I recently came across a Wall Street Journal piece about branded online communities (link below) and the author talked about how while Lego was looking to come out with a new line of products they tapped into an online community for people who are Lego enthusiasts set up by people who are Lego enthusiasts. The basic thrust of the article is how companies that set up branded online communities as an extension of their marketing effort can turn these communities into market research tools, early warning systems for customer concerns and complaints and customer loyalty building tools. The author pointed out that for corporations to make this work they have to let go of their tight branding control and allow free exchanges of ideas to occur. It was also acknowledged that while communities like this can offer up a wealth of information for the corporation they also can become forums for people to bitch about product issues and that the corporations have to fight the urge to edit out negative threads so that the free flow of all info remains pure.

Does anyone work for a company where they think this type of branded community could work and where the company has the patience and resiliency to allow negative threads to run their natural course?

Actually, I worked with one former client who did create such community on Communispace. The outcome was positive for insights and for brand awareness. The initiative was stopped due to the marketing budget cut. :-(
Negative threads or threads that can stir regulatory violations and fines are BIG in any industry, especially in Pharma. That is why many pharma companies are extremely hesistant about monitoring and creating a forum because of these issues. Look at the commentary slides I created on this issue some time ago:

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