Should brands leverage the ‘Fan Economy’?

12 Nov 2021

When the 12-member boy band MIRROR announced its concert in 2021 on social media, the ‘fan economy’ had already officially become a new business model for consumer brands in Hong Kong. The ‘fan economy’ refers to a marketing strategy in which revenue is mainly driven by the fans of the celebrities and their endorsements. With the recent boom of K-pop dramas, variety shows and concerts over the past few years, the ‘fan economy’ has played an increasingly significant role in the entertainment industry. Yet, it has been a while since we have seen Cantopop at the forefront of mainstream entertainment.

With the MIRROR ‘fan economy’ effect continuing to grow, brands are eager to reach out to their celebrity managers with requests to work with them. The overwhelming response from MIRROR fans to past partnerships have immediately generated revenue for those brands and collaboration with this popular band is a proven method to grow brand reputation.

In September 2021, Ian Chan, one of the members in the boy band, was invited to be a spokesperson for the luxury beauty brand YSL Beaute. The limited box sets featuring Ian’s autograph sold quickly after its launch, with a long waiting list to follow. In October, Edan Lui released a song called ‘My Apple Pie’ as part of a special brand collaboration with McDonald’s to launch an apple pie dessert with the celebrity imprint on the package. Anson Lo, another member in the band, has been taken over bus shelter billboards outside the Star Ferry Tsim Sha Tsui entrance for months, featuring brands such as Airland, McDonald’s and Samsung. Given the success of these campaigns, the idol chaser strategy is expected to continue.

Fan groups do not only follow and support the brands that their celebrities endorse, they initiate their own marketing campaigns to create billboard posters, stuffed toys or name tags showing support for their idols, creating a grassroots economy as well. As of today, all brands that are associated with MIRROR have gained positive sentiment as well as actual revenue gains with at least 300 fans attending to support their idols. For marketers and PRs, here is the question: should your brand join the ‘fan economy’ too?

Below are a few factors to consider when choosing an idol to drive the ‘fansumer’ effect for brands:

Before Reaching Out

Understand that there is risk

It is unavoidable that associating your brand with celebrity will carry risks. It is important to do the research to ensure the past history or behaviour of the celebrity is aligned with your brand values. You should review Google search pages, how the celebrity speaks or is represented on his or her social media channels, as well as previous entertainment news interviews.

Investigate the interest

A successful celebrity endorsement will add value to your brand, especially when he or she is passionate about your product or services. Therefore, you need to understand the celebrity’s passion points. For example, if you are an automotive brand, do you know whether the celebrity knows how to drive and are they driving your brand models? If not, is there a chance that he or she is quietly a fan of your brand but just requires an opportunity to express interest? If you are not able to find the answers needed through desktop research, asking a fan of the celebrity can be incredibly resourceful.

Think about social media engagement

Before investing budget in your celebrity strategy, you need to ensure you are ready to stay connected with fans to capture the potential followers. It is also an effective way to measure the digital outcomes of the campaign.

After reaching out

Don’t forget the unique storytelling

Brands should always connect collaborations back to key objectives to create relevance. It is elemental to success and stays true to the brand proposition and values. If the same celebrity has already endorsed similar products in a short period of time, it is time to rethink whether your brand is still able to benefit in the long run.

Stay engaged with fans

The fans are the primary target audience. To activate the effects of the ‘fan economy’, it is important to stay engaged with impactful tools such as entertainment news channels to release your brand information. If you have products or services to offer, you need to have an organised mechanism such as e-commerce, pop-ups or other channels, to ensure the fan community is able to readily support your brand through purchases when they are engaged.

The ‘fan economy’ has undoubtedly added tremendous value for marketers and PRs. Not only has the phenomenon brought new and positive energy to Hong Kong, it also supports the recovery of the city’s retail economy after its suffering under the COVID-19 pandemic. Those who implement this strategy wisely have much to gain as long as the public interest holds.

This insights article was written by Holly Chan for Marketing Interactive and appeared here.

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