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  • Writer's pictureSienna Archer

Is "community" the missing piece in your loyalty strategy?

Updated: Feb 16


In an uncertain market, it’s only natural for leaders to look for ways to economize and hoard resources for future recovery. Yet, especially in these moments, people crave a sense of community. Rather than shrinking, leaders should tap into this and build communities that deliver tangible and emotional value. Done right, they can create lasting bonds of loyalty and discover new sources of growth.


The paragraph above is excerpted from a 2009 article from Harvard Business Review that relates the story of Harley Davidson as an example of a brand that used an holistic community strategy to turn a company around.


In 1983, Harley-Davidson faced extinction. Twenty-five years later, the company boasted a top-50 global brand valued at $7.8 billion. Central to the company’s turnaround, and to its subsequent success, was Harley’s commitment to building a brand community: a group of ardent consumers organized around the lifestyle, activities, and ethos of the brand.


But while the Harley success story is inspirational, it is also a cautionary tale. Many brands have tried to emulate Harley's community strategy but failed, the authors suggest, because these brands (perhaps) did not appreciate either the true power of communities, or what it takes to build and tap that power. In short, Harley succeeded where others failed because it understood and embraced the realities of building customer communities.


7 Myths & 7 Realities of Customer Communities



The Myths

The Realities

1

A brand community is a marketing strategy.

A brand community is a business strategy.

2

A brand community exists to serve the business.

A brand community exists to serve the people in it.

3

Build the brand, and the community will follow.

Engineer the community, and the brand will be strong.

4

Brand communities should be love-fests for faithful brand advocates.

Smart companies embrace the conflicts that make communities thrive.

5

Opinion leaders build strong communities.

Communities are strongest when everyone plays a role.

6

Online social networks are the key to a community strategy.

Online networks are just one tool, not a community strategy.

7

Successful brand communities are tightly managed and controlled.

Of and by the people, communities defy managerial control.


What can sports teams learn from Harley Davidson?


Today's marketers are (still) striving to replicate Harley's success across various industries, including sports, aiming to enhance customer loyalty, marketing efficiency, and brand authenticity through community building. However, misconceptions about brand communities persist, which must be addressed to harness their full potential.


As we look to the future, the craving for connection and community is more potent than ever. In this context, sports teams have a unique opportunity to rebuild fan communities that resonate with the values of both the past and the future.


Is your team ready?


Although any brand can benefit from a community strategy, not every company can pull it off. Executing community requires an organization-wide commitment and a willingness to work across functional boundaries. It takes the boldness to reexamine everything from franchise values to organizational design. And it takes the fortitude to meet fans on their own terms, cede control, and accept conflict as part of the package.


Unlike Harley, most sports teams have limited budgets and small staffs. Building and maintaining fan communities could easily overwhelm them. That's where Minty Sports can help. We act as an extension of the franchise, bringing scalable community strategy, technology and community management services to enable teams to build, maintain and monetize their fan communities and increase Return-on-Loyalty.

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