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How To Build A Brand The Fans First Way | Ep. 15

BDD 15 | Building A Brand

 

Building a business takes work, but building a great brand takes work, obsession, and borderline crazy dedication for it to work. That’s if you do it the right way. Multiply that by 10,000 and you’ve got yourself a brand of Fans First caliber. But why should you get over the top several times over in order to attract dedicated fans to your brand? Jesse Cole knows from experience that it’s because there is no better way to be first in your customers’ minds. If you have any idea what Fans First is all about, you would know what he’s talking about. Listen in as he shares how the Fans First brand came about and pick up some timeless wisdom from that experience that you can apply on your own. Jesse also talks about their upcoming second book, which he hopes will solidify his brand’s legacy in business and entertainment. 

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How To Build A Brand The Fans First Way

Why A Book, Why Now

I am excited to talk about brand and building a brand. It’s something that we’ve learned over the last few years. It’s something that we didn’t put a ton of time into in the beginning, but now we’ve integrated it into every facet of our organization. We’re going to go into how we’ve built a brand the Fans First way, and how every decision we’ve made has been based on looking at the fans and creating an experience based on them. When people think about brands and businesses, they often think it’s about you and your brand. Your brand is built by your customers. We’re going to dive into the power of building a brand and how playing that long game on brand building wins in the end. I’m going to share why we are writing a book and how that fits into not only the brand but continuing to create fans and why I believe every company and every leader should write and put out a book. If they don’t feel like they have enough to say, then they need to work on their story, what they are doing that’s different and special that can make a difference. 

We all have books in us. The key is, are we willing to have the courage to put it out there? Part of this whole brand building is getting stories, sharing stories, and putting them out for the world to see. We’re going to dive into how we’ve been able to focus on going all-in on our fans every step of the way and building that brand, how I believe any business can do the same, and how many businesses have done it 10,000 times better by focusing on every detail of their experience. I’m going to share how to start with the vision, building, testing, then sharing. Often we talk about the experiments and the building, but we don’t talk about how often we are sharing that over and over again and being repetitive. I’m going to go into how to leave a legacy. That’s the real impact of a brand.  

When you look at a lot of the greatest businesses of our time, a lot of them are led by leaders that have this mission that is relentless in trying to create a special product and experience. Often, they fade once that leader leaves or passes away. When you look at businesses like Disney and Chick-fil-A that have lost their leader and founder like Walt and Truett Cathy. They continue to grow because of the brand that they built. What is powerful is to build an enduring company that lasts because of the brand that you’ve built in your mission, and how it will resonate not only with your team and your employees but also your fans long after that founder is gone. 

Brand And Vision

We’re going to share that and we’re going to rock and roll. I want to start here with, what is a brand? I had to look it up. You look at a brand and you’re like, “That’s a good brand.” What does a brand mean? There’s a bunch of different definitions, but it’s everything that represents a company organization. It’s people’s perception of the product, experience, service or the organization as a whole. It’s everything that represents the organization. That right there says so much. We will get into what is off-brand and on-brand, but it’s every touchpoint. Everything that represents a company organization, that is what represents and what determines someone’s brand. 

Before we get into the vision of how to build, how to share, and how to leave a legacy, ask yourself when you read this, when people think of you, your company, your business or your brand, what do they think about? What do you own in people’s minds? What’s the first thought that they think of? That’s a hard question to ask and maybe it’s something that you ask different peers. When you think about our dry cleaning company or our restaurant, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? That perception is not only owning in people’s minds, that is also what they will share and think about you when you’re not even talking to them. That’s the key.  

Disney, Chick-fil-A, Amazon, Southwest, Zappos are some of those companies that resonate with people. Mindset comes to you, and a smile or a good memory. An interesting starting point when thinking of the brand is, what do you want people to think of you? What do you want to own in people’s minds? You can then start designing every interaction, step and touchpoint. When you’re building this brand and you’re thinking about that, how do you make a greater impact with your brand? You get relentlessly focused on every one of those touchpoints. You stay onbrand always and you share it. You create brand experiences that are worth sharing.  

BDD 15 | Building A Brand
Building A Brand: Once you have that powerful statement of who you are, what you stand for, where you’re going, and what you’re trying to build, it becomes easy to build a brand.

 

One big question I always think about is, how are you building your brand while you are sleeping? When we’re sleeping, people can still be finding you. When they go to your website, read stories, read articles, or call your voicemail, anything that they interact with you is your brand. The big thing here for marketers and salespeople is there is no direct ROI in saying, “I’m going to make our voicemail special. I’m going to make our invoices different. I’m putting the emphasis on our logo, the colors and the design elements of when you put a marketing piece out or even the font.” It’s amazing what Disney did. You can see their Disney font and you begin to think, “That’s magical and fun.” It’s a font but it’s an interesting touchpoint. Would you write in the Disney font? You see that and you conjure up moments and memories thinking of Disney.  

How often do you change your fonts on your marketing pieces or your email signatures? If it’s constantly changing, you’re confusing the customer. Donald Miller said it best, “If you confuse, you lose.” What are you staying focused on with your brand? That’s a starting point for this brand conversation. As we have an idea of what it means and why it matters, where do you start? For us, it starts with the vision. I’ve shared a couple of episodes ago about how we worked on our 2025 vision in 2020, and continue to focus on where we’re going, and more importantly, the impact we’re going to make.  

We’ve said it clearly since dayone on our website, “Savannah Bananas, we make baseball fun.” It sounds simple. Maybe it’s not as elaborate as other people but for us, that’s the focus. When people think of our brand, we want them to think, “They potentially could be the most fun baseball team on earth. Every touchpoint, we think, “Can we make it fun?” How do we do that? You have a vision. When you think of your company or brand, what do you do and why does it matter? We know that to many people, baseballs are slow and boring. Our goal is, are we going to make it fun? How are we going to make it fun? The way we’re going to do it is to simply put the fans first in everything that we do, and then entertain always. With the fun, entertainment always comes into play. That’s how we look at every single touchpoint.  

That’s the starting point. When we look at on-brand and off-brand, when you go to our website, do any of the pictures that we show something that’s boring at a baseball game? If for some reason, there’s a huge rain delay at our game, people are leaving and it doesn’t look packed in the stadium, we won’t show that. When we lose a game, we won’t show or even highlight the fact that we lost a game. It sounds crazy. Every Minor League team in the country says, “So-and-so lost again. Those are three straight losses.” Why share that? Maybe their brand is different, but our brand is making baseball fun, so we don’t share that.  

On our website, we show pictures of people having fun. We’re very intentional on every video we put out to show the players and fans having fun. We even pick music that makes you feel like you are having fun. It’s all part of that on-brand and looking at the social media. What is not fun? Sometimes that’s a good starting point for thinking about your vision. If you want to be fun, elegant or the most caring company in the world, sometimes it’s best to go the opposite route. I say it often, “Whatever is normal, do the exact opposite.” For us, what is the most boring? What are the most frustrating points for you?  

I despise seeing sales messages over and over again, “30% off or 20% off. Buy this now. Special.” To me, all that sales and marketing is not fun. We are very intentional. You will not see those messages from us. We will not put out all these special deals and discounts buy. We look at the number of messages that we send. We will share new merchandise, our waiting list or priority list so fans can get in. We look at the order and the amount of those messages that go out versus the messages of fun videos of the players doing crazy walk-ups to the game, players doing a dance, our guy in stilts walking up to the plate, or our breakdancing firstbase coach.  

If you’re trying to build a brand, you need to find the people that you are for and be adamant towards it. Click To Tweet

The correlation is dramatically different from most companies. We will show 99% of messages that have no intention to sell, promote or market. To us, that’s on-brand because that is fun. How do we show that baseball is fun over and over again, that we are not just selling but we serve in a fun way? That’s the starting point of our brand. It starts with that vision of we make baseball fun. How do we do it fans first, entertain always? If you want to build a great brand, be unbelievably obsessed and relentless on that vision and mission of what you’re trying to do, and then integrate it into every facet of your organization. If you do that, you will build a brand that resonates with people and they’ll think of you.  

When we ask people when they think of baseball games or if you look on Google, our review is, “It’s the most fun baseball games.” You hear that over and over again. We’re designing it for our fans to say those similar things. We’ve failed in a lot of ways. I’ve shared stories about our first team. We didn’t allow food and drinks in the stadium. We would make fans eat food outside on the cement. I remember some bad experiences. We had all these policies because we thought that’s the way it had to be, “You can’t do this.” Unfortunately, we punished fans because one fan took advantage.  

Now, our whole philosophy is to let the fans take advantage of us. If a fan comes in the ballpark which every ticket is all-inclusive, and they eat 13 burgers, 7 hot dogs and have 26 sodas, good luck to them. It will be a challenging night when they get home. Let your customers feel like they can take advantage of you. To us, that’s on-brand. We never want to be able to tell customers or fans, “That’s not good,” and then punish other people because of it. That’s the big vision. That is the starting point. You then start building and testing. Once you have that powerful statement of who you are, what you stand for, where you’re going, and what you’re trying to build, then it makes it easy to build a brand.  

You come into a company and you’ve been with this bank forever. It’s like, “We’re going to continue to try to grow sales, grow revenue, and continue to make a bigger impact.” If you’re not continuing to talk about the brand and what you stand for, then why does it all matter? Why does it matter for you? Why does it matter for your fans, your customers? You won’t have that built-in purpose and you won’t spend the extra time to make it special because it’s hard. It takes extra work. It takes a lot of resources. Not just money, but it takes time. Why would someone put that in if they don’t know why it matters, don’t understand that vision and the impact it makes? 

Build And Test

The starting point is vision. Number two, start building and start testing. We had this idea we’re going to make baseball fun, but we had no idea necessarily how to do it. We started with those boring parts of a baseball game. There’s dead air, the same music or songs, you play the organ, you play Take Me Out To The Ball Game. We would put on steroids if we wanted to make it fun. We had to go with what’s that first thing you’re going to test. You said, “I want our brand to do this. I want our brand to evoke this emotion from our fans, our customers.” What is the starting point to do that? For us, we thought, “Our baseball players play every game, but if we can show them having fun, that’s a big difference.”  

You watch many times in college baseball, high school baseball, Major League baseball, a guy strikes out. He comes to the dugout. He’s yelling. He throws his bat. That’s not fun. The game has become competitive and so serious that the fun has been drained out of you. For us, we got to inject fun into our players. How do you do that? It often starts from the top. You’ve got to have a leader, whether that’s me as the owner, president or coach saying, “You have permission to have fun.” What does that mean? You have to give examples. We set the tone back in the day. We said, “We’re going to dance.” We’re trying to convince people to dance. There are lots of different people in the world, but manly jocks and baseball players who dancing isn’t usually their forte. Convincing them to dance was a stretch.  

Once we were able to do it, once we brought in the choreograph dance instructor, once we said, “This is what we’re going to do. It doesn’t have to be all of you, but let’s get some of you,” then we got a few. They were not great dancers, but when they got out there and the fans cheered, all of a sudden, they got that acknowledgment, that recognition, that feedback loop of, “We liked this.” I remember the players became the most popular guys. The ones that were dancingfans loved them. They signed more autographs. They were more popular. All of a sudden, it goes all the way down throughout the entire team. It starts filtering its way. They’re getting loved and they’re just dancing for half-inning. That’s it. We started building that and it was like, “That’s a good starting point.”  

BDD 15 | Building A Brand
Building A Brand: You have to be able to get through the challenges of being off-brand before you become on-brand.

 

Where does it start for you? If you want to build your brand, and maybe you already have your brand, but now you want to pump it up and put the gas on. What’s that big starting point? Is it the CEO, the president or your frontline people saying, “We’re going to do this. We’re going to commit to doing this?” For some people, it’s not for them. Whether it’s fun, whether it’s going over the top and caring, whether it’s being a Ritz-Carlton type of experience, you name it. Some people are not going to be for it. Maybe they’re not right for the bus. We’ve had a lot of players who could never play for us. I’ve had numerous coaches say, “I could never coach with you. All the shenanigans, everything you do, there’s no way.” It’s not for them.  

If you’re trying to build a brand, you’ve got to find the people that you are for, and you’ve got to be adamant towards it. It started with dancing players. That became the start. The players started having fun, then they came up with ideas, “Jesse, what if we do this dance?” The guy started owning it and embracing it. Not everybody but enough. That’s where it starts. That building and testing started building the brand. Once you start doing it and seeing success, it’s like a drug. What can we do next? What’s next? That’s where the brand extends. We were just dancing players. We didn’t do any of the other great things of the experience. We’re going to make baseball fun, but we didn’t think as much about fans first, entertain always. 

We get started with the frustrations, “Baseball is boring. Let’s have our players dance. Let’s have more promotions. Let’s have more music playing. Let’s have more contests. Why are there innings where there’s no promotion and just music playing?” We start asking all those questions. There doesn’t need to be any dead air. Every opportunity we have, “Let’s find a way to entertain. The experience, the whole buying tickets, the ticket experience and the fan experience, that’s not onbrand from fans first, entertain always. It’s not fun to buy a $10 ticket, then buy a $6 burger and a $5 soda that you can buy at a convenience store for $1.  

We said, “Let’s look at our ticket experience.” This took time. For years, we thought about the all-inclusive ticket experience. In so many ways, there were many challenges. There were many reasons why it couldn’t work, How are you going to be able to cook that much food in a small concession stand and serve that many people? What if they ate six hotdogs, six burgers? How are you going to be able to do it? You’re going to kill your per cap because everyone’s going to eat. They’re not going to buy anything else. It’s not just going to work,” I was told that over and over again. I believe putting myself in the fan’s shoes that if we could figure it out, it would be a much better fan experience and going back to it would be on-brand.  

We said, “Let’s try it.” At first, we did it for all presold tickets in Savannah. If you bought a ticket last minute or a single game, you do not get it. After four years, we finally went allin and fully committed. Every single ticket, if you come into the Savannah Bananas ballpark, you cannot get in there without being able to eat all of our ballpark basics, hot dogs, burgers, chicken sandwiches, soda, water, popcorn, dessert for free. We tested it and it was a disaster in the first few games. We had to move things around, adjust and change. People waited for six-plus innings to get food on the first night. It was a bad experience, but you have to be able to get through the messy to get to the great.  

When building a brand, you have to be able to get through the challenges when you are off-brand to become on-brand. You can’t just be right onbrand. You’re going to be off-brand figuring it out. We were off-brand because it was not a fun experience to wait for two hours to get a burger. It was not a fun experience to see that some of the burgers weren’t ready. They weren’t cooked fast enough. It wasn’t a great experience, but then it became one because we got through the messy. From there, you kept building. Stay onbrand. What is the brand? Fans first, entertain always. Make baseball fun. Why were there ticket fees? Why were there convenience fees? Eliminate those. We eliminate all ticket fees and convenience fees. An $18 ticket should be an $18 ticket.  

Err on the side of going a little too far rather than not doing enough. Click To Tweet

We kept going with that. We realized that our shipping experience, our merchandise experience, that’s not onbrand. You’re paying shipping fees. That stinks. A $24 shirt shouldn’t be $30.50 with shipping. It should be a $24 shirt. I said, Could we do it?” Amazon does that. You also pay $99 a year or $109 for Amazon Prime. We said, “Could we do it with no annual membership or subscription?” We said, “If we lost all of our shipping revenue, what’s the worst case?” You ended up being $15,000 or $20,000 total. In the scheme of things, it was nothing. We made the decision. We jumped in and did it.  

We continued to think about the merchandise experience and said, “Not just free shipping. Can we do a yellow box that’s onbrand? Can we have a stamp that says, ‘Delivered fresh? Can we have yellow tissue paper? Could it include a banana scusi and a decal? Could it include a note that says, ‘This has been sprinkled with potassium and ready for you to wear it and go Bananas?’” All those things didn’t start at first. That was five years of iterations and continuing question, “How do you build the brand? What is making it fun? What is fans first? When they receive this from the Bananas, does it feel like a Bananas merchandise item, or is it just a regular item from Amazon, from UPS? It’s in a regular brown box or a white container? Is that what it is?” 

That’s not us. We kept building and testing. A lot of things failed. A lot of things were messy, but that’s how you do it. Often as leaders, we say, “We need more marketing. We need more videos. We need more photos. We need more on social media.” What is that more? If you don’t have the direction of on-brand and how does it fit on-brand, good luck. We stumbled across this and we didn’t know. When we were starting as a baseball team, we put out video highlights of the games. You show pictures of the players. That’s what you do. We stumbled upon it. We thought about the big song of 2016. Our first year was Can’t Stop the Feeling. We started joking around, playing it and saying, “Can’t stop the peeling.”  

As we continued to hear that song take over the airwaves in the summer of 2016, we said, “We should do a music video about it.” It was a crazy, silly idea. We said, “Let’s do it.” I remember we got our intern, Ben, at the time, who was a photographer and videographer. I said, “Can we do a music video? What if we involve our entire team? What if we involve our staff and everyone in the Bananas team?” We didn’t have a full script. We’ll just play the song and show our team having fun. That was it. That was the entire script. We recorded it. We did a bunch of edits because it was our first time doing a video, but we put it out in early July. 

I remember driving into the stadium that morning. I’m looking at Facebook on my phone, refreshing and seeing thousands of views every couple of seconds. It’s just increasing. People kept saying, “I needed this. This was perfect. This made my day. This was so fun.” It was a song of us having fun. There was no baseball at all in the entire music video. It was players and our staff having fun. They ended up getting almost 200,000 views on Facebook back in the day. It took off from there. Because of that testing and building, we realized, “We’re onto something here. Why don’t we put the gas on, put the pedal to the metal and do more of this? How can we show our players and staff having more fun?” It’s staying onbrand. There came Sandlot parodies, Titanic parodies, Mighty Ducks parodies, and then future music videos like Old Town Road and Bananas Are Back. It became a whole thing.  

I was so fortunate, we had an intern that was willing to try something new. Our staff was willing to get on camera and have fun. What happened is that it spread even more because people wanted more of that. It brings more of that feedback loop. When you’re trying to build this brand, we can’t be afraid to test, experiment, grow and then determine what works and what doesn’t work. I’ve realized that we’ve done some things that have gone on the edge. Our Dolce and Banana underwear and the videos with that. We’ve had some people that would say that it’s off-brand that we went a little too far. I’d rather err on that side of go a little too far than not do enough. That’s where it all comes down to. Start building and start testing.  

BDD 15 | Building A Brand
Building A Brand: “Without promotion, something terrible happens – nothing.” P. T. Barnum

The Power Of Sharing

I’m staying on this because this is where a lot of companies and leaders missed the boat. I missed the boat for years because I was trying to build, test and learn. I start sharing and I realized, “Why don’t I start talking more about this? Why don’t we start sharing?” What happened was I got asked to do a local Rotary speech back in the day and a local speech at the chamber. I realized whenever we shared this, it helped not only b

uild the brand but get more people engaged in what we were doing. Often, a lot of leaders are so focused on building the company, which I agree with. Do you know how you really build the company? You start sharing more of the special and unique things that you’re doing, and the people behind them. You start sharing more about your customers and your fans. You start talking more about them.  

That’s how you build the company. That’s how you build the brand. How do you do that with all the other things going on and all the other things you have to do? You hire around that. I’ve been fortunate to have an amazing team led by our President Jared Orton who can take care of many of the things inside the business, who can help spread the word like what I’m doing now of the power of fans first, the power of doing something with purpose, impact and building a brand. We need to start sharing your story. If you have a very remarkable story, you’ll get boosts because media and other people will start sharing it as well.  

There are very few unbelievably successful people that haven’t done some self-promotion to an extent. What I realized is that when I’m promoting and they say self-promoting, I don’t see it that way. I see it as a way that can help others and impact others. If I’m not out there promoting, I’m not out there sharing. I’m not out there telling stories that I’m being selfish. It’s a different way of thinking. One of my biggest mentors from afar, from 1800, P. T. Barnum said, “Without promotion, something terrible happens, nothing.” We’re still talking about him. He was in 1800. Everyone talks about Disney, but there’s still Disney every day. You feel Disney. There are Disney movies, Disney Plus, theme parks and cruises. 

The Barnum Circus had shut down many years ago after 146 years, but we still talk about it. There was a movie that killed it, The Greatest Showman. Why is that? Part of it was because not only was he a master promoter, he was a master storyteller, master sharer, master speaker, master writer. I’m not any of those, either was he. Until he started doing it, he realized that he had to do it. He was writing his autobiography throughout his entire life, and he was sharing it. He never forgot the power of the pen. That’s what he would use.  

The great book that I love by Joe Vitale, There’s A Customer Born Every Minute. Vitale talks about his ability to write and speak as two of his biggest rings of power. He used it to promote everybody, Tom Thumb, Jenny Lind, his museum, his circus, himself. He wrote biographies of all these people. Not just himself but Lind and Tom. Heven wrote a biography of Jumbo The Elephant. He would create newspapers to promote the circus. It was called the P.T. Barnum’s Advanced Courier. He printed 500,000 copies. He distributed it the week before he arrived in each city. He continued to share over and over again. That’s key. We don’t talk about it enough. Once you are building something that you’re proud of, how are you going to share it? It’s easier than ever now. 

I remember the first time I was reached out to be on a show. It was Scott Beebe on Business On Purpose. He said, “I heard about what you’re doing this first season in Savannah. Will you come on my show?” I was like, “That sounds great.” He asked me questions about what we’re doing. I left the show feeling energized. I was like, “That’s cool.” People were interested in what we’re doing. He said, “It’s easy. You run a baseball team. You’re very public-facing.” No matter what you do, you can create a story that’s worth sharing. I don’t care. It’s countless. If you read some of the best business books, they’re the best stories. If you look at Good To Great, if we talked about Jim Collins, and I love Built To Last. Those are manufacturing companies. 3M invented new things that created stories that people were excited about.  

The greatest leaders are the people that share the most because they are teaching and helping people get to the next level. Click To Tweet

We need to look at, how are we speaking? How are we sharing on social media? How are we writing articles? How are we writing a book? That’s where I want to lead the segue to. I’m adamant about this. I believe everybody has a book in them. Often, we’re too scared, too afraid or we don’t think that we’re worthy enough to write it. One of the best ways to build a brand is to leave a legacy. Walt Disney, Truett Cathy, there are other great founders out there that when they’re gone, the mission, values, purpose, everything about their company still stays true, and people still think about it. I always have a fear of not mattering, a fear of irrelevance, fear of settling. When I think about the time and the effort, we’ve worked to build the Savannah Bananas and build the brand that makes a difference.  

The idea of not having a book, not having a movie, not having something that people can watch and read or listen to years from now scares me. It not only scares me, but it makes me very sad. Maybe sometimes we are driven by our fears, but that is important. The quote from Benjamin Franklin is, “If you would not be forgotten as soon as you are dead, either write something worth reading or do things worth writing.” That’s powerful to me because it starts with, “Do something that people want to write about. Do something worth reading.” You got to start there, but then you got to be able to have the courage to put it out there and not worry about what people think. It will never be perfect. It will always be messy, but once it’s out there, it can make an impact.  

Daniel Priestley who’s a great author, his books 24 AssetsOversubscribed and Key Person of Influencemade an impact on myself and our business. I love this quote from him. He says, “The book that changes your life isn’t the one you read. It’s the one you write.” For me, that was powerful. I’m looking at hundreds of books on my bookshelf. I’ve read all of them. Writing that first book, Find Your Yellow Tux and now as I’m about to share, I’m writing the second book. I already know the impact because it’s making me think deeply about the legacy I want us to leave and why it matters. I think it’s important. I’m talking about how to build a brand. I’m getting serious. 

As I shared it in the Yellow Tux book, how do you want to be remembered? I wrote my obituary when I was in my early 30s. The idea of fading away without making an impact is scary to me. Why write a book? The first thing is to create something that’s worth sharing and worth telling, create a story that people want to hear. If you haven’t look deep, you probably have some. If not, then start doing it now, then commit to writing and sharing it. What’s your story? Is it worth telling? Can people learn from you? Can your story make an impact? What do you passionately believe in? Maybe my story is I work at this company. We do some cool things. That’s my job and my family. What do you passionately believe in? What do you think about when you have downtime? 

I know all of us, our minds are scattered these days, but there are some things we come back to over and over again. How do we get that down on paper? How do we share our beliefs? I want to segue into this new book that we’re working on true Fans First style, which the name of our company is Fans First Entertainment. I’ve been uncertain. I’ve been back and forth about this second book, how to do it differently and why it matters. I forced myself to sit down and write a manifesto on why the book needs to be written, why it needs to be shared? The huge thing for me was, am I passionate enough to write down why this needs to be out in the world? I did and I wrote it. I’m going to share it with you. This gives a lead into the book, but also leads into why I believe it matters.  

Why A Book?

“We are writing a book that we can look back on to remind us to never forget why we do what we do and what matters most. A book to remind us to never forget why we started and how we built our company. It all started with an idea and a vision. Baseball needed to change. The fan experience needed to change. We put ourselves in our fans’ shoes and started questioning everything. We built a business built for fans, by fans and with fans in mind every step of the way. We vowed to change the game for the fans to create a better experience. We vowed that every decision must start with the fans. We believed that Fans First is more than just a slogan. It’s a way of life. If you run your business without fans, you’re done. If you run a business well not thinking about creating fans, you’re done. You won’t make it.  

Fans are the backbone of building a company to last, but they are hardly ever talked about. There are thousands of books about customers but only a handful about fans. As I look into the future and realize that teams come and go, businesses come and go, and customers come and go, I fear that someday, that could be the case for us. My biggest fears remained settling, irrelevant and not mattering. That’s what happens when you start pushing the bar and challenging the status quo. The only way to matter is to make other people matter, to be different and make a difference. That’s the starting point for creating fans.  

We are writing this book because we believe nothing is more important in building a business than creating fans and creating a business that puts fans first. How do you do that? You create something that you would be a fan of. Now more than ever, companies are focused on themselvesHow can I grow? How can I sell more? How can I make more money? It’s the wrong conversation. How can you eliminate frustrations for your fans? How can you entertain your fans? How can you invent on behalf of your fans? Most importantly, how can you show up constantly and serve your fans? These are better questions and we’ll provide better answers.  

Over the years, we’ve been able to grow more than we can ever imagine. We never talk about growth. We talk about impact, creating joy, creating fun, and most of all, about creating fans. The singular focus has made all the difference in the world. It’s time we all have a new conversation. It’s time for that conversation to start now. Put yourself, your money, your growth aside for a minute. Become a fanatic about fans. Be patient with what you want for yourself by being patient in how much you give to others. Challenge the way things have been done in the past. Break the rules in your industry. Have the courage to do things others won’t do. Stop standing still, start standing out and go create some fans.”  

BDD 15 | Building A Brand
Find Your Yellow Tux: How To Be Successful By Standing Out

That is what I wrote. After writing that, I was like, “This book needs to be written. This needs to be out in the world.” What’s your manifesto? What can you share? Prove that we’re going to do this and it’s going to make an impact. Before leaving you with that, I will give some insight into the book and share what we’re doing. As I thought about this, I said, “What’s the normal way of writing a book?” Someone writes a book by themselves. They put it out and hope people buy it. That’s not how we’ve done anything here with Savannah Bananas. As our company is Fans First Entertainment, what would be the most Fans First way to do a book? I said, “How can we involve the fans every step of the way?” To the people reading here, I hope that you will be involved in this journey as well. The starting point we asked is, “What should the title of the book be?” Send out an email. Send out a social media post to everybody and said, “What should the title of the book be?” The next question is, who has stories that they would like to share with this book? 

As we go through the process, we’ll ask, “Help us design the cover. Are there any other excerpts you’d like to be involved in this book or share in this book?” We’re going to share the whole journey. That is why it matters. We want to engage our fans. We want to give them a say and have them feel part of it. From the day that we named the Savannah Bananas, we had the name the team contest. We had the name the mascot contest. We let our fans help design our shirts and jerseys. We’ve involved them. That’s important. That stays true to not only this book and where we’re going, but if fans have a certain idea, then we need to listen. That’s part of what we believe in. We’re going to involve them. We’re going to make them feel like they’re a part of something and make them feel like they belong.  

That falls in on our brand and building our brand. It’s off-brand to write something by ourselves and hope that people will like it. It’s on-brand to share every step of the way and hopefully, make it entertaining. Put the fans first and not do all the things that people may not like about a book. There are a lot of things that I’ve started writing down. We’re going to continue to find those out, test them and try them. That’s where I want to leave you with building a brand. I know I went all over the place and finished here with the book, but it starts with a vision. What makes you different? Why does it matter? How can you start building and start testing these ideas on your brand?  

Do one thing at a time. For us, it was dancing players. Next, how can you start sharing it? The greatest leaders are the people that share the most because they are teaching and helping people get to the next level. Finally, what’s that legacy you’re going to leave? How can you put it out there? Whether you’re sharing speeches, whether you’re sharing in articles. Can you write a book? This is another big step for us that I hope this book that we’re working on together in many years will still stand the test of time. That’s what I think how you build a true brand that makes the impact matters much. I’ll leave you with that. Remember what you stand for, who you are and have fun with it.  

Our brand is about fun. You better believe that we’re working on ideas on how to throw in some crazy things in this book. I’ll share that. Things that might be a little silly, might be a little weird, might make you scratch your head, but that is on-brand for us. We hope it works. We’ll share as we go along. Other than that, I want to thank you for being along this journey, already over 100plus shows and years of doing it. I hope that you’ve enjoyed it. I’d love your feedback. I always encourage, if you have ideas or thought for the title of the book, or stories you want to share, or anything that you think will fit into this Savannah Bananas Fans First brand that we’re building, how we’re trying to create fans and make a difference, please send them my way. Until next time. Stop standing still. Start standing up. 

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