contact between people who weren’t necessarily connected previously, to engage together in something that they enjoy.  The tone is fun, with modern codes (tattoos) and no tabous (on Instagram, see participants drinking alcohol after a race.  Many brands would have wanted greater control and would fear sending out a contradictory signal, but Adidas accepted.)
They started with opinion leaders from each neighborhood, who used their personal networks to bring people into the community, while making sure the scale remained manageable and personal.
This is very far from the race for fans that we have been seeing over the past few years, even if the stated goal is obviously to create exposure on the social web through the participants via their own personal  spaces (specific hashtag per neighborhood).
Remembe, 20 people talking to their 100 friends is much more valuable than a brand talking to 2000 people.  The proximity makes the message that much more credible.
This community relies on sharing values (sports, fun…) and the digital tools are there to reinforce the established connections.  But they are not an essential part of the overall concept.
Don’t forget, the community isn’t the product of the tool, but of the connections that are made.  The technical tools (Facebook, mobile phone and others) are only there to facilitate this connection, but they are not the connection itself.

It was very interesting to follow the specific role of Camille Pic within this community.  She was the leader (ambassador) of the Bastille neighborhood and won the competition in 2014.
In talking with her, it is apparent that she believes this is a true brand community, because Adidas is at the heart of the operation.
What is interesting (and probably a factor to remember) is the role played by these “team leaders” within the structure of the community.
Camille explains it as follows : I am a team leader, which means I organize the weekly run, I prepare the team for battles (confrontations between teams), I welcome the new members and I try to make sure everyone has a good time.  But I also have to reply to lots of personal messages and Facebook comments.

What is even more interesting, since we’re speaking of a brand community, is the importance of this program in her life.  In the end, my team has become much more important in my life than expected!  This role has taught me a lot: an open-mindedness to the outside world that I didn’t necessarily have before, exposure, and above all, a fantastic group of friends that I see as a second family.

Camille’s last sentence shows to what degree this operation met its goals, achieving a significant “reach”, which is the key.  The brand has structured this base and will build on it next year, going even further while maintaining this bond.
Of course, in no way does this sort of action replace mass communication and media.  But it’s worthwhile noting that the operation had great PR ramifications and was radiated beyond the participants’ networks and the brand’s “fans” in France.
10 things to remember about these campaigns

Obviously there are several things to retain from these examples.

  1. It’s important to integrate an existing community, or even better, to connect people rather that gathering them around a brand.
  2. A community needs to have a real life existence.
  3. Tools are not the key (Facebook doesn’t necessarily create your community).
  4. This type of operation requires time and doesn’t have any direct ROI, but is very powerful for a brand (building social capital).
  5. It is crucial to rely on the participants’ social networks.
  6. This type of operation doesn’t replace traditional media.  But it can radiate in a more powerful manner through PR and can be reused.
  7. Naming ambassadors and turning them into “stars” can prove very effective.
  8. The brand must respect the codes of the community it wants to integrate and not try to exercise control at all cost.
  9. The more the campaign is integrated (from an IMC perspective), the more efficient it will be;  this is the strength of the Nike campaign.
  10. This type of communication is more powerful than a Facebook page with x thousands of fans.

It might be a good time to rethink your perspective on brand communities.

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