Is there a better month for any sport than that of March Madness and NCAA basketball? I personally love how it brings out the most rabid of fans. If you watch any Kentucky NCAA tournament basketball game (don't expect to see any this year) you'll see an Elvis impersonator dressed in complete Kentucky gear. You'd swear the King is alive and well living in the Bluegrass state. Also at the game will be students doning blue body paint and a sea of blue and white jerseys. Kentucky fans have actually been nicknamed the Blue Mist because of their numbers and extreme loyal following. Even UK graduate and well-known Big Blue follower Ashley Judd is among this group. After the buzzer, faithful fans will scream, cry, and even hug complete strangers all in the name of their team.
Creating fans should be the ultimate goal of marketers. If we could deliver an experience so authentic and meaningful to our customers that it helped them identify themselves, we'd have marketing gold.
Here are some examples of brands that don't just have customers, they have fans.
ESPN - I actually heard someone from ESPN speak to a group of Nashville marketers. They actually believe the difference between their network and others is that others have viewers while ESPN has fans. This is the basis of the "This is Sportscenter" ad campain.
Harley Davidson - What marketer hasn't mentioned Harley Davidson in a meeting as an example of someone who has created fantastic brand loyalty among its customer base. We all see people wearing the black and orange Harley apparel whether they are riding the motorcycle or not. It instantly makes a statement of who they are (I wish I had a Harley).
Other brands to deem fan-centric are: iPod, BMW, IKEA, and Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ? Sure. Followers of this man have cried, sang and hugged complete strangers. Sounds almost like a college baskteball fan.
Let's challenge all marketers to try turning their customers into fans. Maybe it will turn the consumer experience into something so valuable we wear a t-shirt to tell the world.
Who's on your list of fan-centric brands?