Communities can be so … messy, so uncontrolled. And often, the bigger the brand, the tighter the lock it likes to keep on its brand messaging. Companies too skittish to let consumers air their laundry in public can test the waters with gated online communities. Just like their real-life counterparts, private online communities keep out undesirables, while screening activity from the hoi polloi.
Brands including JCPenney, Hyundai and Mercedes-Benz USA have launched private communities using Passenger’s platform and tools. These private groups let marketers and product folk float ideas and get feedback without all the snark; Passenger advises a minimum of 400 invitees to make the confab useful. According to an April report by Sector Intelligence for Passenger, these invitation-only groups provide valuable intel. For the study, carried out in Q4 2008 and Q1 2009, Sector Intelligence interviewed the managers of Passenger-run communities. It found:
reported that customer communities provide richer insight into customer needs;
33 percent said that the community input alone has actually changed product designs and marketing plans;
64 percent stated that the community made for better decision-making.
The private communities also let company personnel escape the clutches of corporate communications gatekeepers to connect directly with consumers. Susan Kuchinskas