In Southeast Asia, the growing presence of fandoms –  ecosystems of people with deep commitment and loyalty to certain brands or celebrities – is unlocking new opportunities for brands to stay relevant and keep consumer engagement high.

By tapping into pre-existing fandoms, brands can create deep and meaningful relationships with consumers that are founded on mutual trust and genuine interest rather than focusing solely on wide-scale exposure. These fans are loyal and wholeheartedly willing to support their favorite celebrity influencers and the brands they endorse, as they perceive their support for their favored idols as a contribution to those idols’ success, which results in mutually beneficial relationships for brands, celebrities, and fans alike.

The power of this raw and authentic connection recently led Vero to launch our influencer marketing stack, InFluent — a combination of products and services designed to help brands in Southeast Asia achieve their business and reputational goals through influencer marketing. Through InFluent, Vero connects brands with influencers who can create meaningful impact for their campaigns by engaging with their followers in an authentic way, ensuring brand messages are delivered to the right audience.

Why influencer fandom marketing works

Being part of a fandom allows people to connect with others who share their interests and to define their social and (sub)cultural identities. This sense of community and belonging is crucial for Gen Z.

Fandoms also provide a sense of escapism for Gen Z consumers. Daily life can feel overwhelming and stressful due to responsibilities like school or work and pressures from social media and family. Fandoms provide a safe space for Gen Z to be themselves and temporarily forget about the mundanity of real life.

Additionally, fandoms can be a source of personal growth and self-discovery for this generation. By exploring their passions and interests, they can develop new skills and learn more about themselves and what they want. For example, Gen Z fans of K-Pop artists are starting to learn Korean to understand their idols better and embrace the culture they’re so fond of. Fandoms also like to show their love and support for their heroes by working hard to push their communications to the top — and even turn them into viral trends. Brands can piggyback on this support and use it to their advantage.

There are several ways to tap into an influencer fandom. For example, brands could host a press event, partner with influencers as brand ambassadors, organize meet-and-greet events, offer exclusive merchandise giveaways, or create a call sign for fans to use. By leveraging these tactics, brands can connect with and engage their target audience more personally and credibly.

Additionally, brands can play with subcultural insights and tap into the competitive nature of fandoms. For example, K-pop fandoms playfully compete with one another: which group can get the most reach online? Have the most fans in attendance at an event? Or even get their favorite influencer in the headlines (for the right reasons)? Regardless of the goal, brands can harness this competitive spirit to boost engagement and interest.

Fandom influencer marketing

Vero recently worked with Thai mega-influencer Archen ‘Joong’ Aydin, who has 2.1 million followers on Instagram, on a pop-up event campaign for Gucci Beauty and King Power which aimed to build enthusiasm for duty-free shopping. Joong’s throngs of fans attended the event daily, organically creating their own trending hashtag (#GuccibeautyxJoong), which accumulated over 8,800 tweets throughout the event.

Joong Archen started his career as a model before becoming an actor. His earliest role was as Green in the 2019 Thai TV drama “2Moons2”, which was a hit among young audiences and helped to boost Joong’s popularity and visibility in mainstream media.

But it’s Joong’s successful social media presence that cemented his brand. He has a large, loyal, and passionate following on social media, which has attracted the attention of businesses and companies and built momentum for his career in the Thai entertainment industry.

How to nurture brand-fandom relationships

Fans are passionate advocates, and they’re proud of it. They engage with their favorite celebrities and brands on social media, display brand logos, and show off merchandise. A 2022 study by the National Research Group (NRG) found that 54% of fans agree they want everyone to know they are a fan of a product or brand.

For example, the massive success of The Super Mario Bros. Movie can be attributed to the enthusiasm of the millions of fans of the 40-year-old video game series. Ultra-dedicated fans were even dressing up in costumes and sharing fan art on social media platforms. Thanks to the overwhelming fan response around the world, the movie is getting a sequel soon.

But this tremendous fervor also means fans don’t shy away from expressing dislike or frustration with brands that don’t meet their expectations. Several global brands have faced boycott calls for supporting or not supporting social causes such as LGBTQ rights and the Black Lives Matter movement. Some brand backlash stems from differences in political and religious stands (or the lack thereof), such as the boycott of Indonesian bread manufacturer PT Nippon Indosari Corpindo in December 2016 by an Islamic group that campaigned for the imprisonment of then-Jakarta governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama. The boycott became a major challenge for the brand as Indonesian consumers increasingly demanded accountability from them.

The Facebook boycott in 2020 by multinational companies and platform users alike over hate speech and misinformation shifted social media users’ attention toward Twitter, YouTube, TikTok, and Reddit, which instituted more significant changes in combatting hate and harassment.

The power fans hold in determining the fate of brands and products is undeniable. They can elevate visibility and generate buzz, but they can also cause significant damage to reputation. It’s vital for brands to know how to properly nurture relationships with these passionate fan communities. Showing genuine appreciation for the fandom’s support is crucial, so brands should prioritize authenticity, transparency, and active engagement.

The same report by NRG states that “brands that enable excitement, discovery, expression, connection, and belonging” can convert a customer base from loyalists and followers to die-hard advocates. To gain a fan is to earn a customer’s faith not only in its current products but also its potential, fueling opportunities for successful long-term brand growth and development, the report adds.

Fandoms provide a unique opportunity for brands to reach new audiences and build long-lasting consumer relationships. By tapping into fandom marketing, companies can generate earned media value, create trending topics across multiple social media platforms, and increase conversions. With the right strategy and approach, businesses can effectively leverage influencer fandoms to create a new army of loyal consumers.