My life seems to revolve around fans, influencers and brand ambassadors. It began when I was head of creative at MySpace and we were trying to understand the essence of the global platform and its underlying phenomena. For me the answer was simple, it was not the brand (that was failing), nor the product (which was disappointing), it was the passion and power of the fans that called this social platform home.
When considering fans: their drivers, habits, structures and communities, it is clear why these cultures are very appealing to brands. Fans are loyal consumers, they can be creative, vocal and now have increasingly more platforms on which to 'Follow', 'Like' and love the object of their fandom. The power of influence
Influencer marketing, in particular, involving fans and brand ambassadors, is still in its pre-paradigm phase. While it has been organic since before the Ramones wore Converse at the doors of CBGB, in the past brands and marketers were hesitant about utilising this strategy -- without the quantification of return on investment, a substantial amount of faith would be needed to believe in an individual's effect on others.
Historically, endorsement was a tactic solely for celebrities whose 'worth', reach and infl uence could be measured by television appearances, column inches and album sales; memories of a young lycra clad Paula Abdul contradictorily (and contractually) claiming 'Nobody tells me what to wear', while in an advert and endorsement campaign for LA Gear. In the last decade it has become progressively easier to quantify and measure both reach and digital footprint, bringing the power and influence of the 'average' individual into the realms of brand endorsement.T-shirt Steve
At MySpace, one strategy was tracking down 'power users' who were not celebrities but had 'celebrity-like' quantities of followers -- then involve them in influencer schemes; a 19-year-old illustrator from Manchester with 17,000 friends; a red headed amateur model with ADHD with 40,700 friends and a 30 year old whose art form was to glue crystals on hats and t-shirts, his name was 'T-shirt Steve'. He had 170,000 friends, even Kanye West was a friend of his.Crowded house
The rise of fans and brand ambassadors in marketing schemes has come about not only because of shifts in the digital age, but a shift in perspective on advertising as a whole. Research papers proclaiming peer-to-peer marketing as a powerful force, with word of mouth now considered a strong tool. Intelligent marketing strategies rely on more than consumers seeing or hearing a message -- they rely on emotional or relevant connections to that message. But in a space that is so crowded with advertising noise, marketers are ever on the quest for new ways to 'cut through' and penetrate their target audience in more meaningful and emotional ways. For example, Nike billboards proclaiming 'Just Do It' has never really resonated with me, but its under the radar strategy of forming running crews is a local and physical manifestation of that message, and one which I find compelling.
In my experience progressive brands and marketers realise that while the manufacturing of fans seems to be a contradiction to the essence of fandom (and there are brands that do this) there are frameworks that can pinpoint fans and utilize them in marketing strategies -- by giving them extra information, value, incentives and challenges.Fans: Not just for Christmas
While the strategies used to involve fans are many and varied and depend on the desired result, there are some key points that could be integrated into most schemes; fans are a long-term play, 'fans are for life' and should be considered a valuable investment. The fan voice should be pure; do not try to control it as it will not be genuine. Fans put in more, but they require more; always ask what is in it for the fan? Conversations with fans should be a genuine dialogue, fans should be allowed and encouraged to feedback.
While fans involvement in marketing is an increasingly utilised strategy, it's important to remember the power of the fan can have a duality. If a brand or marketer follows the correct framework to pinpoint a person of influence they will not only have a large reach, but will be considered credible by their peers, and this credibility and reach will run across platform -- which, while the fan is on the side of the brand is a powerful force. But if mismanaged the effect of fan influence could backfire turning influential loyal fans into disgruntled and vocal antagonists. But brands, whether marketers and strategist like it or not, are public property, so fans and antagonists are already part of the conversation... fans are a long term play, 'fans are for life' and should be considered a valuable investment key points that could be integrated into most schemes. Fans are a long term play, 'fans are for life' and should be considered a valuable investment. The fan voice should be pure, do not try to control it as it will not be genuine. Fans put in more, but they require more.
Always ask: what's in it for the fan?Bexy Cameron is head of insight at Amplify