Fan (alternative) advertising!


Sometime writing an publishing a blog entry can feel slightly weird. I mean it’s pretty weird that I can write stuff in a little box whilst eating lunch and a bit later all of you will be reading it. I know that there’s not loads of you but it can still feel a tiny bit intimidating if I stop and think about it! However the part that makes it feel even weirder to me is that while the audience figures for a site like this are tiny, advertisers still like targeting small websites for their adverts for products that have sale figures that are several billion times higher than my site visitors!

It’s not just mine though, even though sites like Fox and Globo are big targets for publishers and marketers trying to get their products out there they don’t have the audience that mirrors the items sales figures. It’s the same in all industries really, you get those weird people called ‘fans’ that sit and read everything that comes out about a movie or game or author or, well, anything really. In this digital age where everyone is connecting to the cloud/internet there’s a community for fans of everything, and that by no means is a bad thing.

Apple Fans

So why do businesses target these ‘hardcore’ fans through the media if they don’t make up the majority of the people they’re going to sell it to? My theory is that traditional ad campaigns can be expensive. Very, very expensive in fact. The cost of a full page advert in a newspaper like the Guardian or a TV spot is astronomical. The advertising cost of any product takes up a huge chunk of the budget, so any way you can get it cheaper is a good thing. The other issue with traditional ads is that even though they cost a huge amount of money to put out, people like me and you have gotten very good at ignoring them. We’re so heavily bombarded by adverts in the modern world that most of the time we tune them out or just skip past them. In fact with more and more people using devices to record tv that skips the adverts, some advertisers cannot be sure how many people are actually even seeing them now!

What’s this got to do with fans though? Well it’s simple, fans pick up a product early and will advertise it for you. They’ll show it off to their friends, talk about how amazing it is and generally paint it in a good light (assuming the product’s actually any good to start with). This is, basically, how Apple market the iPhone and iPad, although they do it with all of their products to some extent. Not only are you getting new advertising, you’re getting it for less than free. Early adopters are paying you for the product so they can then tell all their friends how amazing it is. You’ve managed to flip your gigantic cost that doesn’t produce particularly good results, into a profit that is actually pretty effective at getting the word out there!

Obviously I’m not forgetting that there is a cost of selling it to the fans, but that’s negligible really. Really it’s a subset of selling to your fans, you sell it to the small sites. Someone convinces us them a product is awesome, which is either very easy or very hard depending on how you do it, and they tell all you guys that it’s awesome. The small sites readers will then go buy it, hopefully confirm that is indeed awesome and then tell all of their mates that it’s awesome and they then and go buy it.

That isn’t the be all and end all of selling methods of course. There is sometimes a case for spending insane amounts of money on TV ads, it just depends on who your target audience is. In my estimation, for the vast majority of modern products, you can buy up a few key advertising spots to try and sell it to the general public and get a similar result to buying ten times as many. There’s a point where everyone who could be interested is now interested, and the law of diminishing returns takes hold.

However for a few products, mostly big hitters such as games like Call of Duty or the iPod, it makes sense to advertise everywhere you can. That’s because those items have a fairly different fan base to most products. These are the franchises where people buy every iteration of the game or latest version of the machine, but those are pretty much the only ones they buy in a year.

The fact that they’re only buying these franchises, coupled with the fact that there’s a pretty good chance they’ll buy any new item from the same line, means that basically just having an advert that goes “HEY! You there! There’s a new product out from the franchise that you love! Buy it! Buy it now!” makes a lot of sense. You’re just informing them that there’s a new thing in the series they love, and letting them know they should buy it.

Now those are pretty different groups of fans that you’re advertising to, so you can see why for some it makes sense to spend millions and million on shiny tv adverts whereas for others there is a better return on targeting smaller audiences and letting them spread the word about your lates wonder product!

Or maybe I’m just talking rubbish again, so let me know your thoughts by leaving a comment below…