#8, September 2000
communities, new anchors
acquisition of eGroups in July 2000 is a clear
indication of the interest that marketers are
taking in the development of new communities.
eGroups uses e-mail to target consumers, using
permission marketing, or opt-in-email, that is
constructed around different interest groups or
communities. By Spring 2000, eGroups had 600,000
groups in 22 countries and 14 languages. eGroups
and the rise of other companies that enable
consumers to construct on-line communities such as
GeoCities (also owned by Yahoo!), Tripod,
Moonfruit and Sony’s Friend Factory are
indicative of some of the new types of
community that are evolving and that are
proving to be increasingly attractive to
Swedish site Dobedo has been extensively
advertised to encourage new members and hence
advertisers. It even enables advertisers to attach
real brands to virtual messages. Brands are often
used by consumers as totemistic symbols to say
something about who they are and what values they
have. This applies in new communities as much if
not more than before.
the new communities are not just places for
consumers to meet. There are clear business to
business opportunities too. Communities are
evolving for different reasons. They may connect
small business owners, teleworkers, working women
or other interest groups. The venture capital
industry, for example, has been represented by
communities such as First Tuesday, a worldwide
initiative made up of virtual and real-world
meetings that was recently acquired by Yazam.
First Tuesday has generated around $150 million in
Tuesday is an example of a community that has
developed further into a company. It may help to
promote investment in Internet start-ups but it is
the regular meetings in 100 cities around the
world that form the backbone of its success.
Similarly, FitnessJumpsite.com has evolved from
e-mail communication and Internet discussion
groups to a wider community based around quality
fitness, health and nutrition-related education
around the world.
the Loop has identified the development of new
communities as one of the consumer drivers of the
future. We recently commissioned a research study
through EAP European School of Management to look
at this issue and to identify the opportunities
that may exist for marketers.
is a community?
communities have been based mainly on geography.
The community is the town or village, the church,
the workplace or the café, bar or pub. However,
consumer behavioural changes have meant that many
of these communities are declining in importance.
Mobility in geographic terms as well as between
employment has meant that local and workplace
communities do not play the role that they once
did, membership of established churches is in
rapid decline and even the traditional pub is
undergoing a major overhaul in the UK.
means a change in the nature of a community even
if many of the traits displayed are similar. New
communities are not so much linked by location but
more by common interests. Many of the new
communities arise through the ability of new
communications media to reach people with similar
interests around the globe. The media channels
bring together people with the same interests and
geography is no longer a limiting factor. As
before, the community members share a common
territory although this territory is no longer
based on location. This allows members to belong
to many communities based on work or leisure
interests or beliefs. As such, the new communities
have the potential to be more fluid than old
communities as members opt in and out as they
wish. Flexibility is important, not just for the
community but also for the members.
communities are frequently based on the Web or via
e-mail discussion lists. Moonfruit.com, for
example, invites you to “share your passion”
and build your own Web site within the Moonfruit
still reach out for anchors
family and community represent crucial anchors for
consumers. At a time when the pace of life is
accelerating for many, the sense of
“belonging” becomes increasingly important.
participate therefore I am.”
John Seeley Brown, Xerox
deconstruction of old communities through the
breakdown of families, greater employment
mobility, decline of traditional religion and
other reasons remove this anchor. New communities
provide new anchors. For some, football may be
seen as the new religion. It has places of
worship, ritual chants, icons and sacred clothing.
Like the old religion, a lack of acceptance of
others’ beliefs can sometimes cause friction!
“Tribes” exist in both real and virtual
worlds. Other anchors may be provided through
communities such as support groups for single
people, for sufferers of certain illnesses,
enjoyment of specific leisure pursuits, etc.
does it mean for marketers?
marketers are starting to view the new communities
as ways in which they can reach like-minded
people. Unilever, Johnson & Johnson and Tesco
are all involved in the Web-based women’s
community iVillage. Recently Tesco and iVillage
announced a joint venture to develop a UK version
of the community that has been running in the USA
since 1995. This is iVillage’s first initiative
outside the UK and represents a means for Tesco,
the world’s largest on-line grocer to reach one
of its key target markets. Women are rapidly
growing as a proportion of the on-line market and
are estimated to account for 60% by 2005. Unilever
sees its involvement in iVillage and the teenage
portal wowgo.com as an important way to reach its
target audience. Coca-Cola is working with QXL to
develop cashless auctions.
of mouth is arguably the most effective form of
marketing communications and hence numerous
companies have recently investigated viral
marketing to help promote their brands. Community
involvement is one way to further encourage this.
Just as the adoption of products and brands by
“leaders” of old communities can help spread
consumption through the community members, the new
communities also have opinion leaders.
The targeting of marketing communications
through relevant communities can help a product or
brand gain acceptance and even prestige. The mere
presence of a brand within a specific community
can provide a positive association if it is
correctly managed and accepted by the community.
Sony may target the on-line skating community
through different initiatives as it may be seen to
be supporting the community. For Sony it is
possible to reach a similar demographic group to
its Playstation target audience. Similarly, WH
Smith provides the content for the literature
community within Cycosmos.
of the larger communities represent huge potential
markets. The US portal gay.com claimed some 8
million visitors during December 1999. Moreover,
they tend to have incomes well over the national
average! iVillage membership reached over 5
million in the second quarter of 2000 with
year-on-year revenue growth over 200%! As such,
they represent major marketing opportunities.
understanding of communities is one way in which
marketers can look to achieve greater recognition
and acceptance for their brands. The way in which
a marketer becomes involved is crucial to the
level of success that may be achieved. It is
important to work with the community, not simply
to broadcast advertising messages at the community
in the hope that some of them stick. Genuine
involvement in the community helps to build trust
and encourage acceptance.
has also been suggested that community involvement
adds a human element to what may sometimes be
viewed as a cold e-commerce environment. It
provides the necessary personal interaction that
is missing. If the product or brand involvement is
genuine and relevant to the community, there is a
possibility to synchronise the e-commerce offering
and community involvement.
is an evolving environment for brands. One aspect
enabling the new communities to be formed and
develop quickly is the use of newer communications
channels. As Through the Loop’s previous work on
The Third Age of Internet shows, this channel
evolution is continuing so these communities can
be expected to utilise channels such as mobile
phones, WAP, SMS messaging, Smart Home devices,
etc. All of this means expanding opportunities for
marketers. But it’s not all about new channels.
More traditional forms of marketing communication
such as event marketing or ongoing sponsorship
represent an often effective way of demonstrating
involvement with the community.