Media and entertainment companies have always understood the power of fandoms. But in today’s rapidly changing landscape of consumers moving from passive purchasers to influential advocates, brands across industries are realizing the need to identify who their fans are and how best to engage with them.
Throughout our extensive work with media and entertainment clients and audiences, we’ve explored what fandom looks like and how it creates value. From our work with diverse media audiences, we know that today’s fan communities are motivated by content, experiences, and products that appeal to their passions, interests, and identities. The most valuable and engaged fan groups use brands as a badge of honor to self-identify. They help shape a brand’s offer and products, and will evangelize on behalf of brands.
The influence of fandoms on consumer trends and purchase decisions will continue to grow. Brands are now faced with an opportunity to turn organic fan communities into their strongest marketing tool.
Through social analysis and a quantitative study, we took a deep look into the world of fandoms across beauty, alcohol, snacks, media, and OTT brands to discover who they are and why they buy. We started by exploring where the lines between unengaged, casual, and fan/super-fan are.
We found that fans are consumers who have not only purchased the product but also:
- Self-identified with the brand
- Participated in the wider conversation
- Spread the word
Fans hold such power because they are much more than consumers: they are advocates and influencers. When they self-identify with brands (e.g., Aerie through its “real women” models and Fenty through its wide spectrum of foundation colors), their engagement with brands on social platforms is more likely to represent an intent to purchase. By participating in wider conversations, they become brand advocates and champions, often leading to real change (e.g., when Brooklyn Nine Nine fans took to social media to save the show). And when they truly love a product, they share it with friends, who in turn are more likely to become fans themselves because it was personally recommended.
Drivers of Fandom
After exploring who the fans were and what distinguished them from casual or unengaged consumers, we dug deeper to understand what drives them to become fans. While there is a wider array of specific drivers, we can cluster them into three core benefit areas:
- Ongoing Innovation – the brand continues to offer new products and services that excite consumers
- Buzz and Evangelism – consumers are often telling others about how great the brand is
- Cultural/Value Fit – the brand is at the forefront of culture
When a brand delivers on these benefits, consumers are more likely to convert to fans, and even more than this – move up the value chain towards being a Super Fan. By constantly striving to deliver these three core drivers, brands can ensure that their fan base will continue to grow and connections with the brand deepen.
Finding and Activating Fans
While fandoms share these common characteristics, not all fans are the same, and each brand needs to understand its own category’s eco-system to truly thrive. In order to effectively fuel a fan base, a company should follow these steps:
By understanding who their fans are and what drives them, companies across markets can capitalize on their influence through effective cross-channel engagement. By harnessing the power of their fans, brands’ efforts can be effectively amplified for sustainable, valuable growth.