The four rules of fandom: how to build, hold and engage a global audience

The marketing sector can be a complicated place as new marketing tools and techniques are launched, almost on a weekly basis. Powered by The Drum Network, this regular column invites The Drum Network's members to demystify the marketing trade and offer expert insight and opinion on what is happening in the marketing industry today that can help your business tomorrow.

Panelists: (l-r) Gray of Codemasters, Doughty of Twentieth Century Fox, Zdzieblo of Joe Public, Smith of HBO & Robey of Think Ja

I was honoured to recently host a discussion panel as part of the annual Youth Marketing Strategy event, the largest event of its type in the world, which took place in London’s Old Truman Brewery.

For the discussion we called upon insights from an expert panel from four major corners of the entertainment industry: film, television, theatre and game. Offering their insights were Andy Gray from Codemasters, Posie Doughty from Twentieth Century Fox, Sam Zdzieblo from Joe Public and Colin Smith from HBO.

The discussion centred around the marketing tactics employed to create a fandom for your brand or campaign, covering everything from destinations and influencers, to technology and data. Here are four key takeaways from the discussion.

Destination

With the primary goal being to entertain and immerse audiences, the location of the experience is essential to the marketing strategy. Marketeers in game and television are focused on keeping their audiences at home, while film and theatre marketeers encourage their audiences out of the home and into a venue.

The cost of going out and purchasing tickets is a major consideration in film and theatre marketing, so concentrating on the experience is essential, particularly in theatre, which is seen as luxury. How it feels to be immersed in a show or watching a film on the big screen should be core to messaging.

In the television market, audience consumption varies - particularly considering that we all now have the opportunity to view content in our own time via mobile, tablet or TV screen. The trend to consume a television series in huge chunks has shaped what TV viewing means today; however careful consideration should be given to the language used around this in marketing to minimise negative connotations. A new boxset, series or game should be seen as an opportunity to immerse oneself in entertainment in the comfort of your own home.

Influence

The role of the influencer continues to grow, but what is the route to success when forming a partnership of this nature?

Brand alignment is crucial. Rather than selecting an influencer with the most followers, choose someone who is aligned with your campaign message and can embody your brand values. This is important because giving the influencer creative freedom on the campaign is essential in creating authentic content. The followers of influencer channels are accustomed to a particular tone and style and audiences could become sceptical if content deviates from this.

Influencer partnerships can encourage innovation. Last year Joe Public teamed up with YouTube Spaces in a media first to create an event specifically designed for influencer content creation to honour Wicked The Musical’s tenth birthday. This was the first time YouTube had partnered with a West End production and the success of the campaign demonstrated the audience appetite for influencer content.

It is important to keep your eye on your community members and ambassadors who may not yet have huge social influence, but are on their way to building a following. They can provide a great opportunity to generate word of mouth and are becoming ever more important as brand evangelists, helping the content to feel authentic.

New Technology

New technology offers an opportunity to reach and engage both new and existing audiences. The key is to strike a balance between audience trends and strategic choices for your brand. The experience has to be relevant.

While VR has played a vital role in the gaming world for some time, developments in technology and changes in viewing behaviour have opened the doors to exciting new opportunities for developing immersive content and brand storytelling. The key to success here is audience research, to enable you to create content that is appropriate to their interests and anticipated engagement levels.

Data Drive

With increasing demands for content to be personalised and targeted, data should be a campaign’s best friend as it enables marketeers to understand who their customer is, their likes and dislikes and the demographics of the audience.

Data is all about discovery, targeting and decisions. It enhances the opportunity to find customers and fans of your brand who have engaged previously.

Invested audiences respond positively to brands that react to their community. Smart decisions on franchises or games can be made through pulling consumer data. If something isn’t working, it can be adapted for the next game or film in the franchise.

As we reflect on these four viewpoints and invite others to join the conversation, the debate surrounding how to establish and grow a fandom will continue.

Daniel Robey is chief executive officer and founder of entertainment marketing agency Think Jam.

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