Planning: Communities around brands

WPP has struck a joint venture with a social-networking service, Live World, to build out blogs, buddy lists, message boards, chat rooms and community sites for its clients.

The joint venture, named LiveWorld-WPP, will be equally owned by each company and is exclusively dedicated to collaborating with WPP agencies to offer, create, and deploy LiveWorld’s online community and social networking services as marketing venues for WPP’s clients on a global basis.

Peter Friedman, CEO of Live World, says that "consumers aren't reluctant to be part of a community formed around a brand as long as it's a venue in which the consumer can build relationships with other people who have common interests. For the brand, it can be the ultimate research tool."

I believe that this is going to work. Brand focus and strategic objectives will determine the characteristics of the content offered on an online community . However, the science of community is far more difficult. Communities are delicate collections of people with varying opinions, experiences and prejudices (both positive and negative) on technologies and companies. Traditional uses of marketing and PR are entirely inappropriate for community relations, and it instead requires a deep understanding of community, people and a commitment to the principles that the community is ingrained in. If there is an attempt to subvert these principles, the relationship breaks down.

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