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Comm306_Talk_among_Yourselves - Talk among Yourselves There...

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Talk among Yourselves! There has historically been a tendency within industry discourse to focus either on mass, undifferentiated audiences (of the kinds that get measured by the ratings system) or individual consumers. Marketing researchers now speak about "brand communities," trying to better understand why some groups of consumers form intense bonds with the product and, through the product, with fellow consumers. In one study that helped to define the concept of "brand community," marketing professors Albert M. Muniz Jr. and Thomas C. O'Guinn concluded: "Brand communities carry out important functions on behalf of the brand, such as sharing information, perpetuating the history and culture of the brand, and providing assistance [to other users.] They provide social structure to the relationship between marketers and consumer. Communities exert pressure on members to remain loyal to the collective and to the brand."36 These brand ethnographers research specific groups of highly committed consumers (such as Harley-Davidson riders, Apple Computer users, or Saturn drivers) or what they call "brandfests," social events (either commercially sponsored or grassroots) that pull together large numbers of consumers. As these brand communities move online, they are able to sustain these social connections over long periods and thus to intensify the role the community plays in their purchasing decisions; they expand the number of potential consumers who interact with the community and help to move casual consumers into a more intense engagement with the product. Marketing professor Robert Kozinets sees these online consumption communities, whether focused on a single product or a cluster of related products (coffee, wine, cigars), as places "where groups of consumers with similar interests actively seek and exchange information about prices, quality, manufacturers, retailers, company ethics, company history, product history, and other consumptionrelated characteristics."37 In short, they are something like Pierre Levy's knowledge communities applied to consumer decision making. Participation within such communities does not simply reaffirm their brand affiliation but also empowers these groups to assert their own demands on the company. As Kozinets explains, "Loyal consumers are creating their tastes
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together as a community. This is a revolutionary change. Online, consumers evaluate quality together. They negotiate consumption standards. Moderating product meanings, they brand and rebrand together. Individuals place great weight on the judgment of their fellow community of consumption members. ... Collective responses temper individual reception of marketing communications. ... Organizations of consumers can make successful demands on marketers that
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Comm306_Talk_among_Yourselves - Talk among Yourselves There...

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