May 6

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Lessons from Fanocracy: How to Turn Fans into Customers and Customers into Fans

Katie Rudy

May 6, 2021

Community, customer experience, cx, fandom, lessons from leaders, sports biz, sports business

Insights from our Flip The Switch podcast:

David Meerman Scott joined the podcast this week to talk about his studies in fandom, Fanocracy: Turning Fans Into Customers and Customers Into Fans.

His latest book, a collaboration with his daughter, Reiko, was a deep exploration of why we love the things that we love and the science behind the emotional connections we feel to those fandoms. For David, his love was the Grateful Dead. For Reiko, it was Harry Potter.  

Both fandoms are immersive experiences. Diehard Harry Potter fans read the several-hundred-page books over and over, finding new, hidden connections throughout the series each time, analyze how closely the movies capture the details, and create countless costumes, merchandise, and especially, fan theories.  

For some fandoms like Harry Potter, they emerge and grow on their own accord. The Grateful Dead actively encouraged fans to be a part of their growth strategy.  They were the original “social network” according to Scott. 

Grateful Dead fans were invited to record concerts – even provided power strips to do so – and share their tapes and experience with friends.  Merchandise created in moderate quantities could even be sold in the parking lots – if that was your only way to get in, so be it!  

So how might sports organizations foster a more immersive experience with fans? The “creator culture” is adding to fan avidity levels. We discussed this at length in our previous conversation with Zoe Scaman, who’s leading Mark Cuban Experiments. And we built on that conversation with David Meerman Scott.

In previous years, you would probably classify “diehard fans” as those with season tickets for 25 years or who show up every game with their lucky overalls, game day chains, and their faces painted. You may think of your diehard fans or customers as those who have phony coach Twitter accounts or fans who generate knockoff merchandise with fellow fans, or fans who create podcasts to discuss teams or create highlight reels for former players in the professional ranks.

Those types of fans reach audiences outside of those who follow your social accounts. Maybe you don’t give them free rein to create merchandise as the Grateful Dead did.  But could you bring in a few influencers to collaborate on new merchandise and use them as the models for the finished products?  Could you create video content that fans get to release?

Relinquishing some of the control of your brand may be daunting. But when you have the opportunity to reach a wider audience than those currently following your channels or subscribing to your emails, is the risk worth the reward?  

It was for the Grateful Dead. It brought in fans like Scott who have been to 75 shows and keep going back for more.

David Millay

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