The bread and butter for any brand are superfans, but with their strong bullshit-o-meter, what’s the best way to engage and reward them? Kumar Manix, CEO & Founder of The Spaceship, explores this in this opinion piece.
It’s 12:01am and 13° on a Tuesday morning in Pitt Street Mall, Sydney. Xbox fans have lined up at the doors of Microsoft Store, armed with sleeping bags, wearing hoodies emblazoned with their favourite game logo and equipped with food supplies to last them the overnight stint.
You would assume this group of people were lining up for a new product release, or maybe for a secret concert. No. Meet your Superfans; the people that have lined up overnight and braved the Sydney cold in order to attend a series of highly anticipated fan events that Microsoft hosts to reward their adoring fan army.
This is the first time Xbox Fanfest has come down under following stints in the US and Europe.
It’s not such a strange concept and has happened since the dawn of time. Marketers understand that their success is built on people that absolutely adore their product or brand. As the consumer’s connection to a brand or product continues to grow, so does the level of fandom.
It doesn’t necessarily matter what (or who) the brand may be, superfans are the ones who can be counted on to send a Justin Bieber concert into meltdown, sell out cosmetics from a new store or crash websites in their angst to get an in-demand product.
While there’s no doubt superfans exist and are the bread and butter for any brand, the big question for marketers is how you should engage with your superfans and reward them.
The best activators and strongly skilled marketers are known to take full advantage of potential fandom, and create meaningful engagement with their fans. This could be anything from offering free merchandise in online promotions, discounts, newly released video games, or meet and greets with A-List celebrities, these ‘rewards’ encourage additional engagement and increased brand loyalty for each superfan.
The challenge for brands who just offer ‘fan freebies’ is that superfans tend to have a strong bullshit-o-meter and can smell a phony inauthentic attitude from a mile away. Throwing bucket loads of investment in activations and rewards with zero community support will not sit in good grace with these fans and may actually be detrimental to your brand.
The benefits and rewards for brands who choose to engage properly with their superfans can be endless. Fans offer invaluable insight and intelligence into the hobby/product/person they are so greatly invested in.
Taking the example of Xbox and other major gaming companies, those that are most successful as developers and producers have close ties with their fan community. The superfans know exactly what each game needs to improve, whether that be graphics, rewards or any slight tweaks, letting developers know so they can respond accordingly.
This is a mutually beneficial collaboration, the game remains popular and has a greater life span, and players kept happy and motivated with updates and advances. For certain superfans, the opportunity to test new games from their idols is the ultimate reward and creates unprecedented levels of brand loyalty.
Recruiting fans as co-creators has two advantages: you can use their feedback and data to make your product better and, by providing early (and free) access to the product you build a connection with fans ahead of the release of the final finished product.
Engaging with and rewarding your superfans isn’t just about money, or free goodie bags at events. You can forget about throwing free merchandise, or offering special discounts. What drives and rewards these superfans the most is a personal one-to-one individual connection and experience the most skilled brands are able to offer.
The chance to see two custom-built cars from the Xbox Forza game drag racing each other, or to be part of a worldwide sunset live stream event at Bondi Icebergs; these once in a lifetime experiences become memorable fan engagement and special moments that each person takes away with them.
For marketers and brands everywhere, no matter the number of your dedicated fans, or the price of your product, it’s important to remember that while you need to reward your superfans, they are also motivated by more than the reward system that follows their committed habits.
Brands that achieve the superfan following realise the focus is not upon individual customers, but rather activating and inspiring an entire community. Influencer marketing is one core way to generate super fans; celebrity or influencer endorsement encourages product trial.
People like the product, liken themselves to a celebrity, post images of themselves using the product, and talk about it publicly to their friends and followers. With the blink of an eye (and minimal investment) brands are able to further expand their network of superfans and use word of mouth to encourage further usage, trial and ultimately sales.
In order for any brand to stay on top in this competitive, highly lucrative world remembering and rewarding the people that continue to buy your products, invest their time and energy into your brand, and act as advocates is a truly key pillar. When it comes to your select few top tier superfans, one-to-one connection and engagement is even better!
Like in any casino, your best bet is always to keep your high rollers happy; prioritise, nurture and grow your superfan base and marketers can watch their brand flourish.
About Kumar Manix
Founder and Creative Director of The Spaceship, an award-winning brand activation agency that is based in Sydney and works globally. Manix is also the driving force behind The Spaceship Ventures, a specialist firm launching globally-scalable businesses for the $90B gaming industry.