Friday, October 26, 2012

Brand Fans: Anonymous or Revealed?

Should a brand reveal its fans?

Continuing the theme of the impact of communal content on consumer perceptions, recent research from the Journal of Marketing looked at the question above. The study looked at whether the demographics implied by pictures of supporters influenced purchase intent and related brand metrics.

The answer depends on the overlap between our target market and our fan base. 

Here are the two summary points:
  • Reveal the identity when the  profiles are similar to your target audience.
  • Maintain ambiguity when the fan base is different than your target audience.
The research makes more nuanced recommendations, but it seems that 'birds of a feather' and inclusion works: if people like me support a brand, then my perception rises.  Conversely, if I sense either a different or very mixed audience then my perceptions may be dampened. 

This thought clearly has implications when a brand is running contests or extending into new demographic markets.   For the latter we'd likely want to run a targeted acquisition program to enlist support from the new demographic group first.

So, what can we do to determine whether the groups overlap?
  1. Augment our customers and CRM data with both social and demographic indicators.  Three key social metrics are presence, engagement with the category, and influence.
  2. Ask your supporters for permission to look at their interests and profile.
  3. Develop two personae or detailed profiles, one for each group, and then determine the degree to which they overlap.
Not only will this approach help with the tactical question about identity, it might reveal some other useful insights about the brand promise and whether the target matches reality.

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