Fandoms: The Next Powerful Economic Force for Brands

Amy Lanzi
Published October 11, 2023

The concept of fandom is not new. People have always been passionate about the things they love, whether it's a sports team, a TV show, or an artist. However, in recent years, fandom has become more than just a community of enthusiasts. It has proven to be a powerful economic force that brands are leveraging to drive sales and grow their businesses. These fans are not merely passive consumers; they are active participants who deeply engage with the artist, influencer, brand, etc., and its content. This presents a unique opportunity for brands to capitalize on key moments and leverage the enthusiasm of other fan bases.

Let’s take a moment to look at the powerhouse that is Taylor Swift and her loyal fan base, the Swifties. According to Forbes, the Swiftie fan base has a multi-generational army behind them, with 45% of avid fans identified as Millennials, followed by Baby Boomers (23%), Gen Xers (21%), and Gen Z (11%). This diverse group continues to inspire demand and keep trends fresh, generating consistent headlines and driving economic boosts with their collective buying power for both Taylor Swift’s offerings as well as her formal and informal affiliated brands.

Recently, an Instagram post of Taylor eating a meal with both Ketchup and Ranch dressing on her plate inspired the brand Heinz to announce a limited-edition bottle of “Seemingly Ranch,” a condiment mixture none of us knew we needed until now. Taylor’s Swifties also significantly increased the sales of NFL jerseys belonging to her rumored love interest, Travis Kelce. When Taylor appeared at his NFL game, the sales of Travis Kelce's No. 87 jersey skyrocketed by approximately 400%. Additionally, viewership also hit a new peak, with a 53% increase in female viewers aged 12 to 17, a 34% increase in female viewers above 35, and a 24% increase in female viewers aged 18 to 24, compared to the season-to-date average of Sunday Night Football. 

Fandom offers a level of personalization and deep cultural relevance that traditional social commerce methods struggle to achieve. When brands activate within those super-charged pop culture moments and fan joy, they build relevancy, making it easier to push through awareness and consideration in the consumer journey. The same concept applies for mega creators on TikTok, like Mr.Beast.

Plus, fandom provides opportunities to cross-pollinate audiences and breathe new life into fabled or nostalgic experiences/products. By collaborating with existing fan bases or tapping into the nostalgic appeal of certain IPs, brands can generate excitement and drive sales. HBO is a prime example of this strategy when they successfully adapted ‘The Last of Us’ from video game to an addictive episodic series, attracting both existing and new fans. Similarly, Netflix is capitalizing on the passionate fans of their multiple series by introducing new merch and combining streaming, entertainment, and commerce. 

So, what does this mean for today’s brands? Not every brand will have the economic and trend clout of Taylor Swift, but they can be part of important cultural moments if operationally optimized to react in real-time. To authentically engage with fandoms, brands need to be hyper-tapped into social listening and trend mining to start. This allows brands of all kinds to capitalize on key moments and trends at a rapid clip, which usually requires low-fidelity production methods in the marketing mix. It's important to listen, provide mechanisms for dialogue, and join the conversation early to establish an authentic presence. We recently partnered with our client, Crocs, on a micro-fan opportunity. Crocs is well known for their strong connection to their biggest fans on social, and we were prepared to seize a unique moment when CBS posted a TikTok about NYC's rat problem, with rats compared to a Crocs Size 8 shoe. Within 36 hours, we rapidly created three response concepts, got client approval, and shared them on Crocs' official account. To top it off, we offered a 28% discount for 48 hours with a custom promo code as a nod to the video. Connecting culture and commerce at a rapid pace – that's our game!

As we see brands steer into fandom and connect across platforms and channels, we’re eager to see where consumers shape the next brand-fan explosion, and we’ll be at the ready to help our clients steer into the opportunity.

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