What’s the secret to building a fan base?
Is it winning championships? Is it a hundred-year-old tradition? Is it based on what baseball team your dad rooted for before they moved from Brooklyn to Los Angeles? Is it shaped by the experiences you have?
It could be any one of these. It could be all of these. Or maybe, depending on your brand, it’s none of them.
Secret #1: Create positive and memorable experiences for your audience, in real life and online.
So what is the real concept behind fandom? POSITIVE EXPERIENCES.
When we synced with G2’s Mike Puglielli, he shared how this technology company laid the foundation for building a community of “brand evangelists.”
We’ve been chatting with tons of new organizations who have been able to build a community out of thin air, as they go from merely a logo to a real-world brand. For example, Angel City FC recently shared how they launched into existence with the largest women’s club soccer match in history, bolstered by a slew of famous owners, such as Serena Williams, Natalie Portman, and Eva Longoria.
And, just this year, the Las Vegas Aces became the first professional sports team to win a championship for the city. Last year, we chatted with the team behind Austin FC on how they worked with fans to create the feeling of history and belonging, even though the team itself was brand new. Of course, it helps when Matthew McConaughey is a co-owner and self-appointed head cheerleader!
Secret #2: It’s bad before it’s good.
When Mike walks us through how brands—and specifically G2—start the process of building fandom, he goes all the way back to the ideation and brainstorming phase.
Reflecting on creative development, Mike shares that “It’s bad before it’s good.” When you’re in the room with your team and everyone is coming up with ideas, don’t worry about what might not work or why things might not work. Approach ideas as simply that – ideas. Implementation comes later.
Secret #3: Focus on what makes your brand unique.
“Carve our own space and lead the way while still being on brand,” Mike says. When it comes to thinking about why fans should care about you – or even better, why fans should love you – you have to list out what it is that makes your brand different from any other brand and experience. While you may be competing directly with “your competitors”, you’re also simply competing for people’s time. This is key to remember – it’s not only about distinguishing yourself from the competitors you recognize, but also how you can distinguish yourself from what other activities your fans might be doing with their time.
If you consider how organizations approach fan experiences as competition for time and attention, then it’s more clear why some organizations invest so heavily in ensuring fans have a positive experience when they attend a game.
“The things that are going great, blow it up. The things that aren’t, kill it.”Mike Puglielli
Secret #4: Define a vision or emotion.
One of Mike’s keys to a successful creative campaign is that you need to define a vision or emotion. Mike says that you need to build around this concept: ‘This is what we want people to feel.’
After all, it is the feeling that your brand gives people that will make them fans. If you don’t believe this, ask yourself why you prefer one brand over another, how you felt getting off a customer service call with one brand vs another, or what the in-store experience is like at a grocery store you love going to vs a grocery store you don’t.
“Be vigilant about what’s working and what’s not,” Mike adds. While you can think of this in relation to your last marketing campaign, it’s also important to think about this holistically with your brand. In other words, zoom out. Ask yourself, your team, and others in the organization:
- What is working for fans?
- How can you turn that into a better experience?
- How can you turn that into a story that others want to hear?
Then, take what’s working and infuse it into your fan-building brainstorm.
“When you focus on what’s working, when you’re blowing up the things that are working, you’ll start to see the threads and eventually, you’ll put it together and think ‘Wow, this was great.’” says Mike.
Secret #5: Let go of the need to control everything and surrender to find success!
He continues, sharing a quote from Julia Cameron,
The whole approach to the creative process acknowledges that you can’t just come up with an idea alone and let it rip. The process is the back-and-forth, making it better, making it worse, thinking outside the box, going super conservative, being lazy, going the extra mile, and so forth and so on.
By implementing what Mike calls a “marination phase,” you can be successful by: “letting the work sit, taking a break, and coming back and having lots of dialogues and grinding through it.”
Secret #6: Make your fans iconic
G2’s superfan program focused on turning fans into icons and branded its superfan program into G2 Icons. Looking at sports experiences, Mike’s team identified what makes athletes so popular: that they are turned into heroes. If you can understand what will help your fans feel like heroes, icons, or celebrities, then they will reciprocate the fandom and commitment to your brand.
One of my favorite keys to super fandom that Mike highlights is building community. While you can send badges and awards to your fans individually, it is really the community that will empower and support itself, with each other! What you need to do is give fans the opportunity to get together – whether that’s a virtual summit, an onsite and in-person fan day, community building and service opportunities, or a simple Slack community. 😉
Learn more about how Mike’s team specifically built their G2 Icons program and community by watching the full conversation below:
And, if you’re interested in learning from other brands about their visual storytelling and community-building strategies, catch The PhotoShelter Summit on-demand here.