Building a great brand community can be done in 3 steps: first, you need a captivating reason for members to join. Secondly, you need to make it worth their time to engage with each other and with your brand. Finally, it has to be easy and valuable for members to share your community with others and help it grow. Once you have all three steps working together, you've got yourself a brand community.
What is a brand community? A brand community is a group of customers who are invested in a brand beyond what is being sold. So, while this might be a new idea for you, many of the world’s best brands have been putting community building to the test for years.
To get an idea of what this community building looks like in action (and to get you inspired to build your own!), let’s take a look at 8 of the best brand communities and what makes each of them so great.
Gymshark is one of the fastest growing fitness apparel brands in the world, and their incredible growth is largely fueled by the strong community they have built around their brand. Using their Gymshark Central blog as a hub, they make it easy for new and returning customers alike to dive into their community without having to do any heavy lifting.
With articles loaded with tips, tutorials, and recipes, their blog is jam-packed full of health and fitness related information that has clearly positioned them as their members’ go-to source for anything health and fitness related. This makes it easy for customers to decide to purchase their products as a way of strengthening their connection with the fitness community.
Gymshark’s strong value-add marketing strategy is also evident through their team of athletes. With huge social following of their own, each athlete is handpicked to represent the brand to their own communities. This gives them the chance to individually engage with their own loyal fans on a personal level as a reflection of the Gymshark brand.
When you combine these social interactions with their strong purchase intent, Gymshark customers are given many opportunities to continue engaging with the brand over time, and almost as many opportunities to share their Gymshark experiences with their own communities.
This is most clear at Gymshark’s many pop up shops that spring up across the UK. Featuring special sales as well as live classes, demonstrations, and appearances from Gymshark athletes, these are highly anticipated events that have community members waiting for hours for the doors to open in the hopes of scooping up some exclusive gear and meeting up with other Gymshark fans.
By growing their community both on-and-offline, Gymshark is a prime example of what it means to build a brand experience customers can’t wait to be a part of.
The Giving Keys
As a company that’s branded themselves around the idea of being a “Pay it Forward Company”, it’s no wonder their community is so successful.
If you’re not familiar with the Giving Keys, their key shaped jewelry is engraved with different encouraging words. With a company goal to end homelessness, they employ individuals to help them transition out of it as a way of giving back to their surrounding community.
These two ideas alone are enough to get others interested in joining, but they don’t stop there. To help spread the word and get others to join their mission, The Giving Keys have started sharing user-generated content on their own social media pages. Using the #thegivingkeys hashtag on Instagram, customers can create Instagram Stories and other social posts to join The Giving Keys’ conversation.
This type of visibility is extremely valuable to many customers, and quickly allows them to feel like a contributing member of the larger community.
Community members can also share their stories with others by submitting their experiences of passing along of a Giving Key to the brand’s website. These stories are then added to an ever-growing list on display, inspiring hope, positivity, and encouragement in every visitor who comes across them. These positive stories easily help establish strong emotional connections with customers from the start, as they see parts of themselves represented in the stories of those who have come before.
These storytelling tools are all brought together in their VIP rewards program. With rewards for purchases, social engagement, and customer referrals, The Giving Keys have given ongoing engagement with their brand tangible value that plays into the idea of “paying it forward.” This reciprocal approach to their own customer experience perfectly unites each community member with what they stand for, enticing their community to help keep it growing while also getting them closer to the ultimate goal of ending homelessness.
Sephora has one of the best brand communities both in and outside of the cosmetics industry. Whether you’re a beauty buff or not, they’ve created a customer experience so unique that you would know you’re in a Sephora (or on their website) even if you stripped away all of their logos and product images.
While their website already has everything you could want to know about their products, how to use them, or anything else beauty related, the real power of their community comes from their rewards program. Beauty Insiders get great perks at every level of the three-tiered program, including exclusive sales and invitations to members only events and meetups. Every tier also has access to the Rewards Bazar, a huge catalogue of products they can get for free by redeeming the points they’ve earned.
By offering incredible rewards at every tier, Sephora has fine-tuned their program so that it’s still motivating enough to keep their community engaged and working towards achieving the next level of luxury. This is what makes their program so attractive to join, and has built them an enormous community of cosmetic and beauty enthusiasts that simply love being Beauty Insiders.
StarbucksThe Starbucks brand has been synonymous with community for quite a while, thanks to how well they’ve crafted their brand image.
For starters, when you enter a Starbucks cafe you aren’t greeted by mere employees — you’re greeted by Starbucks partners. This is the term Starbucks uses to refer to their baristas, and this small detail helps make inclusion in the brand community something felt by everyone, not just the customers that come in to get a drink.
Outside each cafe’s walls, Starbucks has continued to do an amazing job of strengthening their community with a number of social initiatives to boost member interaction and engagement. One great social impact initiative is the volunteer matching service they created to help partners and community members engage with each other, and help those outside the community that need assistance.
Between the annual #redcupcontest holiday cup decorating contest and the countless #psl (pumpkin spice latte) photos customers post every fall, Starbucks has taken full advantage of the power of user-generated content to build community, reposting some of the best tagged customer photos on their corporate social profiles.
However, this all pales in comparison to the crowning jewel of the Starbucks brand community: their Starbucks Rewards program. As a Starbucks Rewards member, customers can earn Stars for making purchases, playing games, and attending bonus point events.
They can then cash those Stars in for free products, all in the hopes of achieving the prestigious Gold VIP status. Achieving this honor gets members a personalized gold card that they can show off, creating a tangible connection between themselves and their position in the Starbucks brand community. This small token is an incredibly powerful way that Starbucks has been able to build a community that gets their customers excited to join and stay engaged over time — all for a piece of plastic.
The Walt Disney Company
When you think about brands that have huge a huge community of followers, one of the first ones you probably think of is the House of Mouse. For a company that was founded nearly 100 years ago, Disney has done everything possible to make their brand not just a media company, but a complete entertainment experience. With beloved characters like Winnie the Pooh and Donald Duck, their films and stories are the perfect vehicle for building lasting emotional relationships with each of their customers, no matter where they are in the world.
From the United States to Tokyo and everywhere in between, Disney fanatics are all connected by a deep love of all things magical. This shared passion has led to a number of exciting traditions inside the Disney community that bring people together, including Dapper Day and cosplay meetups.
Perhaps the most exciting event, however, is the D23 Expo. This annual gathering is sponsored by the Official Disney Fan Club, D23, and welcomes members of the Disney community to come together and celebrate all things Disney. This three day event is the highlight of the year for the most avid Disney community members, and is a fantastic opportunity for new and old fans alike to meet, create more lasting relationships, and share their own experiences with each other.
While each of these experiences are magical in their own right, the pinnacle of a true Disney community experience is physically going to one of their parks. Gathering with a crowd of other wide-eyed enthusiasts to take part in the rides, sights, and sounds of the world of Disney is the ultimate expression of what it means to be a member of this worldwide community.
If you’re looking for a brand community that makes you feel like part of the family, look no further than temporary tattoo makers inkbox. Their original products were inspired by the indigenous tribes in Panama, who have been tattooing for thousands of years as a function of family and community. To echo these values of inclusivity and togetherness, inkbox’s inkfam community is built around making sure their community members know just how much they are valued.With their #inkboxlove hashtag, they let their community members submit photos of their freshly applied tattoos to be featured on the brand’s website and social channels. By showing each member of the inkfam that their engagement and belonging in the community is valued, inkbox shows exactly the kind of brand they are. That desire for belonging is exactly why over 8000 photos have been tagged with the hashtag, meaning they have a lot of customers that love their ink, and love being part of the inkbox family.
The values we enjoy most as part of a family are acceptance, openness, trust, and support. By tying their community to these values, and doing everything they can to live them out, inkbox has built a community that feels safe and inviting - like a family you’re already part of.
Athleisure has been on the rise for a number of years, and few brands have had as much of an impact on this trend than Lululemon. With luxurious yoga gear serving as the heart of their diverse product line, Lululemon’s brand community is built around empowering their customers to lead a healthy, active lifestyle.One of the key ways they do that is by offering accessible, invigorating experiences to their community members. If you’ve never tried yoga before, Lululemon gives you a chance to join them for a free yoga class or for come to one of their other larger festivals and events. At all of these gatherings, community members can sweat, meditate, and retreat together from the chaos of everyday life. For people like me who have never done yoga, this provides huge value to me, as I would get to experience the sport, connect with the Lululemon brand, and connect with others in their community without any risk.Even though these events do a lot to keep members engaged, Lululemon also recognizes that they need advocates to help their community grow. To help draw a crowd to their events, Lululemon has an active ambassador program that features a number of athletes and leaders in fitness, nutrition, and business. As independent brand ambassadors, these leaders evangelize the Lulu brand, serving as a living embodiment of the brand’s values in the real world.
Joining a new community can be intimidating, but Lululemon has done a lot to make the barriers to both their sport and their community as non-existent as possible. Since great brand communities have to be accessible, by embracing the values of both athleticism and leisure, Lululemon has made their brand community easy to try out and join, but still exciting to engage with through their events and ambassadors.
Parenting is incredibly rewarding emotionally but can also be confusing, so its not wonder that in the necessity of sticking together, parenting communities are some of the strongest and largest you can find. Unsurprisingly, the brand community surrounding Baby Tula is no different. Having created a value-add marketing strategy with different types of content, they’ve become a go-to destination for info about baby carriers and baby-wearing culture.
Their video tutorials are probably their biggest draw when it comes to encouraging customers to join their community. For those who have never used a baby carrier before, they’ve created a number of video tutorials on how to wear and use their wide range of products. They’ve even gone one step further and made it possible for you to book a private video chat with one of their baby-wearing educators to help make sure both you and your baby are safe and comfortable.These types of exceptional customer service experiences are one of the best reasons their members have for sharing their experiences with others. To make that sharing process even easier, Baby Tula runs a referral and rewards program that rewards their happy customers for sharing the brand with their friends. This makes it beneficial for customers to leave product reviews, use a unique referral link, or share the Baby Tula brand on social media.
By giving their customers a way to make engaging with them valuable, Baby Tula has built a foundation for a strong and quickly growing brand community. With so many resources for educating their customers and celebrating their parenting lifestyle, new and returning customers are quickly welcomed into the Baby Tula family and shown how beautiful and valuable it is to be a parent.
Building a great brand community is easier than you think
What each of these awesome brand communities have in common is that they know what their customers care about. With this knowledge at the helm, these 10 brands have built a community around enabling their customers to live out those values through a complete and rewarding brand experience.
Whether it’s through rewards, special events, user-generated content, or brand ambassadors, the world’s biggest brand communities give their members the tools to bring other like-minded individuals into the brand’s story, the motivation to keep them engaged, and the power to spread the love as far as they can.