Originally a community was a densely knit network linking people with shared values and a trusted personal contact. This changed throughout the twentieth century to a connection of people out of more functional interests and needs (Wilson 1990). This new form of community combines traditional community values with individual needs such as selfrealisation and functional needs (von Loewenfeld 2006). Thereby communication technology such as the internet is not an obstacle but rather an enabler since place is no longer a community prerequisite (Uslaner 2000, p.62). Due to those developments, communities nowadays attract a broad target group and represent a relevant and big medium in which people have increasing faith. Decisive for this new sense of community is the existence of shared interests. Brands can play a significant role in this perspective, the reason being that people nowadays derive much of their personal identity from brands and are emotionally attached to brands. Brands therefore often constitute a shared interest. In many cases, this shared interest in a brand is strong enough for a brand community to arise. Increasingly the economic success of companies will to a large degree depend on the social value a product (the possibility to interact with like-minded individuals) can generate. It is estimated that around 80 million people worldwide are active in brand communities, and that this number is constantly increasing (Algesheimer et al. 2006). The biggest brand community, the one around Harley-Davidson, alone has close to one million members (Bergmann & Burghart 2006). Therefore this dissertation will investigate how and to what degree companies can generate value for their customers but also for themselves by establishing a brand community.
KeywordsInnovation Process Brand Loyalty Product Development Process Shared Interest Traditional Community
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