A book looks at how brands go about perpetuating their existence in admiring hearts and minds
Engaging customers is one of the biggest concerns in marketing practice today. How can a brand become a part of consumers’ lives without being an intrusion is a question marketers grapple with. All the more so at a time when various surveys reveal that brand loyalty is dying. The one constant — well, almost, may be a community of diehard fans, and this is a situation marketers would do well to cultivate.
Superfandom How Our Obsessions are Changing What We Buy and Who We Are Aaron M Glazer and Zoe Fraade-Blanar Hachette 318 pages; Rs 499 In April, Carter Wilkerson, a teenager from Nevada, tweeted to Wendy’s, an American fast food chain: “Yo@Wendys how many retweets for a year of free chicken nuggets?” Mr Wilkerson’s tweet was probably in jest, but Wendy’s chose to humour him nonetheless: “18 million.” Mr Wilkerson’s subsequent tweet, in which he asks Tweeples (short for “Twitter people”) around the …
Squishables, the stuffed-animal company Fraade-Blanar, Engr ’02, and Glazer, A&S ’02 (BA/MA), founded in 2007, uses its online fans to develop new products. With Superfandom, the married authors explore the many ways fans—Disney World social clubs, Polaroid film loyalists, Warren Buffet enthusiasts attending Berkshire Hathaway’s annual meeting in Omaha, Nebraska, and more—influence the companies, products, and business culture of the objects of their fandom. As businesspeople themselves, Fraade-Blanar and Glazer don’t pause to consider the larger issues that might arise via such mass identification with commercial enterprises. That said, Superfandom deftly mixes cultural reporting into a 21st century–economy book to create an entertaining tour of obsessive brand loyalty.
Collect them all. Those three words put a smile on every marketer’s face and fear in every parent’s heart. “Collect them all,” as you may remember, was kid-code for “bug your parents until they buy stuff,” making you the envy of everyone in third grade. Your goal now: to capture that buyer’s obsession at the level you’ll see in “Superfandom” by Zoe Fraade-Blanar & Aaron M. Glazer.
Each time Justin Bieber launches a new CD, his fans organize a “buyout.” They march through Kmarts and Best Buys in an attempt to propel the album to the top of the charts. Since few of the teens own CD players, the CDs are often collected and donated to charity at the end of the shopping spree.
Rituals and customs like these, Zoe Fraade-Blanar and Aaron Glazer suggest, bind fans closer to the object of their adulation and to one another. Fueled, of course, by social media, the modern explosion of fandom can do wonders for the “brand.”
Here’s an insightful and entertaining look at the culture of fandom, from its early days right up to the present. The authors focus on the way fandom has evolved from an essentially passive pastime—people liked something, so they tried to acquire it or produce their own versions of it—to a symbiotic relationship between consumer and producer. These days, acquisition is a lot easier than it used to be, thanks to online shopping, which means that fans have more time for peripheral activities, including—and this is the most fascinating element of the book—persuading the people who make things to make the things the fans want. The authors call it a “fandom singularity”: marketers exploit fans by producing things they know the fans will buy, while at the same time fans influence what the marketers produce (there’s a hugely popular, entirely computer-generated Japanese pop singer, Hatsune Miku, whose material is often suggested or even written by “her” fans). Well-reasoned and engagingly written, this book will make readers realize that a new product that seems to have been made just for them, so perfectly does it fit their taste, probably was—because marketers know what we want and because we’ve told the marketers to give it to us. Fascinating and more than a little frightening.— David Pitt