A Short Introduction to Fandom

Fandom can be described in various ways, but as I see it, it is a common denominator to describe various social activities centered around certain brands and activities. These activities gives fans a feeling of belonging and strengthened feeling of identity, which also results in increased loyalty to the brand in question.

The following descriptions is, along with my own thoughts on the subject, inspired by authors Zoe Fraade-Blanar and Aaron M. Glazer. I highly recommend their book “Superfandom: How Our Obsessions Are Changing What We Buy and Who We Are” for a good and in depth take on the subject. Check out the Bookshelf page for more of the books that inspires this blog.

The short version: Fandom is a collection of fan activities centered on fan objects and fan texts.

But hold on! What are fan objects and fan texts, you might ask. Well, a fan object is a physical representation of the fandom generating brand, and can be seen as a focus point for various fan activities. Examples could include toys, posters or even celebrities. A fan text, then, is a non-physical representation of the fandom generating brand. This might be include such as a performance or a piece of music.

I have often wonderen why many Norwegian companies seem not to understand the value of fandom, despite marketing brands that often inspire strong activities. Sure, there are some, especially in sports, but in other areas, the difference between customer and fan is often ignored. They will, of course, understand what a fan is, but a fandom is so much more than that. So why is fandom so important to certain brands? Well, repeat after me:

A fandom is a self replenishing source of very effective and free marketing!

In the right circumstances, in a well managed fandom, the fans themselves becomes the brands best marketeers. This works on a whole different level than the usual word of mouth many brands rely upon. This fan-driven marketing is fueled by the fans’ own passion and sense of identity.

So what is the blueprint for a successful fandom? It can be described using this simple formula:

Successful Fandom = Emotional Response + Critical Mass + Platform

In short, if a brand garners a positive emotional response from enough customers on an effective communication platform, it will most likely generate a fandom around that brand.

Fandom depends heavily on identity and strong emotions. It is important for a the company of a fandom-generating brand to understand the relationship between being a fan and being a customer. Remember:

Not all fans are customers, neither are all customers fans!

All fans, whether they are customers or not, can influence the brand positively or negatively. Therefore, proper communication with fan communities, and a strong insight into their fandom, is crucial to building fan loyalty.