Community Branding: The giffgaff Way

By Nick Dormon

On March 8th, Echo's Director Nick Dormon will take to the stage at YMS London to discuss community branding, the giffgaff way. What is the key role of design in building powerful, flexible brands?

giffgaff is a young mobile telecommunications brand in a market dominated by established ‘big boys’ who have, for years, been creating industry norms in which consumers are compliant but arguably largely unsatisfied. As a quintessential challenger brand, giffgaff have burst onto the scene and done things differently, and for the better. giffgaff believe in members not customers. They don’t do contracts so don’t tie people down, which is especially important for younger generations. The whole business is only run online, which means no shops and no call centers. Instead, the thriving community of members help other members and share the giffgaff love.

Community brands are made up of a guided community of members united by shared social digital behaviours and a commonality of brand interest. Developing a community around a brand is not a marketing strategy; it is a high-level business strategy that solidifies the connection between a brand and its members.

Giffgaff is a fantastic example of this. The giffgaff member community, otherwise known as ‘giffgaffers’, are empowered to help market the business, recruit further members, advise on product development and more - and are rewarded for their efforts. The result is a growing community of brand advocates, continuously championing giffgaff and its benefits – which they experience first hand.

Importantly, a brand community exists to serve the people within it, and as a result inadvertently serves the brand and business too. TED Talk’s community thrives on cultivating deeper conversations and inspiring ideas. Creating a platform that drives purposeful, authentic and lasting conversations with their consumers builds brand loyalty in a sophisticated and brand-appropriate way.

Recently, we have seen more traditional brands better their community-building efforts and launch digital platforms to target younger audiences. Megabrands Unilever, BT, Carlsberg, M&S and Coca Cola last year formed a coalition to drive momentum around sustainability with the launch of global platform ‘Collectively’. The non-profit editorial platform celebrates and connects people, places and cutting edge ideas leading the way to a better future. Unilever has since formed a partnership with VICE to form Broadly, a new story-telling platform targeted at young women. Brand communities mean that brands have to be personal and relevant, championing and empowering their members in ways they won’t have done before. And a strong brand community can yield an influx of ideas to grow a business.

When it comes to brand communities, the role of the identity design is key. For community brands to be successful they must champion a set of clear and powerful values across the business and to members. They must be bold, authentic, open and importantly human. When brands are human they have the ability to uphold core values but adjust and flex their personality, interacting with people as the individuals they are. Brand design must allow for this and reflect brands as alive and interactive.

ECHO’s re-branded giffgaff identity represents ‘digital noise’. It is constantly moving and never the same, just like the ‘giffgaffers’ themselves. It is designed to be able-to be used in different ways by the community.


As originally published on Voxburner.

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