We unlock the emotional power of fandom for brands.

Thought Leadership

Fandom’s Evolution

The current incarnation of fandom has grown out of the early internet message board culture of the late 1990s. Since then it’s grown into the dominant mode by which people connect and relate with each other about the things they care about. And whether it’s creating controversy or commerce, fandom’s reach and power is impossible to deny. As the authors of Superfandom: How Our Obsessions are Changing What We Buy and Who We Are, astutely point out, fandom is not a noun, but a verb. Fans create, discuss, show up and make or break the things they so passionately consume. And the internet has supercharged this interconnectedness helping fans mobilize, like when the BTS Army used a hashtag to fundraise, matching the boy bands $1M donation to BLM that ultimately surpassed the celebrity contribution in 24 hours.

Companies that are able to build fandom around their brands gain tangible ROI through long term brand preference. Academic research shows brand preference directly improves profitability, price premiums, cash flow and market share. Ultimately fandom is a relationship, a collaboration, an agreement between a brand and its consumers to co-create. And in a world that has lately seen diminishing returns from “performance” or “growth” and other styles of transactional marketing, we believe there is incredible value to be unlocked from building brand-fandom. Because, when done right, fandom is a shortcut to lasting brand love. And brand love has been proven to build measurable business value.

Fandom is an ecosystem that is rooted in a shared passion.

Fandom is an ecosystem that is always in motion, growing and changing. To build it, you have to understand its unique dynamics, from the individual to the communal. It’s composed of fans characterized by a feeling of empathy and camaraderie with others who share a common interest. Fan’s obsession can grow around any area of human interest or activity.

But regardless of what the fandom focuses on, one of the defining features of fandom is deep passion. Fans are deeply devoted to their chosen affection, and often engage in activities such as fan fiction, fan art, and participate in online discussions and frequently advocate for it. These activities allow fans to explore the world in new and creative ways, and to connect with other fans who share their enthusiasm. The best fans are deeply passionate about the subject, be it a sports team, a celebrity, a movie franchise, or a brand. This passion drives them to engage with the subject and participate in the fan community.

It’s our belief as an agency that fandom is a highly complex emotional state that straddles the line between individual passion and group experience. You can take two people who look exactly the same from a demographic perspective, and discover that they are wildly different types of fans beneath the surface.

Fandom is becoming the cornerstone of brand marketing.

As such, we encourage every brand marketer to think deeply about how it works. The most important thing to know is that fandom is not a demographic or a psychographic. It’s a latent emotional mindset that emerges when the conditions are right. To create this emotional mindset, we think a good starting point is to break it down into three sections.

  1. Emotional Identity: People become fans in spaces where they are allowed to express their passions as themselves.

  2. A Social Journey: People become fans when they are empowered to discover who they really are and who they might become.

  3. A Cultural Ecosystem: People become fans when they can invest their passions into a meaningful cultural movement.

We explore the insights and research in our report, Decoding Fandom, sharing the opportunities we see.

You can learn more about our fandom strategy practice or get in touch with one of our team members to set up an introductory conversation.