How Brands Can Harness the Power of Fans

Being a fan isn’t what it used to be, according to Comedy Central Power of Laughter’s latest study, “Fandom.” For brands, this poses a big opportunity.

Today, fandom carries a special power. People who are enthusiastic about their interests can access more information than ever and convene online with others who share their excitement. Fans have a lot of influence. And for brands, there is a significant opportunity in connecting with them.

Comedy Central Power of Laughter’s latest international study, “Fandom,” unveils a whole new world of passionate young people—and offers insights on how brands can win by targeting them.

From this project, here are key takeaways for brands:

Collective Action.

Brands should consider the three elements of this new era of Fandom: self-expression, discovery and community.

By engaging the prevailing “we” mentality, it’s possible to appeal to a growing sense of community among young adults. Brands can create shared experiences that enable connection, conversation and bonding.

One recent example is the Kickstarter campaign for the Veronica Mars movie. Fundraising efforts fostered the sense of community among the TV show’s fans by letting them donate as well as obtain access to talent, goodies, scripts and early previews of the film.

Similarly, the many fan campaigns for a new series of Arrested Development led Netflix to seize the opportunity—while also offering some thrilling fan experiences, such as walk-on roles.

Social Currency.

Brands can empower people to be leaders and curators—or at least to have a voice—within their networks. People want to be “in the know,” they want to share and they want to be heard. (What’s the point of sharing otherwise?)

The Nike-Instagram connection illustrates this idea well. Nike PHOTOiD, one of the brand’s most successful campaigns, allowed Nike fans to select a favorite Instagram photo and receive a design that applies colors from that image to a Nike Air Max shoe. Designs could then be shared across social platforms. This campaign—possibly the most successful on Instagram to date–allowed Nike to benefit from Instagram’s social currency while also giving their community a unique and shareable experience.

Be a Passion Point.

Brands should align with something that is ingrained in young adults’ lives—something they love and “feel”—and do so with authenticity.

One example of this concept is the partnership between Comedy Central and BuzzFeed in the UK, which led to the creation of 8 custom posts that reimagined favorite moments from the beloved show Friends. Appealing to nostalgia as well as the trend of sharing listicles and quizzes, posts ranged from “If Friends Was British” to “Which Friends Character Is Your Soulmate?” The end result was the most successful UK BuzzFeed partnership to date because it touched on a real passion point for young people internationally.

Enable Fandom.

Fans yearn for more—so brands should provide access to content, information and events. (The more exclusive, the better!)

As an example, Twitter’s ad product “Flock to Unlock” challenges fans to retweet in order to “unlock” new content from a brand. Puma used “Flock to Unlock” to spread its new global ad campaign, “Forever Faster.” Various Puma-sponsored athletes (like Usain Bolt) whose combined Twitter followings reached 19 million tweeted to fans that content—in this case, new TV ads—would be unlocked once they hit an unspecified number of retweets.

BBC One also used this for Dr. Who teasers to build anticipation in advance of the 50th anniversary special, “The Day of the Doctor.” The BBC created a campaign encouraging fans to use the hashtag #SaveTheDay to unlock treats and teaser clips. In doing so, they generated awareness among those who didn’t know about the show’s upcoming milestone. The success of this effort shows that this type of campaign can work well even with established fan bases.

The ‘Right’ Fans.

Brands need to know where to find the influencers—because they will be a catalyst for generating conversation and spreading the word.

When Comedy Central UK relaunched its website, they tapped into the ‘right’ fans by targeting influential young male YouTube stars, while also keeping the comedy angle. As one example, Comedy Central UK paired up with KSI, a big online gamer with over 7 million YouTube subscribers. Together, they created original online content in the form of a Roast—and in doing so, adapted traditional Comedy Central territory for a new demographic and medium. This strategy led to record-breaking video views.

 

Check out other articles in our series on Fandom: Not Your Parents’ Fandom (infographic), The Benefits of Fandom, The Power of Fans, and Introducing the Influential Catalyst.