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Online brand communities as heterogeneous gatherings: a netnographic exploration of Apple users

Tuğba Özbölük (Department of Marketing, Bozok University, Yozgat, Turkey)
Yunus Dursun (Department of Marketing, Erciyes University, Kayseri, Turkey)

Journal of Product & Brand Management

ISSN: 1061-0421

Article publication date: 17 July 2017




This paper aims to investigate the different types of members based on their roles within an online brand community dedicated to Apple.


Design/methodology/approach Data are drawn from an 18-month netnographic study, including participant and non-participant observation.


Findings reveal that members of the online brand community share a common goal but they are heterogeneous in many respects. In this research, five different types of brand community members are identified: learner, pragmatist, activist, opinion leader and evangelist. These findings emphasize the heterogeneity of the brand community or the differences of members and subgroups they form in the community.

Practical implications

This paper offers some insights for brand managers. There are different sub-tribes in online brand communities and these sub-tribes develop their own meanings of the brand. This means that online brand communities do not form one single homogenous target group and can be segmented into subgroups. Findings also offer a deeper understanding of negative characteristics of online brand community members. The role “activist” found in this study may be crucial for marketers, as activists can represent the negative side of online brand communities.


The literature on brand communities has focused predominantly on the homogeneity of these communities. This paper extends the literature by demonstrating the heterogeneity in an online brand community. The paper contributes to the brand community literature by substantiating that online brand community members can be segmented into subgroups based on their roles within the community. In addition, the paper extends the existing literature on brand communities that has overlooked the destructive consumer roles.



Özbölük, T. and Dursun, Y. (2017), "Online brand communities as heterogeneous gatherings: a netnographic exploration of Apple users", Journal of Product & Brand Management, Vol. 26 No. 4, pp. 375-385.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2017, Emerald Publishing Limited

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