Rebekah Mackay Miller
Rebekah Mackay Miller 13 December 2016

Tapping into Fandom – The Three Fundamentals

We all know someone with a strong passion. Brands that tap into these passions (and do so in a way that enhances people’s enjoyment of their hobbies and interests) are at an advantage when trying to establish an emotional connection with their consumers. This connection will boost share of voice, drive awareness and even power sales.

Perhaps your brother is an avid Arsenal fan who won’t stop talking about this season’s strip; your boss might be a cat lover, constantly cooing over cute accessories or maybe your best friend is an absolute fangirl, and will recite facts about her favourite band/icon/franchise to anyone who’ll listen. Fans thrive on passion, and everyone around them knows it.  

Creating the connection: benefits to brands and consumers

Passionate people will organically drive conversations about brands relevant to their interests; essentially enabling brands to piggyback on everyday exchanges. The opportunity for brands is in making the transition from occasional tag along in these conversations, to active, welcomed contributor. And it’s easier to achieve than most think.

Whether as shoppers or fans, we’re always looking out for new information about the things we love, or new products that we can enjoy. As much as we’d like to, we don’t always have time to seek these things, so, we often rely on recommendations and the previous experiences of those around us to keep our interest alive.

However, we also like finding out information from relevant brands, especially when it’s delivered in an engaging way and makes us feel like an insider; in a recent campaign for Whisker’s Anti-Hairball, trnd mobilised cat lovers from within their community. This enabled Whisker’s to get the word out about their product via genuinely enthusiastic people who shared their own content about the product, while participants benefited from discovering a great new product for their cats.

We often call these active consumers co-marketers as, by working together, brands and consumers can make sure that great products, created by brands that genuinely add value to field in which they operate, are shared with the people that will truly appreciate them – niched targeting second to none.

How can brands work with fans?

Fans, however, are savvy and won’t welcome just any brand into their circles. Here we share the three rules brands must abide by, when initiating a mutually beneficial fan and brand collaboration:

  1. Understand what drives their passion. Before jumping into the conversation, take time to listen to fans, and decipher how as a brand, you can add to that. Provide them with information and tools that make their lives better. For example, a dog food brand may get involved in other aspects of dog ownership, and could produce short videos using an expert to provide behavioural advice.
  2. Be authentic and show respect. People can tell in a heartbeat when someone is being fake and when conversations are forced. Know your subject and be clear on what is valued, and what is considered bad form.  The brands that are most successful at collaborating in this way with people are open, honest and demonstrate the same passion through their values.

For example, a few years ago, MTV started running an annual Fandom Awards show, and in 2015 Coca-Cola sponsored the ‘Ship of the Year’ award (recognising the most popular fan-created character relationships - such as wanting Sherlock to date Watson). MTV, Coca-Cola and the various entertainment brands have little in common, apart from the pop-culture link, but MTV and Coca-Cola made the link work by showing that they respect the people that were passionate about their shows, books and games.

  1. Contribute to their enthusiasm and enhance it. To see the real benefits of working with fans, brands need to harness their enthusiasm and creativity. Get people involved via User Generated Content campaigns and collaborative marketing efforts. Many brands do this in small ways already, by getting involved in events like #BlackCatDay.

They can also create a buzz amongst fans by creating fun, entertaining videos that they want to share. Like Purina did with its Dear Kitten series, the first of which has had more than 27m views. This in turn leads to favourable awareness, which is especially important at point of sale.

Collaboration of this nature is win-win for both parties; consumers’ passions are fuelled by exclusive access to brands that share their own interests. Brands that incorporate co-marketers into their wider media plans explode awareness amongst highly targeted groups of consumers. There’s money to be saved and sales to be gained.

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