ITL #303   How to become a sticker on a laptop: turn fans into superfans

4 years ago


Some consumers actively want to become ‘friends’ with brands. The challenge is to deepen connections with them. By Norty Cohen.

Ever walk into a coffee shop and see those laptop stickers staring back at you? Ever wonder how your brand can be that sticker?


In a world where attention spans are eight seconds and the average person spends one day a week on their smartphone, creating breakthrough messages is a new challenge every day.


Dropping enough media to saturate a market may have worked in the pre-smartphone era but now curation is at everyone’s fingertips.


Six years ago, we were on a mission to prove to our clients that conversion through one-way messaging was not enough. 


We had two businesses at the time, a marketing agency and a research consultancy. We challenged our team to discover:


How and why do consumers adopt brands?


The methodology began with 1,000 millennial consumers, (then 13-33 years old), asking them about their three favorite brands - unaided.  From there, we had pull down menus that asked how and why they connected.


Since 2013, we’ve annualized the survey, and now have more than 10,000 responses. What began as a thought leadership white paper, has evolved into two books and an on-going fascination on the laws of brand attraction.


The Participation Game, published in 2017, argued that people don’t consume advertising, but choose to participate in brands:


  • Consumers are 2.5x more likely to adopt a brand based on friends, family and word of mouth than by TV, YouTube and Facebook ads combined. Crossing the friend barrier is critical.


  • More than 25% told us they market themselves on social media. We are marketers marketing to marketers.


  • Our six-year top 100 list revealed a number of brands who don’t advertise. They just serve their audience to a high level. Making Them Look Good, Feel Good and Entertaining Them.


We found that it’s not just your target market you should care about.  It’s your target’s target. In order to have saturation, you need friends of friends.


Social platforms are there to connect friends to friends.  Brands are on the outside looking in with a 3% organic reach versus 90% for individuals.  We realized that the best way to breakthrough is, ultimately, being a friend. 


We found one group of consumers who actively wanted to be friends with brands – superfans.  Starting in 2016, we initiated a two-year study of the communities superfans form around brands.  We published the results in our second book – Join The Brand in October, 2018.


Our research found superfans are:


  • 4x more likely to have a regular dialogue with their favorite brand
  • 2x more likely to interact with other brand fans on social
  • 2x more likely to feel a sense of belonging from their favorite brand


Superfans have a heightened level of participation and belonging. Maslow’s hierarchy packages it up nicely: after food, water and safety, human needs are belonging, esteem and self-actualization. Superfans can replenish themselves with three out of five human needs as they market themselves both socially and brand themselves with stickers and T-shirts.


Think of Disney’s pin traders – they’ve created an entire economy that exists with collectible pins.  Superfans told us in one-on-ones that “everyone knows how much I am connected.”


They connect with brands that support:


  • Communication: establishing a sense of connection and a shared voice
  • Behavior: elevating a lifestyle
  • Self-solidification: outward expression of their personality


Brands with dominant communities have long term equity that doesn’t require daily ad spend. A base of customers knows them, want to support them and ultimately will even defend them in the wake of a public challenge.


We now believe that building a community is the best-long term investment for maintaining attention.  Giving attention is a lot more affordable than getting attention, when brands have a database that is united by a common thread.


To support this thesis, we grouped best practices into three logical steps:


  • Ignite the Fire: tell a meaningful story, provide imagery and iconography to make identification feel rewarding.


  • Fat Face is not just a line of clothing and a fashion retailer. It is the name of a French ski run, translated by a couple of English skiers who didn’t want to go home. Instead, they sold T-shirts out of their van.
  • Tito’s Vodka is a 10 million case brand and identifies themselves as “The Vodka for Dog People.” It all happened when Tito was making the first batches and kept adopting stray dogs who found him at his Austin ranch.


  • Fuel the Flame: engage people with two-way conversations, gaming, co-creation and causes.


  • Almost every nail polish brand has followed Essie’s lead by creating naming conventions for every single color. Colors like Miami Nice, Hi Maintenance or Play Date evoke mood and attitude and get shared on social media, providing immediate value. It’s a connection platform that’s unique and co-creative.
  • Starbucks has kept a simple page on their site, “My Starbucks Idea” since 2008. At last count, they’ve fulfilled 277 out of 150,000+ ideas including splash sticks, cake pops and pumpkin spice lattes. 


  • Pass the Torch: Enlist ambassadors, cast consumers and create family ties.


  • TheSkimm is a newsletter that doesn’t run ads, it converts them into prizes for its best ambassadors who are called Skimbassadors. In order to be eligible for rewards, 12,000 friends have recruited 10 of their friends.
  • JCrew ran an Instagram campaign called “Cast Me JCrew.” Followers could submit their own pics and be featured.
  • Taco Bell has a wedding chapel in Las Vegas that features a 12 pack of tacos for guests. They ran a contest and thousands voted on which of 150 couples would get a free wedding.


Ultimately, owning is better than renting. Brands are stronger when they own their own resources and manage their email and ecommerce data effectively instead of relying on social platforms.


Finally, don’t just ask fans to buy the brand.  Enlist them to join the brand.


Join The Brand, by Norty Cohen, Jillian Flores and Meggie Petersen is available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Hudson News and select independent book sellers.


The author

Norty Cohen is the founder and CEO of integrated marketing agency, Moosylvania. He is the author of two books, The Participation Game, published in 2017 and Join the Brand, 2018.  He is a former owner and founder of Hatch Research, a global research consultancy. Moosylvania is launching its seventh year of research in January of 2019.  Get connected to the results here.





[email protected]MOOSYLVANIA.COM
















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The Author

Norty Cohen

Norty Cohen is the founder and CEO of integrated marketing agency, Moosylvania. He is the author of two books, The Participation Game, published in 2017 and Join the Brand, 2018. He is a former owner and founder of Hatch Research, a global research consultancy. Moosylvania is launching its seventh year of research in January of 2019. Get connected to the results here.

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