Have you ever come across a social media post about fans donating to social causes as a way to celebrate their idol’s birthday? This is one example of how fans are becoming more engaged, and developing into “fansumers” (rather than passive, one-way adorers). Although the concept of fansumer is fairly new, its emergence reflects an ongoing shift in consumer culture that brands need to pay more attention to. Here, we break down the examples of fansumers and what brands can learn from them.
What is a fansumer?
As first coined by The Korea Herald, a fansumer (the combination of “fan” and “consumer”) is a new type of consumer that engages in the development and promotion of things they support; which can be brands, products, or idols. It is a notion that was first introduced by Seoul National University’s Consumer Trend Research Institute in the book, 2020 Consumer Trend Insights, which notes that the fansumer phenomenon stems from the advancement of social media; and hence is dominated by tech-savvy Millennial and GenZ consumers.
Fansumers’ active consumption culture
Unlike the typical fan who is often criticised for their blind, one-sided love for their idols (e.g. extravagant bulk-buying of albums to win the chance to hold their idol’s face to face), fansumers are more interested in meaningful activities that also can bring impact to society. In 2020, for example, the BTS Army (the official name of BTS fans) fundraised over $1million USD through Twitter to match the $1 million donation made by BTS to support the Black Lives Matter movement. Another example is where Kpop4Planet, a community movement initiated by K-Pop fans with a mission to protect the Earth, requested the Indonesian e-commerce giant, Tokopedia, to commit to renewable energy by 2030. It is interesting that fansumers are not only satisfied to watch their idol do good deeds or be appointed as brand ambassadors, but they expect to also become influential and have an impact via their own actions.
Another distinctive characteristic of fansumers is they do not only cheer on (and consume) products or brands they are fond of, but also actively speak up and give their input for future improvement. This can be seen, for instance, from the recent Tokopedia’s BTS photocard giveaway program for BTS Army. They received a lot of criticism from the ‘Army’ about this promotion (unclear terms and conditions). In response to inputs, Tokopedia simplified the mechanics and process of the promotion and hence ensured the photocard continued as a desireable item for fansumers.
How brands rise to prominence by embracing the fansumers: Lessons from BTS and Xiaomi
The increasing numbers of tech-savvy Millennials and Gen-Z fansumers unlock new opportunities for brands to gain prominence in ways one might never have imagined before. For example, BTS and Xiaomi are perfect testaments to how brands and idols lead the market by harnessing the power of their fansumers. They come from different fields, yet interestingly, seem to utilise similar strategies to embrace and encourage active participation
- Lesson 1: It is important that brands can resonate with and be relevant to potential consumers way before trying to sell their product. Since the beginning, BTS and Xiaomi have both always conveyed a clear message that they want to be friends with their fans. BTS through their self-love campaign and their participation during YouTube's Dear Class of 2020 graduation ceremony and Xiaomi holds regular cultural events for Mi-Fans (Xiaomi’s global fan community). Both of these examples show the brands’ efforts in stepping into the world of their consumers.
- Lesson 2: It is important that brands ensure strong emotional appeal and ways to connect to the brand and other fans. For example, BTS enabled a Wi-Fi feature in their light sticks at concerts which enables fans to connect, in real-time to both their idols and other fans. Xiaomi, on the other hand, created a digital forum for fans to share stories and discuss with other fans. These examles to show how brands justify the worth of their product through emotional persuasion as a great engine for increasing sales.
- Lesson 3: Finally, it is interesting to learn how BTS and Xiaomi understand that their fans’ wish to also be influential and so put effort into recognising the importance of their fans. Instead of seeing fans as people who bring money to them, BTS and Xiaomi decided to share power with fans by involving them in the product development and marketing process. BTS, for example, let their fans contribute to the content translation, allowing BTS content to reach a wider audience. Similarly, Xiaomi always engages its Mi-Fans to collect feedback on the new products and encourages fans’ contributions to creating viral promotional content on social media and Youtube.
Fansumers are more than fans. In fact, they are consumers and avid users of digital technology that passionately promote the brands they support. Perhaps, the most important is that when using the right approach, developing a strong fansumer base and embracing them will not only bring loyal consumers, but also volunteer business partners for brands that will help bring a wider audience to the table.