A NYT Article on Newton fanatics got me thinking about how the blogsphere is effectively the open-sourcing of communications.
As ”The Cult of Mac” notes, Newton loyalty has attracted the attention of the academy. Albert Muniz, an assistant professor of marketing at DePaul University, has been studying ”brand communities” for about a decade. Our real communities, it has been said, are disintegrating. We don’t know who our city councilman is; we shun P.T.A. meetings; we’ve never met our neighbors. But Muniz argued in a paper on the subject (written with Thomas O’Guinn of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign) that brand communities, ”based on a structured set of social relationships among admirers of a brand,” are real communities. He acknowledges that it’s more typical to cite the culture of consumption as something that undermines social togetherness rather than creates it. ”But our point of view is: This is a human phenomenon, we are social beings,” Muniz says. ”If community gets lopped off over here, it will emerge somewhere else.” Groups of Saab, Bronco and Macintosh admirers — all studied by Muniz and O’Guinn — even possessed ”a sense of moral responsibility” (albeit a ”limited and specialized one”).
As communicators we foster both communications within and to our communities – internal and external. Increasingly though, (at least in high-tech) the most important communications aren’t occurring from the company but by it’s communities. There is no question constituents turn to company web pages for basic information such as news releases, financials, etc – by important I mean in a deeper way than just information. The dialogue that shapes the way this information is perceived is increasingly occurring outside the company firewall and domain within the community through blogs, wikis and other vehicles.
As the NYT story points, this will inevitably lead to our communities transcending our brand lifecycles and corporate directions.
Some companies will do everything they can to manage the dialogue – to shut down dialogue on dead products. At best all they will be able to do though is enable it.