What's the oldest brand community?


(Richard Millington) #1

History question for everyone.

What’s the oldest brand community you know of?

I’m looking to get a few good examples of late-80s to mid 90s communities.

By brand, I’m looking for communities created with a commercial purpose in mind. The WELL is definitely old, but probably wouldn’t fall under this bracket.

Does anyone have any great examples?

(Adrian Speyer) #2

@richard_millington that was a great question that got me down a rabbit hole to an interesting research article circa 2000:


This is just a slice with some interesting stats. Wonder how it would be different today

Tens of millions of people have joined a variety of Web communities (Parent Soup, Women’s Wire, Third Age, and Garden.com, among others). Their reasons for joining are both professional and social. According to a Business Week/Harris Poll in 1997, 42% of those involved in an online community said it was related to their profession, while 35% said their community was a social group, and 18% said they joined because of a hobby.

This part also has some sites you can look at. Obviously some (most) are now defunct:

The U.S. section of the Pentax site has a very active community of photography enthusiasts from around the world who exchange advice on buying special lenses, determining the best magazine to buy, fixing troublesome features, photographing butterflies, and so forth (www.pentax.com/discussion.html).

Other large consumer companies have built popular communities around associated interests. On its family.com site, Disney operates one of the liveliest bulletin boards targeted at mothers. Its discussion topics deal with parenting, marriage, health, food, education, holidays, and many other issues. Canada’s Molson beer attracts ice-hockey enthusiasts to its site with information about the sport and message boards so fans can exchange views and gossip about their teams and ice-hockey heroes (www.molson.com.) CNN hosts many discussion boards and chat sites, generated in part from viewers of its news broadcasts and in part from its regular audience that seeks out CNN when traveling. Not surprisingly, CNN has an active community of business travelers who share tips about packing, rate worldwide restaurants, and debate the hand-luggage policies of various airlines (community.cnn.com). The key is finding a related issue that captures people’s attention. People must care about the issue, have opinions about it, and be enthusiastic enough to share their views.

Advantages may well accrue to the first movers in these cases. After all, there are only so many parenting or hobby-related sites that any one consumer will belong to. Johnson & Johnson is about to launch Mothers’ Circle, a discussion group for mothers to exchange ideas, suggestions, and advice on its Your Baby site (www.yourbaby.com). Johnson & Johnson will be in competition for the attention of mothers with the many well-established, fully developed, and similarly focused communities to be found, such as iParenting.com (which has more than 200 active discussion boards), parents.com, parentsoup.com, or parenttime.com. Pets Unleashed, which attracts pet owners to the Heinz pet foods site (www.heinzpet.com), is soon to launch an Owners’ Corner where pet owners can contact each other. Meanwhile, its rival Purina has partnered up with the busy and well-established Pet Place at the iVillage community site (www.ivillage.com/pets).

I am thinking you may want to look at Usenet communities too, like I think that is how the IMDB community started.

Hope that helps :slight_smile:

(Adrian Speyer) #3

Oh and this footnote might help

N. Watson, “Why We Argue About Virtual Community: A Case Study of the Phish.Net Fan Community,” in Virtual Culture S. Jones, ed. (Thousand Oaks, California: Sage Publications, 1997), pp. 102–132.

I did also archived a copy of the article here: http://archive.is/q4ZUX

(Sarah Hawk) #4


(Richard Millington) #5

Those are awesome, thanks @adrian.

I’m finding the earliest commercially-branded community was probably CompuServe chat rooms in the early 80s, but those we would most likely consider communities today are probably in the list above. The Disney one is especially interesting.

It’s also hard to distinguish communities that became brands and brands that started communities.

(Mark Williams) #6

I’m not sure if this is quite what you are looking for, but I can tell you that Apple’s support community started on Compuserve in the mid-90’s and some of the members were still in the current (as of a few years ago) started back then and had stayed with it through 4 different platforms.

(Richard Millington) #7

@mdfw I had no idea, that’s awesome, thanks. I was wondering when that
community was getting going.

Do you have a source for that?

(Mark Williams) #8

Me. :slight_smile:

(Richard Millington) #9

Heh, is there any web record of that date?

(and don’t say this thread!)

(Mark Williams) #10

That’s a good question. I’d have to check my notes. My roommate during that time worked those boards. Let me see if he has info.

(Mark Williams) #11

Ok, didn’t find Compuserve yet, but here’s a mention of the EWorld support community:
"Nevertheless, Apple began to implement changes. Before the advent of eWorld, Apple had started a consumer-oriented online support service known as AppleLink Personal Edition. " - From https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/EWorld

(Jason Hill) #12

Is John Coate from the Well part of this community @richard_millington? He managed one of the earliest online communities that I know of.

(Richard Millington) #13

I don’t think he is. But I’ve met John a couple of times in the past.