Brand Fandom Insights: Marketing Themes and Trends From Practitioners

Brand Fandom Insights: Marketing Themes and Trends From Practitioners

Melanie B. Richards (East Tennessee State University, USA) and Stephen W. Marshall (East Tennessee State University, USA)
Copyright: © 2020 |Pages: 24
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-3323-9.ch019

Abstract

The goal of this chapter is to discuss themes and trends, from a marketing practitioner's perspective, regarding the importance of brand fandom and how it is managed in a media-rich environment. With the rise of digital media and the evolving changes in our media ecosystem, fans have the ability to be more engaged with their favorite brands and their respective brand fan communities than ever before. This chapter produces original research with viewpoints from expert practitioners representing multiple “cult” brands, cause brands, and media organizations built to enable and serve fans and their favorite brands.
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Introduction

Originating from cattle ranchers more than a century ago to keep track of a herd, branding was originally a tool to let a rancher know cattle ownership. Today, brands are ubiquitous in modern society. The effectiveness of branding rose in the 19th century as producers of consumer-packaged goods, like Coca-Cola, began to use names and symbols to distinguish their goods from others (McLaughlin, 2011). In the 20th century, brands have become more than a symbol with marketing legends like David Ogilvy, the “Father of Advertising,” defining brands as “the intangible sum of a product’s attributes” (Lloyd, 2019, para. 4). Today brands are powerful tools of identity; often the symbolic representation of a product, service or idea purpose, promise, differentiation, and positioning while at the same time often communicating social and emotional benefits. Marketing scholar Philip Kotler states, “Marketers need to target not only the minds of the customers, but also their hearts and well-being” (Kotler, 2016. para. 9).

The power of brands in today’s media landscape cannot be ignored. Brands carry emotional and identity attributes and when communicated effectively can create brand fans. These brand fans are powerful. For any commercial endeavor, the identification and activation of fans are essential to both short-term and long-term business success. In fact, the fans of any brand are typically their most engaged and profitable customers. While some estimate only about 15% of customers are fans, the digital space is able to activate their fandom- making them 50% more attentive to brand ads and 40% more likely to share their experiences, thus ultimately influencing others (Russo & Gregori, 2017). The most successful brands can typically attribute their success to reaching a “cult-like” following or what is often referred to as a “brand tribe.” Brand tribe members collectively identify themselves with a brand and are brand advocates because of their trust, usage, and pride in the brand (Economic Times, 2019).

In our digital media environment, it is essential for all businesses, large and small, to identify and activate their brand fans. In our age of social media platforms and profiles, brands are often used to differentiate people and their symbolic reference can be even more powerful in peer-to-peer communication. Brands are most successful when they become part of the culture and their identity adds to a person’s or group’s identity. In Harvard Business Review, Douglas Holt (2016) states:

Digital technologies have not only created potent new social networks but also dramatically altered how culture works. Digital crowds now serve as very effective and prolific innovators of culture—a phenomenon I call crowdculture. Crowdculture changes the rules of branding—which techniques work and which do not. If we understand crowdculture, then, we can figure out why branded-content strategies have fallen flat—and what alternative branding methods are empowered by social media. (para. 3)

With the importance of what Holt (2016) calls “crowdculture,” the goal of this chapter is to focus on themes and trends, from a marketing practitioner’s perspective, regarding the importance of brand fandom and how it is defined and managed in a media-rich environment. Considering the rise of digital media and the evolving changes in our media ecosystem (e.g., digital innovation from companies like Google, Amazon, Facebook and others enabling greater personalization and empowering fan voices), activating and supporting brand fandom has become a focus of marketing practitioners. This chapter will explore the literature on brand fandom as well as produce original research with viewpoints from experts representing multiple “cult” brands, cause brands, and media organizations built to enable and serve fans and their brands. Further, this original research examines the roles marketing technology and social media have played in building, nurturing and expanding brand fandom.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Brand Tribe: People who collectively identify themselves with a brand (also, see Brand Community).

Transmedia: Storytelling across platforms, immersive experiences, collective intelligence, as well as problem-solving.

Content Strategy: Creating content to drive consumer brand engagement to reach organizational goals.

Brand Community: A specialized, non-geographically, bound community, based on a structured set of social relations among admirers of the brand (also see Brand Fandom).

BRAND: Name or symbol used to differentiate a product, service, or idea.

Brand Fandom: Obsession with a particular star, celebrity, film, TV program, band; also, a community of fans coming together around a specific brand (see Brand Community).

User-Generated Content (UGC): Media content (text, images or video) generated by users.

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