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Promise Communities facilitates these types of communities and currently runs about 15 live, closed communities for a range of brands, involving more than 10,000 participants.
The company describes its operation as a “24-hour stakeholder advisory board”. This “board” can help brands gather insights towards a number of strategies, such as the development of new products, services and marketing activity, as well as exploring consumer attitudes and needs.
Brands use Promise for different reasons. Prudential and the National Lottery Commission use their stakeholders to gather consumer insight, Tetley and Premier Foods work with Promise to conduct co-creation projects towards new products;
and Kraft, Volvic and the Global Hotel Alliance use their communities for strategy development.
Promise launched the Activia Advisory Board in April as a community of 400 women to tackle two distinct projects for the brand – generating and implementing new product ideas, and finding a new positioning for Activia’s communications. The Activia Single Pot yoghurt was launched as a result, and the community also provided the insight behind the Tummy Loving Care campaign.
Meanwhile, Virgin Media partnered with Promise to launch the Virgin Media Think Tank, a community of 350 members who helped the brand to deepen its customer understanding and to develop new products.
Rick Jenner, head of insight for home phone and mobile at Virgin Media, explains: “The Think Tank has proved to be an effective way of gaining in-depth insight into consumers. It is one of the most appropriate platforms to engage with segments of our customer base and helps us to quickly understand their views and incorporate them into our decision-making process.”
LateRooms.com used Promise to set up a travel-based community of 400 members, which helped LateRooms.com implement 50 improvements to its website. LateRooms.com head of marketing Jessica Reading says: “We have been able to co-create ideas with customers and non-customers, helping us to find new ways of displaying information on the site to increase conversion on all our customer touch points.”
Using a closed online community can prove to be a cost-effective market research tool. Following its Advisory Board activity, Activia conducted an Ipsos study that demonstrated the insights generated from the community were 47% more effective than those generated using traditional market research methods such as focus groups.
This online method could end up replacing traditional research channels, suggests Mike Hall, partner at community specialist Verve. “You can do more research with the one community which is less budget and time intensive,” he says.