I met Tom deRuyck at the speakers dinner last night. We had a lively discussion about what "community" means in the context of marketing research, and found that we largely agreed with each other!
He says his firm has done more than 500 communities in the last 8 years. Based on that, these are the things that companies need to survive:
- being open - embracing the empowered consumer
- being agile - moving quickly to respond to consumers
The average CEO finds this scary, and some bravery is needed to be open and agile. Most companies do not have two-way dialogues with consumers, even when they claim to. They are concerned about what will be said if they actually open up a dialogue.
deRuyck asserts that marketing (in campaigns) and research (ad hoc projects) are not responding to the continuous nature of experience. Silos in departments, and process-oriented marketing result in lack of agility. Projects are passed from silo to silo for each phase.
- work on project teams instead of departments
- stop working on ad hoc research
- stop working on ad hoc campaigns
- Bring consumers in to the business and put them at the heart of the business
Examples of companies that are doing this...
 His favorite cookie, PiM's, a Belgian cookie. He says he and other brand fans are more knowledgeable about the product than the brand manager who has been in the job a short period of time. "Your fans are emotional shareholders because they are emotionally connected to your brand."
 Ben and Jerry's wanted to develop a brand ambassador strategy. Found people who score 9 to 10 on a brand fan-ship scale. In a community, these people were the toughest audience. They became angry when a brand team did something wrong with "their brand." They truly want to help you out.
[Aside, @Tom de Ruyck has the best slides ever. Love the typographic design.]
A community - consumer consulting board - a closed online platform on which you bring together a larger group of people for a longer period of time. Closed = invitation only. closed = your secrets are safe. Efficiency of online. Most important charaacteristics - more people for more time. Allows for clashes of ideas, which can be very interesting. More time allows you to think along with consumers while you are developing a marketing campaign.
 Heineken - wanted to be known as a design brand. Did a year-long community. Did some mobile ethnography. Got immersed in the world of clubbing. This served as an immersion for a design team of 15 people. A year after the first day of the community, Heineken wanted to actually build the club of the future -- the ideal clubbing experience, as a pop up club in Milan.
After the first immersion, they started sketching. Then they got feedback on the concepts. They worked across silos, brought down the walls between different departments.
He suggests that communities be used to tackle all your qualitative questions. Use for all business objectives. Generating insights. Developing new concepts. Guiding marketers when they are launching a new product.
How to make it happen? Recipe for success:
- first element is getting the right people on board. the high performing community members are more into the brand OR more into the topic than other people are. It is NOT representative. Not a bad thing (this is qualitative). We work with people who are interested and interesting to listen to. You want people to inspire you!
- How many members? Bigger is not better. Their communities are small - they have studied this with Maastricht U. AFter 30 answers, you know what you need to know. In a short-term commuity, 50 people participating intensely will give you this. In a longer-term, more permanent community, you get 150 people. As you approach 150, it becomes more difficult for the moderator to interact and to probe.
- We brief people and create engagement. The incentive is not money -- it is recognition, feedback, and from time to time a small gift. e.g. from Heinz, every quarter they get a basket of products that they have worked on.
- Co-creation of the IKEA catalog around the world. People want to do this! Make it fun to engage people.
- Help keep people engaged. Gamification -- use the principles and psychology behind games to make a boring task more fun. At the question level, the individual level, and the community level. A question is turned into a challenge. e.g. have ten teams compete against one another, based on cities -- show us that your city is the coolest on Earth. (done for MTV globally) At the individual level, give people a status badge for quality and achievement. On a group level, organize battles of arguments -- create tensions, but do it in a game way. At the community level, you want to make the community act as a we, as a group. Set goals for whole community feedback
Chiquita smoothie example is kind of cool. They had regular fruit eaters and "unhealthy ones" switch their diets for a week. At the end of the week, they listed the benefits of healthy eating. Then they had to argue to convince people to change their diet.
Mobile tools are an obvious good fit for communities. But so is going into the social media where people already are. They created a Facebook page that only community members had access to, so they could do second screening during a TV program. So they could help people capture real time feedback (because they were going to be on FB anyway)
Interesting that they sought feedback on ther communities. Campbells' community had a professional moderator, and a participant co-moderator. this person helps to guide asking better questions. Co-moderated communities get 25% more on topic discussion.
Another thing they did was get analytical help from people to understand stories and other input that they don't understand. 20 to 40% additional insights, depending on the topic. Get more insights. The insights that they come up with, that you didn't find, those are the most interesting things.
Have also tried recruiting observers to just watch a community. Then they do first run of analysis, and run it by the observers. The observers provide feedback and correct the problems of the analysis. This freed the people from social pressure and cultural challenges. (This example was research done in China.)
He has a free book on the internet at www.consumerconsultingboard.com