The Pitfalls of Relying on Brand Fandom: Part 2
Hello, all, I’m back again to drone about brand fandoms. Last time, we covered the concept of a brand fandom and why many businesses want them, but also that it can be dangerous to let your company focus too intently on their fandom at the expense of their other customers and their wider marketing strategy.
To recap, a brand fandom is segment of a company’s customer base that are particularly devoted to that brand or company, going beyond being just consuming a product by becoming emotionally invested in that product and forming a strong relationship with that company. Last time, I focused on how a company that comes to rely too heavily on their fandoms can become complacent, failing to attract new customers or keeping their current ones because they became lazy or just assumed that their fans would mindlessly accept whatever they did.
This time, I’ll be looking at the other side of the fandom relationship, and show how the fandom itself can impact the company’s marketing performance.
Inclusion can also be Exclusion
One of the benefits of brand fandom, at least for the fans themselves, is the sense of community that it fosters. These people can come together and bond over their shared love of the same brand, allowing for a sense of belonging and support. Additionally, fans can pool resources and experience to assist one another or even produce fan-made products or content to go along with their products of choice. For instance, Harley-Davidson owners feel a certain camaraderie with others, a bond that might not otherwise exist. By buying a Harley, you’re not just buying a motorcycle, but joining a community.
By that same token, those communities might seem a little daunting to outsiders. People might see these brand fandoms, see their specific subculture and lingo and norms, and be confused, perhaps even be turned away. Maybe they don’t want to join a community, but just get what they paid for.
I’m not saying that fandom will turn away more casual customers, but a company needs to work to make sure that potential new customers and the less passionate of your customers don’t feel neglected. As I touched upon before, relying on a brand fandom might be great, but getting complacent won’t win you new customers. Your marketing should take this into account and make sure to reach people who might be interested in joining the more active aspects of your brand’s customer base.
On a related note…
Your Customer Base Reflects on You
Now, this, admittedly, isn’t necessarily a marketer’s fault. They can’t directly control their customers. If they did, well, there wouldn’t be any need for marketing. But, the sad fact of the matter is, as I said, a potential customer’s decision to buy from your company could be influenced by the fandom that has built up around it. However, it’s not necessarily just the daunting nature of a fandom that could keep a customer from being more active, but the attitude fostered by that fandom and the image it presents.
Now, to illustrate, I’ll give a personal example. I might lose some of you with this, but, I refuse to buy Apple products, precisely because of their fandom.
I know, it’s irrational, and the products seem to be great. But, the Apple fans (or “Cult of Apple,” as I like to call them) just …really put me off the products. The really vociferous, passionate ones tend to be preachy, holier-than-thou, and kind of jerks. For me, it doesn’t help that Apple itself seems to intentionally market to this demographic and does nothing to counter this element of the fandom.
Is my perception biased and skewed from personal experience? Probably. Is it unfair for me to judge a company based on the people who buy from it? Of course. Should I give their products a fair chance? Sure. Will I? No.
Fair or not, the simple fact of the matter is, I still refuse to buy Apple. And the truth is, this is an issue that any company might have to face. Who they choose to market to, or how they manage their fandoms, will reflect back on them. All other things being equal, the type of people who buy and are passionate about your product will shape your company’s public image, right or wrong. For instance, I also know plenty of Apple or Mac users that are friendly, great people, and I’m sure the majority of them are. However, the nice ones aren’t the ones that get the attention; it’s the ones that are loud and passionate.
Now, despite all this, I’m really not opposed to the idea of brand fandoms or companies actively fostering them or interacting with them. If you can manage it, great! A fandom is a great resource for any company. They proportionately spend more than non-fans, they get out the word about your company, they defend your company and brand, they help provide support for other customers, and their contributions can even enhance the product.
By fostering a direct, active connection with their fans, companies get a great insight into what their customers want and can enjoy great success.
But those companies should also be aware of the realities of brand fandoms, too. Just because your company inspires a fandom, it does not mean that you can do no wrong, or that that fandom will always be there. A company should work to make sure that they still have a strong business plan and a good marketing campaign that appeals a broad base of potential customers, just as you would if you didn’t have a fandom. And, the sad truth is, no matter how hard you try, you might simply not able to develop such a devoted following. It’s all a matter of culture, image, and the strength of the product in the first place. And, if your company and product are good enough to attract a fandom, you should be proud enough of that and work to make sure that stays true.
What do you think? Are there any, brands you feel passionately about. If so, what are they? Do you have any positive experiences with brand fandom? Any negative?
Image credit: Mac/PC commercial screencap, and Intersection Consulting.
Mike is a data entry specialist at QLP. Just about the most stereotypical nerd you’re likely to meet, he loves role playing games (like Dungeons & Dragons or Shadowrun), comic books, and all manner of science fiction, fantasy, and horror television shows and movies. He also loves reading (again, sci-fi, fantasy, horror, and comic books), playing computer games, and hanging out with his friends in his spare time. He is also something of a science geek, and enjoys reading science and tech-based magazines and news. You can also connect with Mike on Google+.