Creating Mega Fans: Social Influence Declines As Fans Age

The road to obsession -- or at least becoming a fan -- with regard to a product or superhero typically involves discovery, emotional investment, and evangelism. These three stages account for the majority of the spend that fans devote to their favorite content.

While casual fans and super fans move through these three stages, evangelism remains the most powerful fan stage for a brand. These are the fans who attend Comic Con in San Diego, California, or get married in Jon Snow and Daenerys Targaryen costumes.

Titled The State of Fandom and released Wednesday, the study shows how fans move from discovery to evangelism. It analyzes how fans interact with their favorite shows, games and movies and examines the behavioral differences between different types of fans, unique attributes of movie, TV, and video game fans, and how marketers can engage these audiences effectively. 

“We often think of fandom as ephemeral but that’s not the case," wrote Stephanie Fried, CMO of Fandom, in an email. "The lifecycle for fandom is nine years on average. All-time fandoms for movie are even longer, about 20 years for 20% of fans.”

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The report also found that three subsegments of fans: Explorers, Evangelists and Devoted Enthusiasts. These are valuable for brands, as they comprise 75% of the fan market and account for 91% of the spend that fans devote to their favorite content. 

The study was produced in partnership with market research firm Ipsos, whose analysts conducted 20-minute online surveys with 5,000 respondents in the U.S., ages 16 to 44, and was fielded from Aug. 16 through Aug. 23, 2019.

Across the board, a fan’s friends and family are the top influencers when it comes to the type of content that is discovered and tried.

But teens are disproportionately influenced by other sources -- including fan content, at 68%. Once they discover content, those between the ages of 18 and 24 have the highest levels of social influence on others about that content -- at 81%, compared to 61% among those ages between 35 and 44.

Social influence declines as fans age.

Professional content and reviews play a significant role in influencing what content is tried, especially for Gen Xers. The majority, at 62%, are influenced by these types of content.

About 71% of men, compared with 59% or women, are more reliant on professional content when it comes to deciding the content to try. Some 75% of women are more likely influenced by what they see on social media.

For fans who will ultimately become super fans, professional and fan content, advertising and social media also play a larger role.

When a fan gets to the evangelism stage, they find a role and voice within the community. They post frequency on social media, join online groups and communities, and create longer-form content. In fact 30% of fans in this state become content creators. The motivations behind this fan-generated content is mostly the emotional payoff.

And it’s all about the content. At Fandom, pop culture and content travels across three main verticals: movies, TV and video games. These fandoms make up the majority of the communities on the sites and across the web. They fuel participation and attendance at live fan events, conferences, meetups and premieres, as well as online sporting events.

For example, the average length of time that a gamer has been a fan of his or her all-time-favorite game is 9.1 years. Consider this, nearly 70% of gaming fans are 34 years old or younger. Gaming fans, however, tend to choose classic titles as both recent and all-time favorites. In fact, fans’ Top 5 all-time and recent favorite game titles are identical. They include Super Mario, Call of Duty, Grand Theft Auto, Minecraft, Fortnite, and Madden.

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