In this article, we will examine the future marketing potential of the entertainment industry from the perspective of fan marketing.
In continuation of the first part of this series, this article will be presented in the form of a dialogue between two btrax team members: Ayaka, a marketer, and Mana, a business producer. (Click here to read Part 1)
The Potential of “Fans” and “Promotion Activities” in Marketing
Mana (Business Producer):
While many marketing strategies focus on building a new fan community, I think there is a lot that can be done with effectively utilizing an already existing fan-community.
Yeah, that’s right. There are cases of this where brands have successfully connected a fan base to the promotion of their services and products to develop new customers.
We also see unexpected combinations of fanbases and services. For example, the food delivery service, Demaecan, began offering items that can be used within the game FINAL FANTASY.
There is a long history of deep-rooted fan communities and subcultures in Japan, this aspect of Japanese culture lends itself beautifully to marketing activities. From your perspective as someone who has lived in both Japan and Canada, Mana, can you tell us about the fan communities and trends of North America?
Subcultures and Trends in North America
Yes, of course. Funny enough, I find this new way of engaging with fans in the entertainment and subculture area to be a trend that has been gaining strength in North America as well!
Fan community-targeted marketing efforts in North America have been divided into two main sections: Sports, and Entertainment.
The U.S. is a sports powerhouse, so there has always been a large amount of money invested in sports fan engagement.
For example, campaigns and bargains leading up to major sporting events such as the Super Bowl, or halftime shows are impressive. Advertising slots during the Super Bowl can be outrageously expensive but they can be very rewarding for companies who invest in them.
On the other hand, there seemed to be relatively little investment and excitement in marketing efforts that leverage fan communities and subcultures in North America.
A decade ago, it was very difficult to imagine Japanese anime or boy bands from Asia, a common marketing trend in Asian media, appearing in North American media.
That said, from my personal perspective with a background in sociology, I see an increased focus on diversity in media.
We have data showing how well this is performing, with data (see reference) showing that between 2020 and 2021, Asian representation in US media has nearly doubled.
Considering the racial diversity of the US population, brands are said to be aiming to have non-white consumers feel a sense of affinity with the brand by using not only Asians but other races and cultures from various countries in marketing media.
Marketing and Branding Case Studies in North America to Engage Fans Communities and Subcultures
Due to this current social context, we have noticed that marketing and branding initiatives focused on fan communities and subcultures have become more prominent these days.
For example, the K-pop artist BTS, along with the explosive popularity of K-pop in the U.S., has been noticeably featured in marketing campaigns in collaboration with various large corporations and organizations.
One example is McDonald’s, an American fast food chain, which collaborated with BTS on packaging and products.
The collaboration became wildly popular on social media. Even used paper packages from the marketing campaign were being resold on eBay for high prices.
In addition to large corporations, international organizations are also trying to leverage the power of fan communities to achieve their goals. One example of this is BTS’s call to young people at the United Nations regarding the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
These two cases of BTS and Justin Bieber show just how powerful a marketing campaign can be when it can harness the power of fan communities.
The BTS case in particular, especially from my perspective as someone who spent my childhood in North America, shows a major shift in North American values.
It would have been unimaginable 20 years ago to have such a large marketing budget for a marketing campaign featuring an Asian boy band. Seeing Asian representation in mainstream media is exciting, I feel that the world has changed considerably.
Indeed, it has! The speed of the spread of information is fast than any other time in the history of the world. It seems like this is a time of rapid change.
“I’m going to change the topic a little bit.
This may be a little off topic, but can I introduce another example of a recent event that leveraged fan culture?”
I am a big fan of the Netflix show, “Stranger Things,” and on a recent business trip to San Francisco, I was able to experience a temporary attraction (for reference) that allowed me to experience the world of Stranger Things.
I don’t want to give away too much, but at the end, there was a very extensive area where you could take pictures and purchase merchandise.
There was another similar attraction where visitors were treated to an interactive exhibit based on the popular 90’s drama “Friends” (for reference).
These examples show how the power of fan communities can be leveraged during peak popularity, and onward. Fans will still be excited about exhibits like this even past the peak of the material’s popularity.
How can we harness the power of fan communities and subcultures in marketing?
Another point to note is that collaboration campaigns are beneficial to all sides, the brand side and the artist side.
Can you elaborate on that?
Yes, of course.
First of all, I think the major benefit for brands is increasing the number of new customers.
Even if the product being advertised is new or something they have never used before, consumers may pick up the product or remember the brand name because of the collaboration with their favorite artist.
A marketing campaign that features a celebrity can become a hot topic online, sometimes it may go viral. Through popularity on social media, we can expect to see a campaign reach a very large number of people.
In a way, it can be expected to help consumers feel a sense of familiarity with the product.
For instance, the anime and K-POP examples that we touched upon were, in the past, generally considered to be less normalized subcultures. In the U.S. in particular, they have been disparaged by main stream media, so, for a well-known brand to collaborate with that culture would be synonymous with acceptance of the culture.
For fans, it leads to the impression that “this is a brand with good taste.”
Being able to connect with and empathize with the brand’s message and the anime and influencers it uses has become a very important value for consumers in recent years, so brands that can seize this opportunity are likely to see an increase in profits.
In the first and second parts of this report, we have discussed the potential that “fans” have in marketing and branding. In this article, we introduced trends and examples of fan marketing in North America in particular.
btrax has offices in both Japan and the U.S. and helps companies looking to expand into new markets conduct user interviews and market research within their target audience in order to develop marketing and brand strategies.
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