What's Eating Jdavies?

and other marketing stories

Fanboyism as a Marketing Model


We've all heard of the the fanatical devotion of Star Wars fans to the original trilogy and the Jedi way of life. The same goes for obssesion of the Elvish-Speaking Tolkien fans and cosplaying fans of anime in toy conventions.

Fanboyism is best defined by Wikipedia as an obsession typified by absolute loyalty to a single fannish object. Blindness to competing or dissenting opinion is often a symptom if I may add.

Somehow, to us non-cosplaying folks, who are a mere one sci-fi film removed from these consumerist cousins of ours will most likely be the first to say, "Ok, that I can't do", or in some cases, whisper silently, "Yay, weird".

From the branding point of view however, nothing can be more flattering than seeing a 30-year old man wearing your brand t-shirt or a business partner using your corporate giveaway card holder. There isn't much difference there - they wear our brands. So how come some people dismiss fanboyism as a negative thing?

What's intriguing is that fanboyism is a great tool of big brands like Apple, the Hollywood franchises, and the video game industry that it's hard to ignore fanboyism as a merely a modern sociological complex brought about by the triumph of the brand. In fact, I think no brand can be more successful than having to it's credit, a cult following. A community is built on it and it creates the momentum for endless stories being told to people, or in the most common extreme case of all: living the brand. It's free advertising, free retention programs.

If we create products that are so in-tune with the needs of our customers, we create loyalty. It's 101. Yet somehow, as experienced marketers, do we not, in our struggle to launch products on time, typically create inferior products and merely upgrade later, knowing full well that the built-in defects do not hold a significant problem to revenue? After all we can upgrade customers, right?

Supposedly, and mathematically it seems, it's more profitable to create multiple versions and add value in time. That is, beyond just planned obsolescence, we unconsciously create planned defaults, undercutting value to the just-enough. Loyalty is a must for repeat revenue and fanboyism to me, should be the ultimate realization of any Loyalty campaign.

It's in this sense that I am making Fanboyism as a marketing model by using it as a measures of customer loyalty. I think this stems from the fact that personally believe that, "Loyalty" of customers is overrated. It is too arbitraty and needs to be defined. You see, we seem to define loyalty in terms of subscription period, or total purchases, or satisfaction alone; I think this is lacking teeth.

We have to define what is loyal and understand what is the exact level of "stickiness" or elasticity of our relationship with the customer.

I have seven levels of customers affected by three variables:

3 Variables Characterizing a "Loyal" Customer
  1. Dependency - How much the customer needs the product
  2. Satisfaction - How happy they are about the product performance
  3. Compulsion - How likely are they to talk about it
    (both negative or positive opinion)
7 Levels of Loyalty/Degrees of Fanboyism
  1. Hostage - Has absolute dependency on a product. Not satisfied, not compelled to talk about the product, and without any real choice or substitute hence continues to buy without fanfare, and without enthusiasm.
  2. Adherent - Dependent & satisfied but not compelled to talk about the product. Ask him and he will talk positively but will not do so unless prompted.
  3. Advocate - Never reluctant to talk about the advantages and disadvantages of the product. May not be fully satisfied, in fact, advocates have temporary relationships because they are the hard-to-please, informed customer.
  4. Patron - What is regarded as 'loyal' is actually static. Repeats orders & has predictable purchase habits. Dependent & Satisfied but does not actively talk about the product, and will not have much to say. In other words, he is a happy camper who keeps to himself and merely buys.
  5. Defender - a customer who actively talks about the product positively because of high satisfaction. Not completely dependent on the product but sticks to the brand because of high satisfaction.
  6. (+-) Evangelist - a boon or bane. Will talk about the product regardless of dependency or satisfaction. Past customers, Paid product reviewers, would be in this list.
  7. Devotee or Fanboy - represents the culmination of three factors of maximum intensity. Blind to product flaws, absolutely loyal and evangelizing. Essentially, an adherent, a defender, and an advocate rolled in one.
The most profitable of all the types will undoubtedly be the Devotees or Fanboys because not only do they tell about the product, they purchase repeated and predictably as well.

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posted by Jdavies @ 8/21/2007,


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The Author


Jdavies lives in Quezon City, Philippines and has been blogging since 2002. A brand manager in a leading technology company and a freelance new media/web strategy consultant, he has refocused his blogging from personal, political & sociological observations, to marketing-related efforts and Internet trends that are relevant to his career and branding advocacies.

About This Blog

This blog is a depot of thoughts and observations on marketing trends which remain personally relevant to the Author as far as his marketing career is concerned. Having evolved from the personal blog of Jdavies, much of the earlier work contained herein are laced with personal speculation, political views, and similar advocacies. These posts are being kept for posterity's sake and for no other reason. No effort is being made to claim that the author will not contradict himself from his previous positions or that such advocacies are absolute.


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