While the term “brand community” might be new to you, the concept certainly isn’t. Brand communities are simply groups of delighted customers who rally around the values of a particular brand and the value that brand represents.
Brand community: a group of customers who are invested in more than what is being sold. They want to become a part of the brand itself and look for other ways to get engaged besides simply making a purchase.
While it might sound like a big undertaking, anyone can build a brand community in three steps: encourage customers to join your community, convince them to engage with your brand, and then incentivize them to share your community with others. All three steps work together to form a cycle that allows your community to thrive and positively impact the growth of your brand.
How reward programs strengthen brand communities
While there are a number of tools you can use to build a community, customer loyalty programs are by far the most effective (and easiest!) way to do it. Loyalty programs allow you to reward your customers for completing actions at every stage of building your community, making value a key feature of your brand experience.
Rewards show the value of joining
In order for a rewards program to be successful or benefit your business, you need to be giving your customers value. This is the basic principle behind value-add marketing, the cornerstone of encouraging members to join
With rewards, it’s easy to exceed your customers’ expectations and create a brand experience they can’t find anywhere else. You can start providing this type of value from the get-go by offering welcome points or including free products as perks of your VIP program.
We also recommend customizing the look and name of your program. Having a loyalty program that connects to your brand as a whole is a great way to make a positive first impression and show customers how much effort you put into creating a rewarding and valuable experience for them.
When you show customers that you care about giving them value, they won’t be able to resist joining your brand community.
Rewards incentivize engagement
Perhaps the most obvious way a rewards program can strengthen your community is by encouraging ongoing engagement. As we alluded to earlier, a rewards program gives your customers points for completing various actions. Although these earning actions could be as simple as making a purchase, the best programs also reward smaller micro-actions that encourage customers to actually engage with your brand or other community members.
These actions could take the form of social sharing, reviewing products, or following you on Instagram. By making these types of actions rewarding, you help create emotional connections with your customers that solidify their connection to your brand.
Incentivizing actions with rewards makes it easier for members to incorporate your community into their everyday life, strengthening their connection with your brand.
Rewards empower brand advocates
After you’ve enticed customers to join your brand community and encouraged them to engage, you need to empower them to share your community with their social circles. This third stage of community building is most effective when you use rewards to create brand advocates.
The best way to do this is by creating a referral program. This type of customer loyalty program offers a gift to the receiver of the referral, like a discount, but also rewards the customer making the referral.
When you offer your existing customers rewards for sharing their experience with others, you empower them to become advocates. This will prompt them to invite other like-minded shoppers into your community, strengthening it from the inside-out without increasing your advertising spend.
In this way, a referral program harnesses the idea of reciprocity and shows your customers the value of advocating for your brand any chance they get.
4 brands who use rewards to strengthen their brand communities
Now that we’ve talked about how to use a rewards program to build up your brand community, let’s take a look at a few of our favorite brands putting it in action!
1. Smart Art
As masters of creating beautiful things, it’s no surprise that Smart Art has a wonderfully creative rewards program of their own. They’ve customized their rewards program with a brand-specific currency called Peacock Points. This clever name was inspired by their brand mascot, making it a thoughtful element that matches their creative brand aesthetic. As a result, their rewards program is a seamless part of the whole Smart Art brand experience.
Integrating a rewards program into their brand experience made it easy for Smart Art to build on the value of their products by showing customers the value of joining their brand community.
2. Jimmy Joy
One of the best ways to encourage your community members to engage is to provide lots of ways to earn rewards. Jimmy Joy takes this to heart, giving their community members 8 unique ways to earn. This includes points for joining the community and making purchases, but also for sharing and following them on social media and subscribing to their newsletter.
Providing many ways to earn points makes it easier for community members to stay engaged over time. This constant engagement helps form the emotional connections that spark long-term customer loyalty and keeps their program interesting, exciting, and unforgettable.
BAKblade was faced with the interesting obstacle of introducing a brand new product to the market. Their back and body shaver was a revelation to their customers, and this enthusiasm prompted BAKblade to create a referral program. Through referrals, their rewards program turns their loyal customers into powerful brand advocates that helped spread the word of the value of their product.
By offering their customers a reward for sharing their BAKblade experiences with others, BAKblade was able to close their community building loop and get more curious shoppers to create an account.
4. Country Archer
Country Archer Jerky Co. are masters of using their rewards program to build their brand community, making good use of every stage of the community building cycle. For starters, their program is super easy to find since it lives right on their homepage. This makes it simple for every new and returning customer to join.
On top of earning discounts, members also have the chance to get exciting swag like t-shirts and hats, giving them incentives to stay engaged.
Each of these rewards are structured inside a VIP program, with higher point accelerators at each new tier. This is an amazing way to entice community members to engage with their brand. Customers feel driven to earn just a few more points to unlock the best perks possible, strengthening their ties to the community and loyalty to the Country Archer brand.
To close the community building loop, Country Archer has made content creation and social sharing an integral piece of their community experience. Country Archer knows that their customers are going to be inclined to share pictures of their healthy choices on social media, so they made it easy with the #grassfedisbetter hashtag. By offering the recognition of being featured on Country Archer’s social stories up, more customers are inspired to share and join in the conversation.
By combining all three stages of community building, Country Archer has built a thriving community around the values they want to embody as a brand.
There are lots of brands out there with reward programs, but it’s the ones that use rewards to drive community and brand loyalty beyond the sale that are creating long term success.
When you keep the three steps of community building in mind, you deliver a more complete customer experience. Each stage helps you put your best foot forward and helps show customers the value of joining, engaging with, and sharing your brand community.