Don’t Just Cultivate Customers—Foster Fans

Once you have fans, you need to nurture that relationship. Remember, they influence the destiny of your brand.

Don’t Just Cultivate Customers—Foster Fans

Perhaps the most useful thing a brand can do when it comes to marketing involves developing a culture of fandom.

Just think about it: A customer will buy your product, but a fan will obsess over it. It’s the difference between a one-time customer and a lifelong devotee.

Consider “Star Wars,” which has achieved a ravenous, almost religious level of fandom. For the franchise’s latest release, Disney used all the marketing tools in its belt to whip up fan fervor to the point that the film is shattering box office records.

Prior to its premiere, people were camped outside of theaters. From a merchandising standpoint, fans have gobbled up “Star Wars” paraphernalia, such as LEGO kits, action figures, and even canned soup.

The film is discussed by fans online and at work, and it spans generations. When all is said and done, they’ve made it more than a mere movie-watching experience; they’ve built it into a community.

Disney has already announced new series spinoffs, and the success of each is practically ensured. Disney’s full-court marketing press has helped “Star Wars” become more than movies. It’s a lifestyle that fans are flocking to live.

An Army Of Fans

When you think about fandom, you might imagine that the concept is most easily applied to entertainment like “Star Wars” or “Harry Potter,” but it goes beyond that.

Look at Apple. There was a time when PCs were dominating the market, but as Apple improved its products and streamlined its branding, that all changed. Now people wait in line to get the latest iPhone and other Apple products the same way they would for hot movie tickets. They’re dedicated lifelong Apple fans, and they’re vocal about it. Today, Apple’s customers are its most fervent advocates.

Essentially, Steve Jobs built an army of citizen marketers and loyal customers that gravitate to any and all new Apple products.

Building The Fandom

People collect things and become fans for a few reasons.

Often, they want something they can take home as a memento—something they can share to prove that they’re part of the larger community of fans. Looking, once again, at “Star Wars,” we see that Disney has hit this nail on the head.

The cross-branded merchandising has allowed people a chance to collect products and “Star Wars” video games so they can take home a part of the universe. And Disney has made brilliant use of technology.

Several months before the movie’s release, Disney unveiled a new trailer on ESPN and made tickets available the same day. The result, in some cases, essentially broke the Internet. The clip was shared by seemingly everyone, and people talked about it for days on end. The excitement was built up to such a level that websites like Fandango overloaded when fans flooded online to purchase tickets.

And Disney had been careful to prime the pump beforehand by releasing teasers, which are essentially trailers for the trailers. Speculation abounded across social media, and by the time tickets went on sale, the film’s success was already in the bank. Flooding the market with fresh products can continue the building of a fan base.

Using Tech To Connect With Fans

Disney did a fantastic job of making a massive footprint on social media, a task that many brands are achieving through wearable technology.

The adidas miCoach training app, for example, not only helps users track and plan workout routines, but it also connects them to a community and allows them to share their progress on social media. This leads to massive social media visibility, helps transcend geography, and connects people to the brand on a whole new level.

Essentially, wearables and other tech provide customers with the opportunity to share and participate in the brand experience, and it’s that experience that turns people into fans.

Nurturing Your Fandom

Once a fan doesn’t mean always a fan. A fan can turn on a brand just like any other consumer.

You have to nurture them and show that you care about their devotion. When J.J. Abrams appeared at the Comic-Con “Star Wars” panel, he bought hundreds of pizzas for the fans who were waiting. Then, at the end of the discussion, he invited the hundreds of patrons in the session to go across the street to the stadium for a “Star Wars” concert.

Once again, technology can come in handy. It allows you to monitor fans’ responses on social media and even interact with them directly.

The bottom line is that once you have fans, you need to nurture that relationship. You have to show that you respect the time and energy they put into their fandom and recognize that, to a certain extent, your fans influence the destiny of your product and brand.

If you can accomplish this and build a following of lifelong devotees, there can be no stopping your success.

Just think about it: Lifelong fans often pass down their fandom to their children.