Are you creating fans?
I’m a fan of the football team the Dallas Cowboys. Don’t hate me. You also don’t need to remind me of the season my team is having. I’m well aware.
I may be a fan, but it’s nothing like my childhood friend (let’s call him Mike). Every Sunday during the NFL season, Mike gets ready for the Cowboys game. Every piece of clothing he wears on that day is Cowboys branded (yes, even the underwear). His regulation NFL jersey – #17 for legendary Dallas quarterback Don Meredith – is one of his most prized possessions. He finishes his game-day regalia by painting his face half silver and half blue, with a white star in the center.
Here’s the thing. Mike does this whether he’s going to the game or not. When the team is visiting another city, he goes to one of the many fan gatherings and watches there.
Mike is a true fan and the epitome of the word’s origin: the Latin word “fanaticus,” which means “insanely but divinely inspired.” And he’s the kind of customer we’re all trying to create.
Modern marketing is filled with ideas on how we can encourage uninterested consumers to evolve into raving fans.
We may find it unrealistic for our “boring” or “niche” brand to create customers that want to paint their faces with our logos and tailgate every weekend in a corporate parking lot. But one of the most profound things the internet has enabled is the ability for niche fan bases to flourish.
Kevin Kelly, Wired’s founding executive editor, wrote about this in 1998. His 1,000 True Fans essay posited that digital technology (commerce, content, and community) enables the shared experiences that can create fans for just about any kind of idea – and that you need fewer than you think to create a viable business model. Kelly’s idea inspired much of what we now do in content marketing today.
So, how do we create fans?
There is a huge body of research into the psychology of fans. One motivator is core to developing fans: eustress.
Eustress is, put simply, the opposite of distress. It’s “good” stress. Think of it as that feeling when you watch a scary movie, get that big new promotion, go on a date with the person you’ve admired for a long time, or relocate to a city that excites you.
Motivating people to become fans means stressing them out. But in a good way.
Can you consistently deliver content to audiences that makes them feel like they’re riding a rollercoaster, engaging in a challenging puzzle, or taking a leap in their career?
If you want to create Mike-like fans to your ideas, the answer has to be yes. You need to deliver a little eustress by creating more dramatic, inspirational, and emotional storytelling in the content you create.
Researchers have also found that passionate fans identify themselves as an integral part of the team they support. So, when “we win,” fans include themselves as part of that “we.”
As content marketers, we don’t sell products. We sell unique, emotional experiences. We’re in the business of helping our audiences have an opportunity to co-create a shared experience with others who are just as excited by that idea.
And the thing is, when they win, we win too. Let’s give our fans something to root for.
It\’s your story. Tell it well.