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Fandom: Business Success Through Human Connection With David Meerman Scott | EP 322

BDD 322 | Business Fandom


In any industry, fans are both your best customers and your worst critics. Listening to your fandom and giving that human connection can be the breakthrough to success for your business. Marketing strategist, entrepreneur, advisor to emerging companies, and VC strategic partner, David Meerman Scott, joins this episode to talk about fandom. He relates fandom to your customers and how developing and building them up equates to your organization’s success. Learn the things you need to focus on when it comes to your service, product, and communication as David gives a refresher on the importance of human connection as a foundation for building a loyal and trustworthy following.

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Fandom: Business Success Through Human Connection With David Meerman Scott

I’m a big fan of our guest. David Meerman Scott has written eleven books, including The New Rules of Marketing & PR and Marketing Lessons from the Grateful Dead. He’s written the book on my favorite subject in the world, creating fans. His book Fanocracy is a game-changer. I’m fired up to welcome you to the show, David.

Thank you so much, Jesse. I’m excited to be here because you have done some amazing things around fandom and it’s a pleasure to see what you’ve been able to accomplish.

Thank you. I took a lot of inspiration from you and your book, starting out from Marketing Lessons from the Grateful Dead, The New Rules and this one. We’re speaking the same language, which I love. Everyone should be speaking the same language, talking about fans and not just talking about customers. I haven’t ever asked this question but I’m intrigued, what is your definition of a fan?

People have asked me that and I’ve struggled with that. The difference between somebody who has a hobby and somebody who has a fandom is that with a fandom, you’re eager to share it with other people. What’s interesting around what you’re doing is that as soon as people decide that they’re going to go from being somebody who sees the team from afar to buying a ticket and going to the stadium, that’s when they become a fan. When they come back again and want to go to another game, they become a fan. It’s when they are beginning to do something with other people. I can listen to a band and like them, but as soon as I decide to buy a ticket and go there and be around other people, that’s when I’m a fan.

It’s about being around other people and then sharing it.

That’s right. That’s where I’ve come down, because people have said to me, “David, my hobby is knitting. Am I a fan of knitting?” I said, “Do you knit with other people or do you go to knitting conventions? Do you go to the knitting store and kibitz with all the other knitters in there?” “Yes.” “You’re a fan of knitting.”

The way we look at it is what fans have in common. They’re passionate about something. They’re enthusiastic. They’re loyal. They share it with others. What we’ve learned is that we went from marketing crazy and failing to we spend zero dollars marketing and every game sold out and it’s because fans are spreading the word with other potential fans.

We’re probably aligned in terms of our definition.

You do have a definition for Fanocracy.

Yes. Fanocracy is when an organization person puts the needs of their fans ahead of everything else. It’s not about making money. It’s not about creating a product or service. It’s about putting their customers ahead of everything else. That’s what you do, isn’t it?

That’s right. We’re trying to learn every day. It’s a conversation that needs to be had with more people. You may have amount of customers but the future of work is how many fans you have, not by how many customers you have. Customers come and go. The fans stay with you.

That’s right. The other thing fans do is tell other people. They share on social networks. At a cocktail party, they’ll say, “This is the coolest thing I’ve ever seen. You should check it out. This is my favorite band. I read this amazing book. I can’t wait to read other books by this author.” Once you transcend from selling mere products and services to developing fans, your business can come alive.

[bctt tweet=”You become a fan when you begin to do something with other people. ” username=””]

You got a huge interest in live music and bands. It’s great for people to put that perspective and I’d love to share, what we can learn from live bands? They don’t realize it but people are passionate about music and live experience. Tell me about your personal story. I’ve heard a little bit but I think it’s great for the readers.

I’m a huge geek about live music. I saw my first live show when I was fifteen years old. That was quite a few years ago. I have a spreadsheet. I have seen 804 live shows, including 75 Grateful Dead concerts. I’ve seen a few epic shows. I happened to stumble into some epic shows. When I was fifteen years old, The Ramones played in my high school for $100, which is crazy. On September 23rd, 1980, I was a student at Kenyon College in Ohio and my buddies and I road tripped to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to Stanley Theatre to see Bob Marley, and it turns out it was Bob Marley’s last concert. I was the only photographer, the only person known to take photographs at Bob Marley’s last concert.

My photographs have become historic because they’re the only known visual record of Bob Marley’s last concert. They were used for about five minutes in the Marley documentary. The Marley family has copies of the photos, books, magazines, whatever I’ve used these photos because I stumbled into history as a teenager. I don’t know what possessed me to want to bring a camera to the show. I borrowed the yearbook photographers’ camera. I’d never done that before. I’d never done that since. Now, we all have iPhones and whatnot in our pockets, but at that time, it was rare to have a camera at a show. I was lucky to capture that moment.

You fell in love with live music. One thing about, and it’s memorable, I remember my dad took me to the Walden Woods concert back in the day with Aerosmith, Don Henley, Elton John, and Jimmy Buffett, and I was blown away. I’ll never forget that. It’s a memorable experience. The live music going to it, but what is it that bands do? Grateful Dead is a great example and you’re a big fan, but what can we take from what live bands are doing well that we can put into organizations?

Let’s first look at it from the perspective of the fan. The book that we wrote called Fanocracy, I wrote it with my daughter. When we embarked on the project, she was 21 years old. We wanted to look at the neuroscience aspect of how and why somebody becomes a fan, what’s going on our brain going on in our brains when we become a fan of something. I started from the perspective of the Grateful Dead. I’ve seen 75 Grateful Dead concerts. Going to a Grateful Dead concert is among the most important things in my life. In 2019, I went to seven Grateful Dead concerts, which I know is ridiculous. They are touring under the name Dead & Company, which they’ve done different names since Jerry Garcia’s death.

John Mayer plays the Jerry Garcia role. My daughter, Reiko, graduated with a neuroscience degree from Columbia University. We’ve tapped a bunch of well-known PhDs in neuroscience, and what we learned when we dug into the neuroscience is that we humans are hard-wired to want to be part of a tribe of like-minded people. The reason for that is because when we’re part of our tribe, we’re safe, comfortable and we feel secure. That goes back tens of thousands of years of human history. If you’re out on the plains running around with your tribe, you felt comfortable, but as soon as you were not in your tribe, you felt vulnerable. That’s still true of us today even though we’re modern humans.

One neuroscientist identified the different levels of proximity, which is how close you are to another human being. His name is Edward T. Hall. He identified, so-called, public space further than twelve feet away and then what he called social space, which is from 12 feet to 4 feet, and then personal space, which is four feet or closer. The closer you get to someone, the more powerful the human emotions are that are shared, either in a positive way. Never mind the COVID-19 situation that’s going on. Normally when you’re with your tribe, you feel safe and comfortable and positive human emotions. When you’re not with your tribe and you’re with people you don’t know, for example, if you step into a crowded elevator, you can feel negative emotions because your brain tells you, “Danger. These people are not part of my tribe.”

I know you asked me a simple question, which I have a roundabout way of getting an answer to. That’s how we feel as fans when we go to a live music show. What musicians can do and what concert promoters can do is, “What can you do to create a tribe and become part of a tribe?” In the case of the live music shows that I go to if there are calls and responses that the musician, that the artists can do, that can be powerful. I’ve learned that technique myself and I know you do too. I give live speeches around the world. I’ve developed some call and response ways that I get my audience to participate as part of a tribe, just the way that I do. Somebody who goes to a live event, they’re all wearing the badge of the live event. They’re part of a tribe too. It’s similar.

A band that plays their familiar songs and doesn’t insist on playing their new music can be powerful because the tribe wants to hear that older music. A band that treats its fans with great respect and understands that they’re there out of a choice can be powerful as well. The Grateful Dead, in particular, did many things, but one thing that I find remarkable is they allowed their fans to record the concert, which no other band did. If you went to any other show, whether it’s Rolling Stones or Pink Floyd or whoever from that era, you were not allowed to record the concerts. It even said so on the ticket.

The Grateful Dead said, “Sure, why not? You can record our music.” They recognize that if the fans wanted to record and then they would share that music initially, it was in the form of cassette tapes and later on mp3 files, that that was a good thing for the community. It’s a good thing to build fans. You asked me a simple question. I ranted for ten minutes. The bottom line is it’s about a true human connection between a band and the fans, or a true human connection between a sports team and its fans or a true human connection between an artist and their fans.

BDD 322 | Business Fandom
Business Fandom: Once you transcend from selling mere products and services to developing fans, your business can come alive.


You look at bands that have I have followed too like Dave Matthews Band and they let everyone record. Now, you don’t even know Dave Matthews song but they’re selling out arenas left and right. You allow your people to be a part of something and share it. There are some things in there that were great, the proximity but also the call and responses and I think about the rituals. What rituals does your company have that people can be a part of? Before every game, we get a baby, six months old, and we put them in a baby costume and at home, with all the players with their hands up in the air, we play Circle of Life. The whole stadium, 4,000 people are lifting their arms towards the banana baby. That’s a ritual and you feel like you’re a part of something.

I love this too because you’re talking about speakers. One of the big promotions we do is, “Hey, baby,” where everyone and the player gets in the dugout. The whole stadium is doing, “Hey, baby.” In the middle of my speech, the second inning stretch, the whole crowd, I have them do this. Everyone is dancing and singing. They feel like they’re a part of something unintentional but yes, you want to feel you belong. It’s key. You said the other thing I love, the proximity to the customers. You give an example of chamber magic in the book. I love this. How do we get closer? Why don’t we give people tickets or opportunities in the dugout with the players and it’s in the bullpen with the players and go in their locker rooms? That proximity is everything. Tell us a little about the chamber magic and how companies can use that.

We found this to be important. We’re in the throes of the virus and everyone’s telling us not to get close to other human beings. For this short period of time, you don’t want to do this, but once things start to clear up, what’s important to recognize is that we humans are hard-wired to have strong reactions to people who are part of our tribe when they get close to us. In your case, with the team having fans interact in a personal space within four feet of players is important stuff. That’s what this magician named Steve Cohen has done. He sent me an email. He’s celebrating his anniversary. It’s remarkable. Many years of doing the same show in the same place in New York City, which is remarkable. He does a chamber magic show. It’s like an old school magic show. He only sells 65 tickets. He does five shows every weekend. It’s only on the weekends. What he does is make sure that every single member of the audience, all 65 people have an opportunity to be within his personal space, within about four feet of him.

The front row naturally is close to him because he does his shows in a beautiful old room of gilded ceilings and nice chairs, everyone comes dressed in their fineries, coat and tie and so on. What to do about people in the back row? He makes sure to make a point of inviting people from the back rows to come up to the stage and be around him when he’s doing close magic like card tricks and so on. Over the course of the two-hour show, everybody in the audience has a chance to be in close physical proximity with him, the star of the show. That’s a remarkable thing because our brains are hard-wired for us to have a strong relationship with those people who we trust. It doesn’t work well if you don’t trust someone already, but those who we trust, who we get in close physical proximity with, that’s a powerful thing.

Many businesses can try to build that in. You’ve managed to build that in with the team. In my case, as a public speaker, I make sure that after every speech, I have a chance to post for a selfie or sign books with every single person who wants to do that. In some cases, if there are a few thousand people in the audience, that might take an hour or two, but I’m happy to do it. I also make a point of coming down from the stage and going into the audience a couple of times during my presentation. I recognized I can be within four feet of every single one of the thousands of people on the audience, but I can be close to several of those people. That’s a powerful thing as well. What does that mean for a business? Can you have a client conference? Can you meet your customers in their offices? Can you invite them to lunch? Can you do other things to get in close physical proximity with people?

It goes into the kind of, which we break down the barriers but that’s what’s happening. It’s easy in the entertainment field. Yes, during our games, our players go into the crowd and deliver roses to little girls. Yes, our players go on dates with fans. They can do all that. How does that work in a business? You mentioned something that is the most powerful thing that’s still happening, selfies. I didn’t realize this. I go in the crowd and do selfies for two innings. The fans, “Where can I get the selfie? Where can I see it?” It’s this big deal. I’m like, “It’s just a selfie.” Can you take selfies with your customers? Go to them and say, “Let’s do some selfies together.” That’s not just a picture from a distance. You’re a part of something together. Every business should be doing selfies.

Here’s what’s interesting about the selfies. We dug into the neuroscience about what’s going on with the selfies. We talked about the neuroscience of physical proximity and that’s something that’s hardwired in our brains. It’s non-negotiable. We, humans, are hard-wired to be safe and comfortable when we’re with our tribe of people. We’re hard-wired to be uncomfortable if we’re close to people who are not part of our tribe. We talked about that, but sometimes people say to me, “David, my business doesn’t lend itself to getting close physically to people.” We might be in a situation as we’re in because of this pandemic, they’re saying, “Don’t get close to people because you don’t want to spread the virus.”

There’s something called mirror neuron. Mirror neurons are part of our brains that fire when we see somebody do something or even hear somebody do something. Our brains fire as if we’re doing that ourselves, which I’m going to demonstrate. I’m holding up a lemon and a slice of lemon. If I take a bite of this lemon, it’s powerful to bite into a lemon. My eyes closed. My eyes are starting to water a little bit. My mouth puckers up and my saliva glands are firing. I can taste the strong taste of lemons as I bite into this. As I take a bite of lemon, my brain is firing crazy. Every single person who’s reading this, your brain is firing too just by reading about me biting into a lemon. Jesse, your brain too is firing probably even a bit more so because you were able to see me pull out that lemon and take a bite. Did you feel the lemon, by the way, Jesse?

Yes, we all immediately start thinking about that.

What’s happening in our brain is firing as if we were biting that lemon too. Here’s why this is important for something like a selfie or for shooting video in any business is because of our brains, mirror neurons, fire when we see a video or a photograph of somebody as if we’re standing next to them. It’s a way to have virtual proximity with people. It’s a remarkable thing which explains why you think you know a movie star. If you’re watching a movie, you know intellectually that there’s no way that you know that person. You have never met that movie star. You know that intellectually, but your brain signals to you that you know that movie star personally, that you’re friends with that movie star, that you’re part of the same tribe because your brain says to you you’ve been in close physical proximity with them even though intellectually and you know you haven’t.

The idea of a selfie is interesting because what’s happening there is even though you’re not part of that, you don’t know that person necessarily, you see that photograph and you say, “That’s interesting. I’m personal friends with the person who took that selfie.” Even though you know you’re not, selfies get tons of social engagement for that particular reason. It’s cool that you go out into your audience and take selfies because every one of those is an artifact of their time having met you, which then they may share on their social media. When they do so, the people who see those photographs say, “Jesse and I have met that other person myself.” Intellectually they know they haven’t, but their brains tell them they have. The same thing is true of using video. I’ve been advising lots of people because of this virus that the use of video is an interesting opportunity because our brains tell us that we’re in the same room as the person who’s shooting the video. If you crop it as if you’re about four feet away, you look directly at the camera. You assume a natural tone and position, looking directly at the camera, that’s a powerful thing.

[bctt tweet=”The closer you get to someone, the more powerful the human emotions that are shared. ” username=””]

You’re saying that the tighter the shot is much better in the video because you can feel in closer proximity.

About four feet is called personal space. It’s a cocktail party distance. That’s a comfortable distance. Depending on whether there’s a zoom on the camera or not, the placement of the camera may or may not be about four feet away, but four feet away is ideal in terms of the feeling of that camera. As we’re shooting this little video, it’s about four feet. I feel as though you and I are sitting down and talking to one another as opposed to thousands of miles away.

It’s great when you’re talking about this because from a video perspective, I’m proud of our team, but you got to think about how people know the people behind the brand. People don’t necessarily buy the logos. They’re buying the connection to the people behind the brand. You’ve mentioned the virus and we’ll talk about this, but our team said, “What can we do?” They filmed up our mock parade with our people. They’re filming the bananas masters where we’re playing golf inside the stadium and doing that. They’re doing March Badness, where we’re playing basketball and we’re filming it to show us having fun. There’s no direct ROI there, but maybe our fans will connect. We have thousands of people that watch a mock parade with us and our characters around our field. That’s part of it. Do things to build a human connection. You’re right. It doesn’t always have to be in person. You can build it even on a video screen.

Many companies out there when they think video, they think that you have to spend a crapload of money. You have to have the professional come in. You have to have lighting. You have to have makeup. You don’t. You can use the camera that’s in your pocket already and your phone. This is a powerful way to build fans. What I love about the research that my daughter and I did is that it’s hard-wired. It is part of who we are as humans to react to that. When you become a fan of a rock band, an author, a sports team and you can watch a video, that’s a powerful thing. Especially if the people who are creating that video understand that if you do have some of these shots around four feet or so from the camera, that can be powerful.

Some of these examples are great. You mentioned the restaurant in Boston talking about breaking down the barriers. I don’t know how to pronounce that restaurant. What they did was cool. Share your experience there and maybe how that can relate to other businesses.

The idea of breaking down barriers is to understand, in your business, what are the things that you can do to allow your customers to see something behind the scenes that will turn them into a fan. What L’Espalier restaurant does is they have one table in the kitchen. There are 50. I don’t know how many there are in the dining room, but they have one table in the kitchen. My daughter and my wife and I went and had a meal there and it was unbelievable because you’re in the thick of the kitchen. They’re cooking the food right there with you to be able to see it and you can smell, you can hear it. You witness what’s going on all around you. You instantly are part of something that the average customer would never see. Not only do you see it, but you’re a part of it for three hours however long we were there. The different chefs come and explain what they’re doing.

Another great example of that is a company called Grain Surfboards. Grain Surfboards is a company in York, Maine, that makes wooden surfboards. What’s cool about them is you can order a surfboard that’s already made. A couple of thousand dollars and you can buy a wooden surfboard, but they also have a build your surfboard class that you can take if you go to the factory in York, Maine. It takes four days. They teach you everything you need to know to build your surfboard, which you do right there in their factory together with the artisans that build those surfboards.

That is remarkable because they’re sharing their proprietary building techniques for how they build those surfboards. It’s a technique that they invented because you can’t just take a piece of wood and make it in a surfboard shape, it’s too heavy. It’s a boat-building technique where it’s hollow ribs that are then laid over the top of the ribs with other pieces of wood. They have a special way that they keep the air inside of the hollow surfboard so that it doesn’t overheat, because if it did it bust the board like a balloon. It’s a proprietary technique. They could have said, “We’re not going to show you how we do this because it’s proprietary.” Instead, they said, “Sure, come on down. We’ll show you everything we know.”

I’ve done this twice. People like me who have built these surfboards love that they have allowed people to become part of what they’re doing. You do that too. How crazy is it that a fan can go into the dugout? What are the sacred places in a ball club that fans at least never see up close? The dugout, bullpen and locker room are three that come to mind. Those are three places that you’ve opened up. This idea is something that any organization can try to figure out in their world, “What are the things that we can open up that aren’t opened up and use that as a way to build fans?”

What is your behind the scenes VIP experience? Especially if you retail, you look at everything as points of sale. We’ve changed our mindset to points of experience. Every place that we sell food, we think, “What’s the performance that’s going on?” I love the behind the scenes I noticed and subconsciously I didn’t realize when we took fans behind the scenes before the game, and they got to go on the field and watch the players do their dance rehearsals, they’re like, “I’m watching players do dance rehearsals.” They would talk about it crazy because they’re like, “I didn’t even know this was happening.” They see it happen during the game later where they nailed the dance and they’re like, “This is how it all came together.” What is your behind the scenes VIP experience that only you get to see that maybe you take for granted because you see it all the time and someone else values?

I think about it in my world and I should probably even do more of it myself. Before a big speech, I often do a little soundcheck. To me, it’s no big deal but maybe one of my fans would be interested in coming up onto the stage with me and see what it’s like to go through a little soundcheck. I know in my case, as a fan of live music, I’ve been invited to maybe a dozen different sound checks of different bands. The one I remember distinctly because it was cool is the Dead & Company. Grateful Dead invited me to a soundcheck in New York City at Citi Field. There were only four people at that soundcheck. The entire Citi Field, where the New York Mets play and only four people were able to be at that soundcheck. I was one of them.

BDD 322 | Business Fandom
Every organization can think about how they can provide some experience to people, because there’s always going to be an opportunity, if you’re clever, to think of that experience.


It cost them nothing.

For an hour, I was one of the four people who were there. I knew someone to get me in but it was a remarkable experience. All of us have an opportunity to think about, “Can this CEO broadcast something on video for fans? Can you witness the product managers having a discussion about the next product design?” All different things that you could consider depending on what your business is, in terms of allowing people to see behind the scenes.

If you’re doing filming in your office, can they come and watch you film something from behind the camera? Everyone, there are many opportunities. What’s great is we’re all talking about the experience. Everything is about the experience. There’s one point where you talked about building your own experience. I loved Harmony hearing about that. I never knew that existed. It made me start thinking, “How can fans decide the lineups, everything that’s happening during the games?” Can you share it?

That’s interesting. I hadn’t thought about it from the perspective of putting together a lineup. Harmony is an app that musicians can connect with their fans. Fans using the app can request what songs the band will play at a particular show. Let’s say, for example, Jack White is coming to Boston where I live, and I’m going to go to the show. I can use Harmony to request a couple of different songs that Jack White will play once he comes to Boston. What’s interesting about Harmony and the reason it works is that when a band like Jack White will sell tickets, they typically will sell through something like Ticketmaster.

Ticketmaster doesn’t share the data about who the fans are with the band. The band has no idea who’s in the audience if the tickets were purchased from Ticketmaster because Ticketmaster owns the email addresses of those people. How does a band like Jack White go from the anonymous people in the audience who bought through Ticketmaster to having those people become a fan of Jack White and Jack White know who those people are? You can sign up for their email list at the Merchtable. You can buy something and sign up that way or you can use Harmony ahead of the show, which you have to register and give your email address for.

You request the songs that Jack White will play and that data of the people who made those requests are, which are the biggest fans of Jack White, then gets circulated back to Jack White. Now, they know the 100 or 200 people who have used Harmony what those email addresses are, which they can then add to their database. It’s an interesting and clever system both for the fans and for the band to be able to understand who are the different people are going and then the fans have the benefit of being able to choose the songs.

How can you let your customers become fans by choosing their experience? I think about that. We surprise our whole staff with a trip to Disney before the virus, so we were lucky. They got exciting, “I’ll go to this show then I’m doing the FastPass here.” It was the crafting of the experience that was half the excitement. I know it’s tough if you’re a bank if you’re an insurance lender if you’re so and so, but how do you give your fans the chance to choose or have decision making to control what happens next? For instance, we’ve looked at our fans and chose the name of the team and the mascot. They choose our t-shirts. They choose our jerseys. Next, as we said, could they do the lineups, the music, the promotions we’re doing, all and everything. I think that gives you ownership and a brand.

That’s right. Every one of those things can either become a contest, it can become a prize or it can become an experience that can be offered. That becomes cool and interesting. A lot of people will tell me, but my business doesn’t lend itself to that. I don’t own a sports team. I’m not a rock band. The truth is that every organization can think about how they can provide some experience to people because there’s always going to be an opportunity if you’re clever to think of that experience.

Back to the restaurant, where we started this discussion, they’ve got 60 tables out in the dining room. Someone clever said, “What happens if we put a table in the kitchen? Should we do that?” My mother turned 85 years old and I have two brothers. My brothers and I decided to take my mother out for her birthday. My brother, lives in Connecticut, which is near where my mother lives. He was thinking to himself, “What would be a great experience?” There’s that word again. “What would be a great experience for our mother that she would remember?”

There’s one particular restaurant that has one table inside of the wine cellar. It’s in the basement. You have to go through down these rickety stairs and you end up in the wine cellar, wine all around you. There’s one table down there. That’s what we booked. It was a surprise for mom. She didn’t know we were going to go out. We surprised her. It was a great experience. Who would have thought to put a table in the basement, but it worked and it was great.

We’re going to get to a few, Dave, but I want a few quotes that you said and I love this, “Always be consumer-focused. If you’re focused on product alone, it results in a race to the bottom. Your relationship with your customer starts with your curiosity about them.” Can you share maybe one little thing someone can do to have more curiosity about the customers?

[bctt tweet=”Getting in close proximity to the people you trust is a very powerful thing. ” username=””]

People ask me this sometimes, “What are the biggest mistakes that companies make?” That is focusing way too much on your product or service, not focusing enough on your customers, or as I would call them, your fans. If you’re curious about your fans, if you’re curious about the things that they’re interested in, that will allow you to craft something that’s way more interesting than if you’re just putting out a product.

It’s that question, asking what would your fans want. Put yourself in the fan shoes. We do that. We go undercover fans. Every night someone goes and parks with the fans. We line with the fans. We sit with the fans. We talk to the fans. Also, they’re incognito, asking them, “Have you been to a game before? What was the best part?” You ask these questions and you learn from it. I love that. We’ve learned a lot from it.

Undercover fan.

Every night someone on our staff does it. We have 30 nights of notes and we come back. We make decisions by it.

That’s awesome.

Another thing that I love, give without wanting anything in return. This is something that people struggle with. You wrote, “Free content with strings attached feels like coercion. Great content given freely attracts loyal fans.”

This I learned from the Grateful Dead. We talked about this at the top of the show where the Grateful Dead allowed fans to record their concerts and every other band didn’t. They were giving something away with no expectation of anything in return. What many organizations do is the opposite. I think about the best example of that are the companies that produce something like a white paper or an eBook, which they offer for free on their website. If it’s truly for free, it means you’d have no registration to get that piece of content. What most companies do is they require that you have to give an email address to get that piece of content, that white paper, that eBook, whatever it is. That’s not providing free content. That’s coercion. You’re coercing people to get that content by requiring that they fill out a form.

It’s something we need to think about, “What are you doing? Are you trying to get immediate more fans, more dollars or are you trying to do something that’s best for people?” That’s why some of the Facebook live say, “We do them for fun.” If you like them, they like them.

There is no question about it. That’s what a podcast is. That’s what you’re doing. You’re providing a gift for people. The gift is, “I’m going to have some interesting people that I’m going to talk to. I’m going to let you listen in for 45 minutes or an hour to these interesting conversations. I’m not going to try to sell you something. I’m not going to make you register. I’m not going to charge you money. I’m hopeful that this will be valuable for you.” It’s exactly what you’re doing, Jesse. Not enough people think that way. Many organizations think that every single thing they do needs to be part of a transaction, but it doesn’t.

It’s playing the long game. Are you ready for a couple of games?


BDD 322 | Business Fandom
Business Fandom: The biggest mistake a company can make is to focus too much on your product or service and not focus enough on your customers.


You can start either truth and dare or the fan showdown, which one do you want first?

You choose.

We’re going to go fan showdown. I’m going to name industry and maybe name one thing that they could do to create some more fans. Let’s start with realtors.

I would love to see way more walkthroughs of homes. I’m going to talk about residential real estate. I want to see somebody interesting, like a local celebrity, walking through a house. Talking about the different features of the house as they’re seeing spontaneously, as opposed to the whole realtor speak, which drives me insane. The crazy words that they invent for the different bits of the real estate. Have someone weird and interesting and unique. Have the groundskeeper come in and do a walkthrough with the realtor and point out the interesting things.

Give them a real breakdown of what it’s like, not this fake thing. I’ll throw another one at you.


How about a movie theater?

There are a couple of movie theaters that are near me that are old and interesting and some of them are historic. I want to know what movies showed here 10, 20, 30, or 40 years ago. Do they have pictures of that? Do they have any old equipment gathering dust in the basement they can bring up and show us? I had an opportunity to go backstage at a weird and wonderful theater in Boston called The Wilbur. The Wilbur used to be a theater that was used for Vaudeville. Some of the actors that have been on the Wilbur stage were remarkable, people like Ethel Merman and so on. I went down into the basement of The Wilbur because I was intrigued. What’s going on down in the basement of the Wilbur theater because this theater has been here 100 years ago. There were these dusty old, interesting chairs and old lights. This stuff is freaking awesome. They should do tours of the basement of The Wilbur. How cool would that be?

Nostalgia playing with that, that’s coming back more than anything, how can you play with the nostalgia and make people go back in mind because that’s an experience, “This was like this in the ‘40s and the ‘50s.”

A basement tour of the Wilbur prior to the show that you had to maybe buy a ticket for $5 or even make it free, the first twenty people requesting can go down to the basement.

Keep going. I’ve got rapid-fire, truth and dare, which one you want first?

[bctt tweet=”Our brains are hardwired for us to have a strong relationship with those people who we trust. ” username=””]


What is one thing you may have done in your career that did not create fans, maybe deterred fans?

I should have done an email newsletter when I first started my business and I didn’t. I wish I had started an email newsletter. I’m not going to start one now, but I wish that I had started one back in the day.

You should have started communicating with your fans.

I did not have a good way for people to express that they were a fan of me in the early days.

Give people the opportunity to talk to you. For the dare, this is a game we do at the ballpark. It is called the sing-off. We do 2,000 fans against 2,000 fans, each grandstand. When the song stops, we have to finish that song lyric. It’s for you. It’s a band. It’s one well-known song. When it stops, finish that song. Here we go.

I will survive.

Do you know the name of the song?

It’s Touch Of Grey by the Grateful Dead.

They have many songs and not everyone knows. That was more the main line. I went easy for you.

I’m glad you went mainline because if I had failed, I would have been laughed out of the Grateful Dead fandom.

BDD 322 | Business Fandom
Fanocracy: Turning Fans into Customers and Customers into Fans

You nailed it. You’ve done so far. In the fan showdown, you’ve won. Truth and dare, you’ve won. I’ve been grilling you for the last 45 minutes, and you get to grill me. This is flip the script. You could ask one question for me. You’re the host of the show.

Of all of the cool things that you’ve done with the Bananas, tell me one of the biggest failures to grow fans.

It’s been events that weren’t geared necessarily towards our target demographic. We did a haunted stadium at the stadium. We did a food truck fest. We did tap in the morning beer festival because you can’t drink all day if you don’t start in the morning. I loved it. I thought it was great. We started getting out of our element. We think we can be the best.

You’re family-friendly.

Yes, we’re family-friendly but also, we have fun. We get on the edge. We have some French maids that clean the dirty bases. There are men at the end of the game. We have to ring dudes our guys in jerseys walking like a ring girl. We get on the edge late at night. We have Bananas After Dark. The baseball is a platform on the show, that’s what we’re the best at.

I got it. You need to stick to baseball. Get creative around baseball and maybe not go far into something else.

That’s our niche. That’s our focus. We’ve done other things that have failed. The world’s largest tickets, we made tickets the size of posters. We thought it would be cool. Our fans are like, “What are we supposed to do with those?” We’ve done all those weird things, but those are the biggest.

I bet the fans love the fact that you tried something and it didn’t work.

They’re used to it at this point. The living piñata we did where we had interns in mascot costumes with kids with bats hitting them and throwing candy in the air. We’ve done a lot of things. Let’s finish up here if you could give a quick win. Fan is a thing that we’re all trying to understand more and you did a great job of Fanocracy. I’m fascinated, we talked about a few ideas, the proximity, behind the scenes, the human connection, what someone that can walk out and say, “I’m going to create a fan now of our customer.” What’s something someone could do?

Any organization has an opportunity to take a look at how you’re communicating with people, maybe take a look at your website for example, or if you have a store. However, you’re communicating with people and make sure that it is truly something that’s focused on the people you’re trying to reach. In the case of websites, many companies use what I call gobbledygook language. They use this crazy made-up language. They use words like innovative and cutting edge and mission-critical or they use images, photographs, that aren’t even real photographs. They’re stock photos. They’re not real fans. They’re not real customers. They’re not real employees. Their stock photo is pulled out of a catalog. The first thing that we can all do, I included, every one of us can take a look at how you’re communicating and eliminate language that is not friendly to the people you’re trying to reach and eliminate images that are not friendly to the people you’re trying to reach.

I got one more for you. I’m fascinated by people standing out and what makes them different. What makes them stand out? What’s one thing that you’ve done to be able to stand out in business or life?

My dad, when I graduated from college, said to me, “David, my biggest advice to you now that you’re out of college is learning how to speak in public because you’re going to do that no matter what your job is.” I was petrified about speaking in public. It was ridiculous. I was like, “This is terrible.” I listened to him. Starting at age 25, I started to take it seriously. I founded a Toastmasters Club in Tokyo. I didn’t learn how to speak in public by being a part of this Toastmasters Club. I spoke then at the companies I work for. In 2007, I started to speak professionally. I do 30, 40, or 50 speaking gigs a year. It’s my art, and I love it. I have two speakers, coaches that I work with because I’m always trying to improve the way that I speak. To me, it was interesting. I don’t know if he had a premonition or what, but my dad said, “Learn how to speak in public.” I did. I was careful about it. It’s important to me. I make my living speaking in public.

You’re spreading a powerful message. That’s how I connected with you. First, from The New Rules of Marketing & PR and The Grateful Dead, and Fanocracy. You’ve inspired me. You’ve inspired our team. I want to thank you, David, for being on the show and everything you’re putting out in the world.

I appreciate that, Jesse. I cannot wait until I have an opportunity to come and see the team in action and meet you in person, which I need to do as soon as humanly possible.

Thank you so much, Dave. I appreciate you.

Take care.

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