Micro Persuasion points me to a piece of research about the fact that:

The online world is just as important as the real world, feel a large portion of internet users in the United States. […] 43 per cent of internet users who are members of online communities „feel as strongly“ about their virtual community as their real world community.

I wonder if those figures are similar in Germany or Europe in general. What also means, especially for us marketers: build a strong community around your brand (in any way possible: blogs, forums, etc.) and you should – in theory – reach a certain level of relevance and „feel strongly“-factor for your brand.