Forced Communities — The real reason why brands fail in building their own OG

published on 26 January 2023
Photo by Helena Lopes on Unsplash
Photo by Helena Lopes on Unsplash

One of the most important elements of any brand, organisation or individual’s success is community — but what many don’t realise is that this isn’t just a call to arms for clapping emojis and comment replies.

Communities are built on issues — those that matter to us personally and those impacting our shared circles.

We’ve been thinking a lot about the concentrated efforts especially by brands, to form their own communities, their “gang”, some form of “OG”.

Many have tried and failed miserably, such as:

  • Coca-Cola’s “Coca-Cola Communities” campaign, which aimed to create online communities to share their love of the brand, fell flat due to a lack of engagement and interest from users.
  • McDonald’s “Our Food, Your Questions” campaign, which aimed to create a transparent dialogue about the brand’s food, was met with scepticism and criticism from consumers.
  • Nestle’s “The Hub” campaign, which aimed to create a community for parents and caregivers, struggled to gain traction and engagement from its target audience.
  • PepsiCo’s “Pepsi Pulse” campaign, which aimed to create a social media hub for Pepsi fans, also failed to generate significant engagement.
  • Procter & Gamble’s “Connect+Develop” campaign, which aimed to connect P&G with innovators and entrepreneurs to co-create products and services, struggled to find meaningful collaborations and partnerships.

Can you see the common thread on all of them?

They are all forced communities, which put the brand front and centre rather than what their consumers care about. They all smell fake and consumers are attuned to detecting the fake from the original.

1. Forced communities

You may acquire them but it’s near impossible to keep them alive and engage them. Simply because, there are no common threads that keep a forced community together in the first place. There is no glue holding these people together and more importantly, the brand cannot be that glue.

2. Maintenance Cost

Communities require attention to maintain and grow engagement. This is a huge cost for brands that try and do this on their own especially since these communities are forced which means they require even more maintenance and attention.

3. One-sidedness

When it’s a forced community essentially owned by the brand, you only get people who are huge fans of the brand, not the majority of the consumer base. The insights you get from that community will be misleading. The good, the bad and the ugly are all part of the consumer insights and you need them all to improve your brand performance.

Let’s say even if brands could pull this off, do you really think the community would stick around and create authentic dialogues for long?

My answer is that they wouldn’t.


It is really hard to shake off the weight of the brand behind the community which it’s trying to build. Its ultimate aim is to sell to that community and consumers see through that.

It’s not easy to be prepared for backlash. Unfortunately, no matter what position brands take there will likely be some negative reactions from people who don’t agree with them or feel like their solution isn’t enough.

Most importantly, issues don’t have brands tied to them; when you have a headache you have many pills, so it cannot be owned by one brand but as expected, brands don’t want any competitors in the space they create.

What should brands do instead?

Brands need to meet the communities where they are without trying to own them. Today’s social media partly helped them but current social media ads mainly target consumers individually if they fit certain criteria. You can’t effectively do community marketing. If they go one step further, the best they could do is social listening which is limited (see here our take on its limitations).

There’s a better way for brands to tap into issue based communities which don’t care about the followership numbers of users or advertising to them overtly but instead allows its users to authentically discuss the topics they matter to them.

Multytude is one of those places where communities are built organically and happy to share their wisdom when they’re asked about it. This way, brands don’t need to grow or maintain a community but know when they can inject themselves into authentic conversations to understand their consumers better by asking the right questions to those who care about them and rewarding the participants for the insights they give.

We should never forget that communities are made of human beings, they require honesty and want to feel valued for their contribution emotionally and financially.

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