Today, fanbases are not limited to the traditional industries of sport or music. From Apple to Glossier to Lululemon, we've seen all sorts of brands develop a loyal, diehard fanbase for their product or service. These diehard fans are powerful. In fact, 1/5 of a brand's customer base make up for nearly 50% of its total revenue (Spotify).
So what do marketers need to know about this loyal percentile? And how can they leverage digital strategies and tactics to nurture fanatical customer bases of their own? On 8 March 2023, we were joined by a panel of experts from LIV Golf, Crystal Palace F.C. and New Era Cap to explore how to build fandom to drive commercial growth. They also discussed what brands can learn from leading sport organisations and vice versa.
Loyal fans are incredibly valuable to your brand. They are not only positive brand advocates that drive referrals, have a high CLV and are more likely to subscribe, but they also provide value feedback to support business decisions.
During the event, hosted at RSA House, London, Tom Dougherty, Chief Growth Officer, explained what it takes to grow, retain and commercialise a fanbase. One of the common challenges we support our clients with on a daily basis is defining strategies and tactics to turn Customers into Fans and in other cases, with our sports clients, to turn Fans into Customers. From this experience, we've formulated the following set of principles that can be shaped to support both needs:
1. Own your market
Brands must be clear on who they are targeting with their products and services in order to build real emotional affinity with their chosen audience. Whether the target audience is geographically, demographically or attitudinally driven, always putting them at the centre of a brand's digital experience is crucial. By not deviating from this audience, everything you do as a brand can be aimed at their needs.
2. Promote Purpose
Brands with loyal fans often focus on fostering a specific set of values. If a brand does not have an explicit identity, it is unlikely that fans will identify with it. Brand alignment is therefore vital when creating an online narrative. From a digital perspective, this can be achieved from having a dedicated space on your platform to talk about your purpose and wider impact or company values; but also, more importantly ensuring these values form a key part of your content strategy and communication.
3. Establish Proximity
The key ingredient for true fandom is genuine, meaningful and active human connection. To build an amazing tribe of loyal and passionate fans, you need to invest in nurturing relationships with your followers, subscribers, members and customers. This can be through both physical and virtual means; used to bring fans together around key events to foster a genuine connection.
4. Invest in DTC
Having an owned dedicated digital platform, whether it be a Website or App, enables you to deliver that fully brand experience. Brands that are dependent on third party aggregators, portals, broadcasters or social platforms, will struggle to build deep relationships with their customers. By creating a DTC channel, brands gain more control over the customer experience and more importantly, they gain control over customers’ data. This owned, first-party data, both behavioural and transactional, becomes a business’ biggest asset.
5. Reward your VIPs
Fanatical customers are a brand’s best promoter and looking after them is key. Fan achievement can mean many things, but its essence is that fans can move up in the community by participating and contributing value. Sometimes these achievements have financial incentives, but more often than not the real reward will be in recognising fans’ contributions by attributing some kind of reputation signal or community status.
6. Foster Community
Being part of a tribe ultimately gives us a sense of belonging and security that breeds loyalty. Brands that target consumers must think of creative ways to develop and cultivate these lasting human connections. This can be done through a community-powered marketing programme that enables fans to connect with each other through multiple touchpoints, creating a space for community to develop.
7. Offer a Stake
A fan’s level of engagement is so personal that they see themselves as part of the team community or brand and share a sense of ownership and responsibility for it. Brands are now recognising the power of this and encouraging creators within their ecosystem. Some brands are giving fans in their community a chance to win a share in the brand equity as well in return for user generated content.