Maybe you have had this experience, you felt a connection with another person because you both had an iPhone or were wearing the same brand of clothing. Maybe you feel a sense of comradeship when you see someone in the same make of car? This sense of community has been created by the brand. Some brands have been able to do this so successfully that a group of customers become inspired to feel that they share a common understanding and purpose.
Some brands can really be powerful enough to connect customers. These customers feel they have something in common with these other people and a sense of community develops around the brand. The customer might feel connected to just one product or even the whole brand.
Customers connecting with the product
It is the specific qualities of the product that causes a customer to feel connected to it. In these instances the product means far more to the customer than the brand. This does not involve connection with the other users and so there is no real brand loyalty. The customer will have no qualms about switching to another brand if they seem to be offering something better.
Customers connecting with a brand
Here a sense of community has been established around the brand and customers can connect with likeminded people. The connection with the brand can be fairly loose and the customer might still be willing to change brands if a better offer seems to be on the table. An example of this would be how Friendster lost out to Facebook, and then Facebook lost out to Twitter. The community of followers had no real difficulty switching from one to another.
A cult following surrounding a brand
Any brand that creates this cult appeal will have the strongest connection with the customer. In this instance the customer will have a passion for the brand’s unique qualities because they believe that it best represents their beliefs and aspirations. This cult like following for the brand will entail a really strong loyalty to it. Some people devote a lot of their life to the brand and will be able to promote it with an almost religious zeal.
The problem with cult brands is that they tend to put people into two camps; those who love the brand and those who hate it. The passion that the supporters hold may be equally matched by those who despise it. The fact that a brand has a cult following can be negative as well as positive.
Creating the most favorable brand connection
If you want to have the most favorable brand connection then you want customers who are passionate about the brand, but who connect with the brand in a less intense way. This means that they will be willing to acknowledge that other users of the brand have the same passions as they do. They will be willing to relate to these people because of a feeling of common understanding. The good thing about this more subtle sense of community is that it isn’t as off –putting to other people.
A good example for this is Apple where the users have a strong connection to the brand and can be loyal and passionate about their products. The brand has won their trust, and the connection the customer feels with Apple is due to the quality and innovativeness of their products.