Just a Group of Oil Ladies: The Fandom Phenomena of Essential Oil Users

Just a Group of Oil Ladies: The Fandom Phenomena of Essential Oil Users

Alicia S. De la Pena
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-1048-3.ch007
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Based on a qualitative study, this chapter explores the characteristics, rituals and behaviors of the devotees of Young Living, a well-known brand of essential oils (EO). The analysis reveals five different segments: novices (first time users of EO), alchemists (innovators who discover and share new uses for the EO), alphas (passionate leaders), purists (extreme users of EO, interested in using only natural products), and evangelists (fervent devotees and promoters of the EO brand). According to alphas and evangelists, EO possess some mysticism and power; therefore, there is the need to guide and educate novices while they learn and adopt new practices, religious-like rituals and norms. At the same time this guiding and education becomes a powerful viral marketing tool that enhances the value of the EO brand. Finally, the analysis shows how social media enables EO fans to connect with each other to exchange their knowledge, passion and devotion for the brand.
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More than three dozen ladies wait expectantly for “Lucy.” Lucy, who is in her early forties, will dedicate a couple of hours to share her knowledge and secret recipes with this group of enthusiastic, menopausal women to help them spice their love life and improve their mental wellbeing. No, she is not a psychologist or a sex therapist. Lucy, an expert of essential oils (EO) use, represents Young Living (YL), a well-known company of EO with thousands of sales representatives and consumers around the World. Armed with her smartphone, in lieu of a notebook, and her case of oils she is ready to teach new rituals and recipes to the already fans of the YL brand. Thanks to her concoctions Lucy is known as an alchemist within the community.

While old devotees of YL clearly understand the terms and are familiar with the product names Lucy mentions during her talk, novices (i.e. newbies) to the brand look at her with curious eyes and continuously interrupt the talk to ask questions trying to get immersed in this new world of products aimed to enhance their health and wellbeing.

As simple as it might seem, using an essential oil requires some learning. Although sales representatives of YL provide newcomers with some basic information to introduce them in to the world of EO and its benefits; the truth is that main wisdoms comes from true devotees who are willing to share their knowledge and secrets with novices, to teach them the basic rituals to properly use the oils: how to handle the small bottle, how to drop the oil on the hand to activate the ingredients, and how to smell, rub, inhale or take each oil. And that is just the beginning. True devotees not only use the oils to freshen the environment. They have adopted a lifestyle in which the oils are the main protagonists. Oils are used to cook, bake, cure ailments, take care of pets and increase emotional wellbeing, among other uses.

As true believers of the power and effect of essential oils, knowledgeable leaders of the community (i.e. alphas) have created specific rituals to solve ordinary problems. Tantrums? Distracted students? Low self-esteem? Mosquito bites? Headaches? Stress? There is an oil for those and many other daily ailments and situations. If you ask, not only the YL sales consultant, but experienced alchemists and devotees, will sure share a protocol (as fans of the brand call the routine to use each oil), and provide testimonies of how the oil works. EO fans have more faith in essential oils, than they do in allopathic medicine. They have taken advantage of digital media and smartphones not only to socialize, but to indoctrinate and educate new users of the brand, helping them to evolve from neophytes to committed members of the community (Schouten & McAlexander, 1995).

But how do those new users of essential oils become fans? What role do alchemists and alphas play in this community? How does an instant messaging application like WhatsApp benefits fan activity?

Following Collins & Murphy (2018) the author initially discovered five different segments of fans: novices o neophytes, alchemists or geeks, alphas, purists and evangelists. Each with specific traits and characteristics, but at the same time providing value to the brand by being active users of the products, sharing stories and testimonies.

The YL founder baptized the oils with names that ad an aura of mysticism to the experience of using and sharing an oil. “Build your dreams”, “dragon time”, “transformation” or “dream catcher” are only some of the blends loved by fans of the brand. Devotees do not only use the product at home, they are also taking advantage of a wide variety of oil compatible gadgets to build their sanctuary almost anywhere.

As Belk & Tumbat (2005) suggest, devotees of YL have built a strong and special relationship with the brand; the reference guide for essential oils app is always ready on their smartphones, both for personal use or for providing guiding and assistance to new users of the brand; and what is even better, children and adolescents are also becoming fans of YL. It seems that the influence of their parents has set roots, building a long-term commitment with a brand that allows its customers to play, create and design their own wellness elements.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Purist: An individual with an absolute adherence to the use of natural products. He has taken the time to explore the world of EO, and to acquire knowledge, therefore he sticks to the norms. Is a perfectionist and usually scolds others when they are not following the rules.

Essential oil (EO): A concentrated liquid made with plants and/or flowers extracts. It contains the active ingredients or the essence of the plant or flower.

Novice: An individual that is considered as a new customer or first user of the brand, but that shows at least some basic knowledge of the product.

Devotee: An individual that has a veneration for a brand and accepts no substitutes for it.

Fan: An individual that possess an excessive interest and enthusiasm for a brand.

Evangelist: An individual that uses his communicative efforts to fervently advocate a brand, influencing how others think about such brand.

Grooming: The act of buying specific gadgets and supplies to get a better result when using the essential oils.

Young Living: Young Living (YL) is a multinational firm dedicated to produce and distribute high quality essential oils. With more than 6 million members around the World, the aim of YL is to provide wellbeing and a healthy lifestyle.

Customizing: The act of creating and developing recipes and rituals to use essential oils in daily life activities.

Alchemist: Someone who transforms things for the better. In ancient history, the alchemists mixed secret liquids to cure diseases. In this fandom, the alchemist is an individual that possess knowledge regarding the brand and its possible uses; and dedicates part of his time to develop new concoctions and recipes to share within the community.

Alpha: A member of the brand community that is known for his leadership and popularity.

Emotional attachment: The act of having strong ties with a brand. Emotional attachment is characterized by deep feelings of affection and connection with an object or a brand.

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