In the vast world we live in, you’re bound to run into a handful of enthusiasts, or people who take their passion to the next level. In the context of pop culture, you might see these groups of enthusiasts called “fandoms,” which consist of die-hard fans who engage with content in a variety of ways. They might dive deep into lore and storytelling, run specialized social media accounts, or develop fanart like pros. Basically, they live and breathe what they are passionate about.
Whether it’s music, TV, books, or any other entertainment-related passion, there’s a fandom for it, and the fanatic excitement doesn’t stop there. It can even extend to other entities too, including brands. For example, it’s not uncommon to come across TikToks of people excitedly unveiling their favorite finds from their weekly “Target haul,” sharing an in-depth review of the latest Apple product, or providing their “expert POV” on a new Dunkin Donuts seasonal item. Numerous other brands outside of Target, Apple, and Dunkin Donuts have their own squad of superfans, and they can be great advocates for brands in the world of PR.
When you look at it from a PR and marketing perspective, fandoms are essentially a group of dedicated brand ambassadors. These superfans not only love and care about their interest but are also often highly vocal about it. They’re eager to share their experiences with others, making them natural and organic influencers.
There are many ways brands can incorporate their superfans into their marketing campaigns. For example, 7-Eleven launched a Fuel Your Fandom contest in 2021 where three lucky fans were “drafted” to join a Superfan influencer team alongside several NFL football players. The winners participated in photoshoots and one fan even wrote a creative song about her love for the convenience store.
Additionally, brands can leverage consumer enthusiasm by encouraging user-generated content (UGC), including reviews and testimonials. Slim Jim’s Instagram is an excellent example of UGC – they’ve created a brand identity of jokes and memes and have amassed a huge following because of this.
Authentic advocacy is often more effective and trustworthy than traditional marketing or PR efforts, so it’s incredibly important for brands to be mindful and aware of the differing opinions of superfans, as they can greatly influence public perception of a brand.
Passionate engagement from an enthusiast is a powerful tool for elevating a brand’s image and public perception. When enthusiasts feel strongly about something, many are not shy about expressing their opinion, which can have a profound, and sometimes lasting, impact on people who might only be casual enjoyers of or entirely unfamiliar with your brand. While this can be a great tool for improving reputation, it can also be a double-edged sword.
Unfavorable interactions or experiences from superfans can damage a brand’s reputation, as these groups often have a substantial presence on multiple social media platforms and are not afraid to voice their concerns and criticisms.
Maintaining a positive relationship with enthusiasts involves active listening, respectful communication, addressing concerns, and ensuring that you’re a brand whose actions align with the expectations and values of the community. Depending on the size of an organization, this could mean having a dedicated team of social media specialists or brand managers that scour the internet and forums, staying up to date on all things being discussed.
Lastly, one of the great aspects of a tight-knit group of superfans is the sense of community that can be created as a result of a shared passion. These groups join together to offer a space for people to interact, exchange ideas, engage in discussion, and learn from one another, which can lead to long-term customer loyalty and retention.
Brands have the opportunity to act as catalysts for these communities. By creating and supporting platforms for fans to engage with one another, marketers can play an important role in developing and strengthening the bond between superfans and their brand. This can extend to supporting fan clubs or hosting fan events or online discussion spaces (take Crafted client Drop’s community forum for example). Facilitating fan connection enables them to share their enthusiasm, offer peer recommendations, and even provide fun and unique ideas for brands to implement.
As consumers become more and more savvy and jaded about not-so-subtle marketing initiatives, particularly among younger generations who have grown up online, enthusiasts will continue to be valuable for establishing and improving a brand’s reputation. The key things to remember are to remain authentic and respectful when dealing with enthusiasts, and to listen and learn how to effectively work with them to ensure maximum success.