When Something Earns A Culture Of Fandom, it Pops

Brad Schwartz.

Brad Schwartz.

By Brad Schwartz, President of Entertainment and Media at POP

I love a band called The Tragically Hip (yes…I’m Canadian). My passion for The Hip started when I was 18. I discovered them. I went to the shows. All the shows. I got my CD signed. I told everyone about them. I bought the T-shirt. In high school, I would DJ them at hockey games (I told you, I’m Canadian). When they played a live TV special, I recorded it with a VHS tape and would play it for all my friends. I went on to see The Tragically Hip live over 120 (not a typo) more times. What can I say … I’m a fan.

Culture has changed since then: Facebook started in 2004. You Tube in 2005. Twitter in 2006. All of these sharing tools that would allow for something bigger and broader than playing a VHS tape. Fandom isn’t a new thing. But being a fan today is an entirely different experience. And companies, especially entertainment brands and advertisers, need to be smart in how they leverage it.

And that is very specifically why it is such a great time to see the world through a fan’s eyes. Social platforms have created huge borderless communities of people with shared passions. Fandom is no longer relegated to the sidelines of culture. Fandom defines mainstream culture today. Technology enables us to collaborate with creators to shape what we love and it enables us to connect with others to share what we love.

Fans don’t sit at the outskirts of pop culture making snarky comments about it. They live right smack dab in the middle of it. And … that middle is big. So big in fact, that fans aren’t even fans anymore, they are Gladiators, Tributes, Little Monsters and Human Beings. Fans prove that the fun doesn’t stop when the credits roll, it is really just the beginning.

Fandom is no longer relegated to the sidelines of culture. Fandom defines mainstream culture today.

Venture capitalist Mary Meeker recent noted that “fans trump audience” in her Code Conference presentation of major internet trends. Her point was that fans are increasingly more valuable to networks, advertisers and other content creators beyond just being a collective audience.

That phrase comes directly from YouTube’s Global Head of Content, Alex Carloss, whose point was that while an audience changes the channel when the show ends, a fan base shares, comments and creates content when the show ends, magnifying the show’s reach and importance with existing and potential new audiences. In today’s connected world, Carloss maintains, it is important to understand the value of building a fan base to supercharge your business.

We all know that when TV is combined with social interaction, there’s a lift for brand/purchase/advertiser recognition that improves the impact of ads that accompany those shows. TV plus social boosts ad impact, and here is the important part: Fans boost social.

The buzzword these days is “Engagement” and how an engaged viewer is more receptive to advertising messages. Engagement is actually a company-to-viewer strategy. Engagement might lead to fandom, but fandom trumps engagement.  Fandom … is a viewer-to-content experience.

Fans crave a place to wear their hearts on their sleeves, while having their fan passion rewarded and treated with respect.

That’s because a fan doesn’t watch at arm’s length, but eagerly rolls up their sleeves and gets into things. Fans are changing media because:

  • Fans enhance creation
  • Fans enhance discovery
  • Fans lengthen the experience
  • Fans build communities

Fans crave a place to wear their hearts on their sleeves, while having their fan passion rewarded and treated with respect. Reach a fan community with the right message and you’ve hit gold.

That’s why at POP, our goal is to create entertainment destination based around things that are already popping in fan culture. Our approach is designed to attract an audience that is already personally connected to the content we are creating. As fans ourselves, we are always looking to lengthen these experiences, enhance additional creation, catalyze conversations and connect passionately with these audiences so that we become part of their communities. In order for anyone to do that authentically, it’s crucial to keep these points in mind:

  • Be Passionate
  • Always look for more
  • Show respect
  • Have fun
  • Keep it positive

Back in the day, and even now, if an advertiser can find a way to put itself between me and The Tragically hip in an authentic and clever manner, at minimum, there’d be a strong brand lift. At maximum? Another sale – and great word of mouth. Look for passions and reward passions, and you’ll earn a fan yourself.

Brad Schwartz is President of Entertainment and Media at POP (currently TVGN), a fan-fueled entertainment network owned by CBS/Lionsgate which is set to launch in early 2015. Schwartz is leading POP’s brand and content strategy across programming, scheduling, marketing, digital and creative. Throughout his career, Schwartz has rebranded and launched several cable networks and has served as a top programming executive for Fuse, CTV (Canada) and MTV.

The Cynsiders column is a platform for industry leaders to reach out to colleagues, followers, and the public at large. In their own words, columnists address breaking news, issues of the day, and the larger changes going on in the ever-evolving world of television, video and digital. Cynsiders columns live on Cynopsis’ main page and are promoted across all daily newsletters. We welcome readers’ comments, queries, and column ideas at RDawn (@) cynopsis.com

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