At the center of all marketers’ brand ambitions sits the hope of creating a fan base. All brands have customers, the people that buy the brand, but few have a substantial fan base. The difference between fans and customers is behavioural. Fans are the type of customer that feel they are brand stakeholders. Fans go out of their way to buy and use a brand. They talk about the brand for you, harnessing the power of story through word of mouth. They position your brand better than you will. To your other customers they are the authentic voice of the brand, more so than you.
I wondered what powers a brand fan base. If storytelling is at the center of the brand fans activity, what do fans do to build their brand story? I looked at several types of fans to see what they had in common. A company creates four key activities to build brand fans that allow them to create the overall brand story. Fans are engaged in watching or viewing brands. They are very involved in sharing the brand with others. In fact this is central to a brand fan. Brand fans are involved with playing with the brand. Lastly brand fans are seekers and sharers of brand news.
“This simple model of branding can act as a checklist for your storytelling. You can see if all the brand assets are connected to enable customers to become brand fans”.
The diagram below represents a map of the overlap with a brand assets and essential brand activities. When this map is used to view a brand, Marketing departments can see if their brand will sustain the needs of brand fans. By ensuring these activities are supported and easy for potential fans to engage, there is a greater chance of creating a fan instead of a customer. Of course some of these activities are needed just to build a customer base but if you want to build a fan base you need to enable fans to connect them together. Social media and the rise of mobile and real time communications are allowing smart companies to build these activities into their marketing campaigns and fan base building tactics.
Lets look at some examples of fan based activities to see how these maps work. Sports fans are engaged in several types of brand activities. Sports fans of course want to watch their teams and of course there are now quite a few ways that fans can see sport. Live view is the best for a fan but often a treat for the die-hard fan. Television is the most popular way but mobile through smart phones and tablets like IPad are quickly becoming a preferred channel. Replay is also a need for the fan to be able to access viewing of sports events to supports the fans brand needs. This has created need in other channels like YouTube, Vimo, and Personal Video Recorders on Satellite and Cable as well as rewind TV. This represents how Sports fans are engaged in watching or viewing their brands.
The ability for fans to share their experience is a central brand activity. Fans want to align and identify with a brand and with sports its central. Sports fans have allegiance to a team and this creates feeling of belonging that stems from tribal activity. People want to wear the colors of their tribe and tell other people. Sharing used to be limited to colours and badges. Post game stories have always been shared by word of mouth just as great battles were told in around campfires. But today’s sports fans can indulge in storytelling about their team and brand in many ways. Fans are often leaders of their own followers, people in their lives who listen to them and are informed and influenced by them. So today’s brand fans need new ways of sharing their passion. Pictures via Flickr, twitter and Facebook enable this before during and after the event. Fans “Check in” at events on Facebook as statements of support and to broadcast their participation with a brand. Enabling fans to share what they see combines the need for watching and sharing. The better you are able to help fans share their participation the more the fans brand experience can by experienced by others. This raises brand awareness and is reinforces the fans identity with the brand.
A more recent brand activity essential to building fans enables fans to play with the brand. In sports this is a little easier than for other types of brands but as we will see still very achievable. For sports fans the computers, smartphones and tablets like IPad have built on a generation of fans who grew up with Xbox and PlayStation. In this way fans not only get to support a team but they get to become the team. This is the ultimate in control of a brand. Recently the ability to be able to share this gaming/ playing has become an important extension of the identity brands can create. You can paly online with others or share your successes on social media. In this way the statement people make using the brand through the game is embedded in their lives. This is part of the attraction of storytelling brands that enable people to use brands to live their archetype better.
Finally brands are able to capitalize on their thirst for new news about a brand. In sport newspapers, radio and television have reported on teams and players achievements. But in recent years the control of the news has moved from the selected few journalists and moved to the masses. In combination with our fans need to share watch their teams, news is being created as it happens. Twitter and similar services enable people to receive news as it happens. For the segment of people who are more passive this brand extension helps keep them connected.
This simple model of branding can act as a checklist for your storytelling. You can see if all the brand assets are connected to enable customers to become brand fans. Do you enable your customers to share brand images you have created? Do you celebrate when customers create their own images and share them? How do you create and support the creation of news about your brands? Are enabling your customers to play with your brand? What happens when you let your customers view your brand? If your can create a tactical plan that employs these aspects you set your self up to enable your brand to create fans. Of course you need an authentic brand story but customers need more than that to become fans.