Fanocracy — the term was used by eminent marketing strategist and bestselling author David Meerman Scott in his book - Fanocracy: Turning Fans Into Customers and Customers Into Fans, co-authored by his daughter and neuroscience expert Reiko Scott.
What does it mean? To put it simply, we can take it from the title of the book itself. Fanocracy is the art of turning customers into your fans and vice-versa. Quite intriguing to hear, but impervious to implement. After all, these are human minds that we are discussing — dynamic and unpredictable. Gaining loyalty in the digital times is a tough feat to accomplish. So, how do we establish a fandom for our brands in today’s time?
The Importance of Physical Proximity: Forgotten or Forbidden?
We live in an era where being politically correct is quite important. One wrong step can land one in an awkward and precarious position. However, the art of fanocracy depends on the age-old tactic of physical proximity. In the age of digital where relationships start with a click and resume with a swipe, how does one click with a customer by capitalising on the basic human need for physical communication?
There are four zones of personal space: public — more than 12 feet, social — 4-12 feet, personal — 2-4 feet, and intimate — 0-2 feet. If the brands know how to tap these distances well, in sync with human psychology, it is a great technique to make sure that the customer connects on a personal level. Once that is established, be it existing or potential, the customers/fans will stay.
Take an example of any musical concert. Isn’t it delightful when the performers come down amidst the fans and the crowd, taking the excitement up by notches, and creating moments that will last for quite some time in the memories of those attended? You get the point.
Fandom: A Random Coincidence or a Delightful Strategy?
Have you ever been a part of a fandom? It is quite a delightful space to be, actually. There are multiple theories and possibilities that are discussed, and while it may turn nasty at times to fans turning possessive, it is usually a calm place where the entire timeline of a brand is dissected, diverted, and revelled in.
The biggest example of the same is the Harry Potter fandom. While the books ended in 2007 with the last movie coming out in 2011, the Harry Potter fandom didn’t fizzle out with time. Instead, it is much alive and thriving, to date. So much so that Rowling’s other writings, though appreciated, still cannot match up to the hype of the Potter series.
If one observes the Potter timeline, it has been beautifully merchandised and presented to its customers, the fans and readers, so much so that even the ones who had only watched the movies, later on, came back to the books. There has been a continuity with which Harry Potter has been marketed. While the books and movies set the tone, it was further boosted by side books such as Quidditch Through the Ages, and more.
While the craze of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child as a play still has the world in its grips, a spin-off series Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them has also started. This movie has not only tapped a whole bunch of new customers and made them fans of the series, but also brought back the original fandom. The new fans will be intrigued enough to go back to the Harry Potter series as well. A perfect example of fanocracy working just right!
Communicate to Create: Fans of Course, Who Will Be Your Eventual Customers
Just like physical proximity and a continuous presence, communication is important in order to transform fans into customers and vice versa. Take it this way; what is the point of creating a good product if it cannot be marketed well to the consumers? The best of projects and ideas have sunk without a trace due to lack of proper execution.
Communication, thus, is the key. Create campaigns that will hit the right note with the customers, making their jaws drop. Choose ambassadors who are accessible as faces, and the ones your customers can relate to. Engage in experiential marketing as you allow your customers into your own world. Communicate in a way it conveys the humane aspect of your brand, to extract maximum potency. Employ people who resonate with passion and are just not working because they have a job; enthusiasm is palpable, let it reach the customers.
Everyone loves to get something for free. There was a time when Milo had penetrated the kids’ health drink market, snatching it away from biggies such as Bournvita and Boost. How did it manage to do so? By offering free gifts which not only appealed to the kids, but majorly to the parents, as they were the one making decisions on where to spend the money. Milo offered mini Encyclopaedias in a pre-internet world, and the kids fervently competed to complete the set. From tennis balls to books, the brand did it all till the digital wave hit and took the freebie excitement along with it.
However, Milo did prove an essential point, if you give the customers exactly what they want, they may get bored one day and move on. However, if you consistently keep them hooked with a freebie, you mould your identity from a plane health drink to a health drink that comes with a dose of intelligence loaded. Parents loved it, so did the kids of the generation, making it a fond memory even now. None may remember the taste, but all relish the memories of those little books tucked along with the school material.
Fanocracy is the future. Customers are fickle creatures who need to be tapped well and then retained by catering to their whims. Fanocracy is a sure-shot way of doing that.