Humans have a need to feel accepted, and to be welcomed into a group. Maybe it’s a “strength in numbers” survival instinct.
There’s a drive to achieve membership in an exclusive set. When there’s a sense of inclusion in a group, it’s much easier to rally around that commonality. This is a highly effective way to foster loyalty.
This desire creates an opportunity for branding marketers to build brand equity by naming and cultivating a loyal following.
Fan Bases with Names
If you look at musicians and bands, many of them have names for their following. This isn’t a very new concept but for some reason, it’s remained largely music and media driven.
Are you familiar with these musician fan-base nicknames?
Fanilows (Barry Manilow)
Beliebers (Justin Bieber)
Little Monsters (Lady Gaga)
Dead Heads (Grateful Dead)
Apparently Lorde has avidly refused to “dumb down” her audience by giving them a cutesy nickname. That’s a big miss. They don’t have to be dumb – just audience appropriate… maybe she has something to say about the fans of her rival musicians?
How about these TV show and movie followings?
Trekkies (Star Trek)
Potterheads (Harry Potter)
Whovians (Dr. Who)
You can also find sports fans dubbing themselves, such as Cheeseheads (Packers) and even Hulkamaniacs (Hulk Hogan).
There’s a pride in pledging allegiance to an adored figure, team or series. It establishes a sense of identity, and breeds feelings of devotion with the reinforcement from fellow members.
Pet Names for Brand Loyalists
I have no idea, therefore, why it is less common for brands to give a name to their loyal following. This is such a “gimme.” It costs nothing, and goes a long way toward generating the fierce brand advocacy we all want so badly to cultivate.
Where to start…
As part of your brand strategy, consider your positioning and style. You should have a strong sense of the appropriate vernacular for your brand. Then think of your loyal fans. Spend some time analyzing about your target consumer.
You’ll want to generate a list of words that are true to your brand’s character, and with which your customer base would proudly identify. The words can be cute and rich with personality, as long as they don’t sound unflattering. The last thing you want to do is alienate any portion of your following. You need them to want to buy in… to identify with their membership in this group.
Try out some ideas…
It’s okay to just start using some pet names in social posts here and there. The impermanence and instantaneous feedback opportunities of social media make it the perfect testing ground for these types of experiments. If your following reacts poorly, it was one post and it’s quickly forgotten (hopefully – don’t be insulting or your words will sadly live forever).
Strengthen Brand Equity by Keeping the Brand Present…
You’ll be best served if you retain some part of the brand name in the term you create. Urban Decay makeup calls their following “UDers.” Not the most attractive name, but unmistakable as theirs. ModCloth (retro clothing) uses ModLover. This one is nicer, for their chummy positioning and female target consumer. Perhaps one of the best (and best known) is Maxxinista, the term TJ Maxx has branded their customers with. It’s cute, contains the company name, and suggests an air of expertise.
Can you see how membership in these groups would be coveted by the brands’ most loyal fans?
Consider Multiple Groups
Your general following can include anyone. Your brand has social media followers, email subscribers, and customers with whom you communicate in a number of ways. This most broad collection of brand loyalists needs a pet name… something you can say with affection and that they’ll be proud to identify as. By becoming aware of your brand at all, a consumer is automatically inducted.
At Berkshire Blanket, we call them “Berkshire L<3vies” (that’s the syntax to make the “o” look like a heart). A lovie is a British term of endearment, and it’s also a common name for the favorite childhood blankie – perfect for our “warm” brand! It’s become an easy pet name to affectionately call our fanbase.
But every brand has the opportunity to create a more elite group of brand advocates. We held a contest, included a detailed survey, interacted a few times with our candidates, and selected a group of brand insiders we’ve dubbed Comfort Connoisseurs.
These are avidly loyal brand embassadors who are familiar with our company and our products. We send them samples for feedback, ask them to complete surveys, and count on them to interact more consistently in social media. By rewarding their loyalty but ensuring they are still unaffiliated consumers (not employees or agents in any way) their very vocal and positive opinions carry more weight.
They feel special, singled out for their fervent positivity and fierce loyalty – recognized by the entity they adore and pulled into the inner circle. This is a big win for brands.
Harnessing the Power of the Named Following
Once you’ve established your pet name for loyal brand fans, use it frequently and consistently. Speak to your fanbase in the first person. The experience becomes more personal for them, and they will find themselves feeling suddenly a part of something.
When you include them in this way, you allow them to feel special, to gain membership and instant alignment with the other followers of your brand.
Hashtag your pet name (or a version of it), use it in all digital channels, and let your followers own it. By listening to them, using their organic posts to guide to subjects of yours, and encouraging their direction in establishing just who your fanbase is, they will feel represented.
Stronger Brand Equity Ensues
The result for the brand is considerably increased brand equity. Consumers who feel included as a fan of the brand classify themselves… they feel that you are speaking directly to them. Fanhood becomes part of their personal identity.
There is no stronger brand loyalty than this. It’s a simple tactic to implement. The hardest part, honestly, is figuring out the name – and once you’ve chosen it, you won’t want to change it (or risk losing the ground you’ve gained with the original one, creating confusion and potential loss of identity). So choose wisely.
Then enjoy watching your brand’s fans build the equity and awareness for you, by proclaiming their membership in your fanbase and speaking with pride about what you represent.