Think about the brands that mean something to you—the ones that play a meaningful role in your life. For me, Starbucks coffee and Johnny Cupcakes tees have become part of my daily experience. I'm more than just a customer: I'm a fan.

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And the creation of a "Fanocracy," as David Meerman Scott calls it, has measurable monetary value for brands.

David is the best-selling author of 11 books, including The New Rules of Marketing & PR and Marketing the Moon. I invited him back to Marketing Smarts to talk about his latest book, Fanocracy: Turning Fans Into Customers and Customers Into Fans, co-written with his daughter, Reiko Scott. 

David and Reiko examined their own experiences with fandom, including David's love of the Grateful Dead and Reiko's affinity for all things relating to the Harry Potter universe. The pair brought Reiko's neuroscience background and David's marketing experience to bear on how fandom comes about, and how brands can create the kinds of lasting connections that can benefit both customer experience and company revenue.

Here are just a few highlights from my conversation with David.

Fandom is universal, and brands can tap into it (03:52): "In the last few years, the whole digital channel has become chaotic. And companies—you get on an email list, and they feel like they have to send you three emails a day. Or someone will connect with you on LinkedIn and immediately try to sell you something. Or there's just so much going on around the polarization in our political world, but also within the social networks: They feel like, once you like a few things, they know exactly who you are and those are the only things they send you. You can't even reach people on many of the social networks unless you pay.

"There's something coming next. I was fortunate to identify before anybody else the whole social channel back in 2007. I was writing The New Rules of Marketing and PR, and Twitter didn't exist and Facebook was only for students, so it was pretty early. And now...the pendulum has swung too far in the direction of superficial online communications when people are hungry for a true human connection. It's about going back to humanity.

"And as I was thinking about humanity, I was thinking about the idea of fandom and what we're fans of.... I'm a massive music fan. I've been to 780 live shows. I've been to 75 Grateful Dead concerts. I'm a crazy music fan.

"I was talking to my daughter [and co-author], Reiko—she's 26—several years ago, and she's like, 'Dad, I'm so into Harry Potter, it's crazy.' She's read every book multiple times, she's seen every movie multiple times, been to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Orlando several times, been to the movie studios in the UK where they filmed the movies, and she wrote a 90,000-word alternative ending to the Harry Potter series where Draco Malfoy is a spy for the Order of the Phoenix, put that out on a fan fiction site, and it's gotten thousands and thousands of downloads and hundreds of comments. So we're both into fandom.

"But everyone's a fan of something. So we teamed up to write Fanocracy together because we think that any organization can tap this idea of fandom."

The appeal of fandom is that fans (of anything) feel like part of a tribe (09:54): "If you take our 70,000-word book and boil it down to one sentence, 'fandom is about a personal connection.' It's about humanity. We spoke with hundreds and hundreds of people about what they're a fan of. We asked them why and we probed. And what it came around to with most people is that, yeah, they love the Beastie Boys; yeah, I love the Grateful Dead; yes, my daughter loves Harry Potter... but it's because we're part of a tribe. Because we share that fandom with likeminded people.

"If I go to a Grateful Dead concert, I know the lingo. I know the rituals. I know that I can turn to anyone in that audience and start a conversation instantly as if we're friends. I go to those shows with my buddies.... It's all about this connection to likeminded people. And that's truly what drives fandom.

Neuroscience shows that our ancient brains drive fandom by causing us to feel positively about fellow fans (11:23): "We interviewed neuroscientists and it turns out that what's going on in our brain is it's ancient, hardwired in our brain that we humans need to understand are the people around us good and we can trust them, or are they potentially bad and we have to kick our 'fight or flight' instinct in. [And] the closer you get to someone, the more powerful the shared emotions, either positive or negative.

"That's why when you're with your close friends, you feel great, and when you're in a crowded elevator, you feel a bit wiggy, because you're ancient brain is kicking in and saying, 'I don't know these people and I'm crowded next to them and do I need to worry about beating them because they are going to attack me?' That's what's going on in our want to know are those people friends or foes....

To create fans of your brand, host events that bring customers into close proximity to you (and to one another) (12:55) "What [all this] means for developing fans for any business, any business at all, is that you can figure out ways to get in close proximity to your customers or put your customers in close proximity with others. That's why some organizations—like MarketingProfs—have done so well with events because when you put 750 or 1,000 people who are interested in B2B marketing together in a hotel ballroom, it's likeminded people interacting in close physical proximity. We trust each other when we're at those events. We speak the same lingo. We are part of the same tribe. And that's really, really powerful way of building fans."

To learn more, visit You can also follow David and Reiko on Twitter at @dmscott and @allison_reiko, and be sure to get your copy of Fanocracy: Turning Fans Into Customers and Customers Into Fans.

David and I talked about much, much more, so be sure to listen to the entire show, which you can do above, or download the mp3 and listen at your convenience. Of course, you can also subscribe to the Marketing Smarts podcast in iTunes or via RSS and never miss an episode!

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