Do-it-yourself brand creation

New research explores the considerable potential of user-generated brands.

What if user communities create their own brands?  That question is explored in an intriguing recent working paper by Johann Füller and Eric von Hippel, an open innovation expert at the MIT Sloan School of Management. Their findings suggest that traditional brands would be wise to pay attention to this emerging arena.

The researchers surveyed members of Outdoorseiten.Net (ODS), a community of German, Austrian and Swiss hikers, about their brand preferences — and found that ODS members showed significant interest in buying hiking products with the community’s ODS logo. For example, when community members were asked whether they would prefer to buy a backpack from their favorite commercial manufacturer or one that was of equal quality and price but instead had the ODS logo, slightly more than one-third preferred the ODS product, and an additional 17.7% viewed the two brands as equally attractive.

From these and related findings, the authors conclude that user communities have the potential to create strong brands at low cost. Such user-generated brands, they suggest,  can represent potential competition for traditional brands — but they may also present opportunities for co-branding and collaboration.

4 Comments On: Do-it-yourself brand creation

  • adatta | January 5, 2009

    Brand creation by customers also imply the direct advantages;
    1. Higher brand loyalty – since there is a sense of “belonging” to the brand and the brand “belonging” to each of the customers.
    2. Better scalabity – brands have often seen to lose their potential over a period of time. When a brand is being customized by a large group of users, it can be easily scaled and accurate changes can be incorporated to give the brand a longer lasting value content.
    3. Better penetration in the target market segment – In the cited example, a group of mountaineers and adventure seekers develop the brand, which represents a range of mountaineering and hiking gears. The brand name and image would be easily percolated to the peers ie, other adventure seekers of the same community.
    4. Leads to product development – brand creation by the customers leads to a range of opinions of different customers which in turn necessitates product development to cater to the varying spectrum of customer choices. This is important to unleash the complete potential of the brand.

    Avi Datta
    School of Business and Law,
    La Trove University, Melbourne

  • midhatdz | April 6, 2009

    Isn’t it word of mouth marketing? WOM is an umbrella term for dozens of techniques that can be used to engage and energize customers, like viral marketing, blogs, communities, loyalty programs, and other techniques that get customers talking about your products.

    Midhat Dzemic
    Sarajevo, BiH

  • UPDATES FROM THE FRONTEER » Blog Archive » Strong media interest for Fronteer study on relationship between ‘open-ness’ and ‘attractiveness’ of brands | July 7, 2009

    [...] are also picked up across the border: Frank Pillar links the research to a recently performed MIT research study by open innovation expert Eric von Hippel and Johann [...]

  • RWTH-TIM Blog » Blog Archive » Brand Value and Open Innovation: Companies open for customer input are more popular, study finds | July 9, 2009

    [...] The connection between open innovation and branding has been explored in a few studies recently. The best probably is Johann Füller and Eric von Hippel’s study on brand creation by users in the outdoor community “Outdoorseiten” (see the short summary in MIT Sloan Management Review). [...]

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