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Dan:

This is an interesting discussion as in corporate life we often get samples of promotional materials, and I have to check myself for biases when hiring vendors.

These days it seems that no matter what the question is, the answer is community. I will be posting about that later this week or next one. I think the next wave in technology tools and space will be a departure from community.

You might want to check out Satisfaction, they are offering a space for customers to support other customers and companies to join the conversation. And it will be the ones who are passionate about a product and service to be active in that space.

Mike:

I love the comparison. In a way we're going back, aren't we? State and local fairs are all about community and getting together with neighbors and friends -- at least they used to be.

My suggestion was made with tongue firmly in cheek as that is exactly what Staples does in its Speak Easy program -- probably the reason why they called it such. And we might just dismiss it all.

Which brings up a topic near and dear in the blogosphere. What about comments from people who tout a product or service? Maybe we'll pick that up another day.

I absolutely agree with you, with traditional loyalty programs, it's hard to distinguish genuine opinions from repeated company messaging. The "new" customer loyalty program model that you mention rely on material incentives, which can draw out customers that are only interested in freebies. Wouldn't it be better to attract passionate customers with a community that provides them with not only rewards, but other valuable benefits: helpful tips in using the product, camaraderie with fellow users, and the opportunity to voice questions and comments in an uninhibited atmosphere? I wonder if communities like Tremor or Speak Easy were only created for brand building and WOMM but the real potential lies in the ability to collect rich information about customers, which can be leveraged and expanded with the right tools which could allow companies to understand customer insights across multiple company built communities.

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