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How many fans can a brand reasonably expect?

June 9, 2011

Nigel wrote a post called “Think Human not technology”. This hits home for me, since the EMA motto is “Talk Human” and not technology or jargon. It means when talking to consumers, we talk like humans. I just commented on his blog post. and want to share the comment here.

Paul Adams, global brand experience manager at Facebook thinks we should talk to fans, and quite focussing on getting more:

“Paul suggests that we are still seeing “the fans and followers arms race.” He questions whether brands that ask people to “like” or “follow” them are really making a connection with advocates or simply “filling their social media interactions and data with noise.””

It’s a great point. We need to stop collecting fans and start talking to the ones we’ve collected. We need to think hard about promotions that drive fans, and think harder about what fans want. Consider these two graphs:

People who identify as fans, wants to know about the brand. Um, yea.

Here’s the issue: marketers like numbers. Everything done for the past 60 years has been numbers based. GRP’s, mass advertising campaigns that get seen by millions of people at least three times – this is what we do. The Super Bowl is the cherry on the top of this race.

This ‘fan’ revolutions asks people used to mass numbers to care about much smaller ones. But a focus on quality is damn near impossible.

One problem is measurement. One can measure a mass audience (the campaign got 1.5 million impressions). One can’t reliably measure quality. A person who ‘likes’ a brand is worth more than a non-fan. But a person who comments daily is obviously worth more. But how much more?

Explaining that process to someone who deals in millions of impressions is next to impossible.

Consider Old Spice. When talking about the success of that campaign, they talked about sheer numbers. (X million YouTube views — X followers on Twitter, etc).

Numbers are what we know. Plus, there is no argument about the quality of the number. An impression is an impression.

Marketing has never really asked to changed behavior. Below the line marketing has, but general advertising only wants to make people aware of the salient points of a brand. Measurement wasn’t about products sold, it was about increased emotional attachment (when measurement existed).

A fan, by definition, is someone not just aware, but emotionally attached to a brand. A fan isn’t an impression. Each fan has an emotional attachment, but they can’t really be added up and divided by their number.

Plus, there’s the real problem of numbers. If a brand’s potential buying universe is 100 people, one can make assumptions and propose that universe of potential fans is 20% of those people (this number comes from the 80% of sales comes from 20% of the customers — those customers are potential fans).

These people can be reasonably expected to ‘fan’ without incentive. Since brands never get complete participation, the number of people a brand can reasonably expect might be 20-25% of those emotionally attached fans.

Of the 100 person universe, one can reasonably expect 4-5 fans without incentive.

The math or the assumptions might be fuzzy, but the point isn’t. The number of people who are likely to fan a brand is way less than the buying universe. We can quibble on the number, but we will eventually agree it is way less. In my example, it is way less than 100.

That number doesn’t work for many marketers. They want all 100.

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3 Comments leave one →
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