What do fans do? Here are seven activities that are common in many fandoms. And if some of the words are sounding religious, that’s no accident. Fandoms have many aspects in common with religion, and many religions could be seen as fandoms in their own right.
Here are seven fan activities that most fandoms have in common. Again, I recommend the book “Superfandom: How Our Obsessions Are Changing What We Buy and Who We Are” by Zoe Fraade-Blanar and Aaron M. Glazer for an in depth look the world of fandom.
- Pilgrimages: Fans often gather to share their enthusiasm for certain brand with other fans. Pilgrimages to cons and other gatherings are common in fandom, and companies know how to get the most out of these. Such events establish and strengthen social connections and brand loyalty. In the past few years, even “digital pilgrimages” has become more common, where fans can attend via live stream when distance would otherwise make it difficult.
- Creation: Fans are often creative, and the creation of fan objects and fan texts are common in many fandoms. The feeling of making one’s own addition to a fandom can be quite profound. Fan-created art, graphics, music, models, fan fiction strengthen brand loyalty and gives the fan a certain kind of status in the fandom. Companies that acknowledges and even promotes fan creations can greatly improve brand loyalty in the fandom.
- Evangelization: Almost all fan communities have a strong urge to talk about their fan objects and recruit new memeber. These activities can be seen by the company delivering the brand as a form of free and effective marketing, as recruitment of new fans will increase sales and strengthen brand loyalty.
- Socialization: Whether face to face or online, fandom is by definition a social activity. Fan activities often revolve around a common interest, which will always inspire conversations and open discussions. Social interaction in this way is also an important element for those who find these things difficult, as in fandom, one can direct one’s attention to something external, such as a fan object or a fan text that fans will often have strong opinions about. It is, after all, always easier to get to know other when you have something in common.
- Impersonation: By imitating our heroes, we feel a stronger connection to them, and we share in their identity. Football fans on their way to a game, often after a pint or six, will show off their team’s colors while singing songs identifying them as supporters. Fans of various movies line up outside the cinemas to get tickets for the premiers of their favorite movies, and fans of super heroes and computer games might spend long nights getting their cosplay outfit just right. Fans use imitation and impersonation to strengthen the feeling of unity and to tell the world around them which fandom they identify with.
- Rituals & Traditions: Fans will often establish their own rules and norms within the fandom. These evolve into traditions and rituals that maintain fan unity and strengthen brand loyalty. Such rituals and traditions can be quite extensive, such as yearly, international live roleplaying re-enactments to smaller weekly gatherings in the local fan club to discuss new fan objects and fan texts.
- Collections: Fans vil often collect fan objects that symbolizes the brand or an important brand event. These collections will also often give the fan a certain feeling of status within the fan community, especially if the collections are complete or the fan objects are rare. Fans owning such collections will often perform their own fan rituals, where placement and impression is key.
Understanding these activities and making them a part of a marketing strategy is key for a brand creator in developing a an effective and positive fandom.