A new take on the passion of Fandom from Matt Garrett
Undoubtedly, one of the most significant non-political, non-humanitarian, and non-environmental narratives is the influence of fan culture on entertainment and the economy. The 2023 Summer of Women was celebrated by the triumvirate of Beyoncé, Taylor Swift, and Barbie, and the prowess of fandom became apparent. Beyond mere entertainment, it showcased a raw economic and monetary flex by the generation of brands' fans that have reshaped global cultures.
These highlights underscore the substantial impact of aligning, motivating, and organizing fan communities, a lesson not exclusive to entertainment brands. The economic halo (no pun intended) of Beyoncé and Taylor Swift's tours, along with the global resonance of the Barbie franchise, has elevated the prospects of partner brands, service teams supporting each event, and the economic standing of the host cities and communities. With a cumulative economic value greater than USD 10 billion in 2023, these brands have sent a clear message – never underestimate the power of your brand's fans.
As you explore the distinction between fans and loyalists, it’s important to introduce the concept of self-congruence borrowed from other eminent thinkers. Self-congruence is the need for alignment or a deep association with the products and brands we purchase. Fandom represents the culmination of the pursuit of self-congruence, where consumers adopt a brand's key identity as their own, woven into their culture and personal DNA.
Visible in modern culture through sports and entertainment fans, brand fandom is an active and evolving pursuit deeply rooted in consumerism. While I may not be fully qualified to delve into its intricacies, my role is to discern how to leverage this phenomenon to aid business growth.
This brings me to a crucial point – why should businesses care about fans? Here, I challenge today's marketers. As I emphasized in an earlier post on "Loyalist vs. Fans," engaging and developing fans is an underutilized resource for over 95% of brands, resulting in wasted potential. Mobilizing fans doesn't just secure current customer value; it becomes the additive ingredient to your marketing franchise, driving higher margins, reducing marketing costs, and fostering stronger brand growth.
And please, spare me the details of your loyalty strategy and programs. Loyalty is not a thing unlocked by tactics, programs, campaigns, or tools like NFTs or apps. It's in the DNA of a fan, requiring nurturing and management. While a loyalty program lays a strong foundation for fostering fandom, it's only part of the solution. Fans mature in their relationship with the brand as a product of their loyalty pursuit.
Identifying who and where your fans are is just the beginning of mobilizing your marketing enterprise to tap into the potential of fandom and transition your business into a Fan Brand. However, you can't apply the same approach used in CRM or loyalty efforts. With fan marketing or fandom strategies, you need to reconsider your marketing toolkit, outreach efforts, channel usage, and brand environments.
Here are the key four steps to kickstart the mobilization of your fans:
- As part of the shift to customer-centricity, start developing a direct-to-fan (D2F) channel. Current approaches to customer-centricity often stop supporting after the acquisition to retention to development paradigm is met. Fans or endorsers need their own, deliberate support and channels to facilitate brand growth.
- Create the right identification of your fans – not all customers will be fans, and a simple metric will not suffice. Don't rely solely on LTV or NPS.
- Commit to establishing a safe space for your fans to engage, interact, and influence your brand. They've earned it, and you can set up controls on the customer experience to help shape and transition brand standards from your marketing team to your fans.
- Developing or fostering a fan community is a key element of becoming a fan brand. Given the nature of fans and their identification with the brand, the need to build and engage in a community is paramount. Your marketing strategy should include an objective regarding community development and participation.
What You Should Take Away
As with any content, we aim to provide key, actionable takeaways. Here are the four guiding principles to help you kick off a focus on your fans:
- Expand your strategy outlook beyond loyalty to consider your investment in fans and fandom.
- Fandom is not exclusive to sports or entertainment brands; if you have a brand, you have fans.
- There's broad enterprise-level value available by engaging brand fans. Consider a dynamic shift to being a Fan Brand – promoting, supporting, and fueling real fans to help lift and evolve your business.
Editors note: The author, Matt Garrett, is known to many as a co-leader of rDialogue. Following the acquisition of rDialogue by Bond Brand Loyalty, Matt played a key role with that agency. He is presently an independent marketing consultant. He’s also one of the most capable mountain bike riders in Colorado, so look out for him on the trails. You can reach him here (email@example.com).