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Tony D'Amelio

By: Tony D'Amelio on January 8th, 2020

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DN Conversations: Talking Fanocracy, the New Book by David Meerman Scott

Innovation | David Meerman Scott

DIGITAL CHAOS AND THE QUEST FOR TRUE HUMAN CONNECTION

Bestselling author DAVID MEERMAN SCOTT has been the leading voice in real-time business strategies since identifying the phenomenon over a decade ago. He wrote the definitive book on the subject - The New Rules of Marketing & PR - which has sold over 400,000 copies. His newest book, FANOCRACY, just out this week, furthers his dominance in the field, with insight on growing the relationship between company and customer into something more meaningful.

David co-authored Fanocracy with his Millennial daughter Reiko. They were fascinated by each other's fandoms and began to research the science behind the phenomena. The true human connection that comes with fandom is, as it turns out, a refreshing antidote to the loneliness and digital fatigue people are feeling in a sea of digital chaos and overwhelm. In their book, they cite powerful examples of forward-thinking companies who have recognized the value of this innovation, creating a fanocracy to build connection and community that turns customers into fans and fans into customers.

Tony D’Amelio connected with David to explore the idea of business fandom and learn more about how Fanocracy speech attendees are responding.

FANOCRACY: THE INTERVIEW

 


USEFUL LINKS

 

PODCASTS, VIDEOS AND ARTICLES ABOUT FANOCRACY

 


THE TRANSCRIPT

Tony:                                         
I'm here with business growth strategist, David Meerman Scott, whose new book, his 11th, comes out on the 7th of January. It's called Fanocracy. And David's best known for his 400,000 copy bestselling book called The New Rules of Marketing and PR. And he spotted back in the last decade, something that was going on that was brand news, actually about 2007. Isn't it David that you noticed?

David:                           
Yes. Exactly.

Tony:                                         
And now you've sensed that there's something else going on and it all relates to something you've called the brigade of loneliness. What is that about?

David:                         
Hey, Tony. By the way, I love the book covers behind you.

Tony:                                         
I had to do something special.

David:                        
That's awesome. I'll hold up a real life copy, which I got hot off the press just a couple of weeks ago.

Tony:                                         
Yay.

David:                    
Yay. So, The New Rules of Marketing and PR came out in 2007 and because I had worked in the realtime financial markets early in my career and then the financial information business, most recently for Thomson Reuters, I kind of had a head start in understanding what was going on with realtime marketing, social media marketing, Twitter, this concept I invented called newsjacking and so on. And I was lucky to be the very first person and became the largest selling book to identify this whole online thing. But in the last five years, I think the pendulum has swung way too far in the direction of superficial online communications and it's become a cold and dark place for many of us.

You've got the whole political world putting you into tribes and making people pitted against one another. You've got companies who when you get on their mailing list, will send you five, six, seven emails a week. It's nonstop. Or you connect with someone on LinkedIn and they'll immediately try to sell you something. Or you may even be communicating with a robot and not know it. And the social networks themselves are a huge part of the problem because their algorithms are now optimized for profit as opposed to being optimized for delivering information to your friends and colleagues. So, I think something new is coming and the same way I sensed back in 2004, 2005, 2006 when I was writing The New Rules of Marketing and PR and sensed that change, which became the decade of the teens, the decade of social media communications, I think the decade of the twenties is something new and I think it's coming back to a true personal human connection.

Tony:                                         
Yeah. You talk a lot about human connection and that is sort of what drives fandom, which is the underlying principle of Fanocracy. How do you manage to take a page out of celebrities and sports stars and musicians and actors and all of those people who have fans and clubs and people who are fans of that, and you've expanded it to talk about how business has gone forward to create fans, true fans, based on mutually shared interests. And it's really fascinating.

David:                  
It's fascinating to me too after having done five years of research. And I did it with my daughter Reiko, she's now 26 so it's not only me, a middle aged white guy writing the book, it's also a mixed race millennial woman who's the coauthor of this book, Reiko.

Tony:                                         
And how did that make it better, David? The fact that there were two of you.

David:                    
It made it better because, well first of all, she's a better writer than me, but it also made it better because she comes at fandom from the same perspectives that I do. She's a massive Harry Potter fan. Not only has she read every book multiple times, seen every movie multiple times, gone to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in, Orlando several times, went to the UK to go to the studio tour, she wrote a 90,000 word alternative ending to the Harry Potter series as a novel where-

Tony:                                         
That's serious.

David:                        
Yeah. Where Draco Malfoy is a spy for the Order of the Phoenix and put it on a fan fiction site. It's been downloaded thousands of times and commented on hundreds of times. And I'm a massive, as you well know Tony, Grateful Dead fan. There's a Grateful Dead logo over my shoulder. I've been to 75 Grateful Dead concerts, 790 live music shows in my life. So what we both recognized is that we have the same idea about fandom. The same idea of how important fandom is in our lives and we wanted to explore that.

And her being a neuroscientist, my daughter, she did an undergraduate degree in neuroscience, we wanted to investigate the neuroscience aspects of fandom. And what it turns out to be, which is so interesting, is that we humans long to be part of a tribe. We long to be with people who are like us. And it's actually our ancient brain kicking in. It's a survival technique because back in caveman days, if another caveman approached or cave woman, you needed to know, "Is this part of my tribe? Is this a friend? Or is this a potential enemy that I have to bunk over the head with my club?" And that's still active in our brains. So when I'm at a Grateful Dead concert, my daughter's hanging out with her Harry Potter friends, that is when we are the most comfortable because we're with like-minded people in a tribe. And so that human connection is fabulously powerful. And we learned that the exact same ideas can be applied for all businesses. This idea of creating a human connection.

Tony:                                         
I gave one of the advanced copies that we received to a friend of mine who's in the marketing world, and I saw her over Christmas and she said, "I'm about 50 pages from finishing the book. I absolutely-"

David:                    
Nice.

Tony:                                         
I said, "Great. What did you love the most? What example did you love?" She said, "I loved The surfboard example. I loved the fact that he not only went to Maine to do one surfboard, learn how to make one surfboard, but then he went back and did another surfboard. And I love how he went to Hawaii and some surfer gave him a big wave and gave him a chance to get the ride of his life because..." So the stories resonate with people, and that was just one example.

David:                        
I'm so glad, by the way, that she said she's almost done because there's nothing better as an author to know that someone who has no obligation whatsoever to finish a book is finishing a book. It means a whole lot to me.

Tony:                                         
Absolutely.

David:                        
And by the way, there is the surfboard right there. I love this that I made so much that I don't even surf it. So that's why I had to go back and make a second one because the second one I actually surf. That one is just a work of art in my office now.

Tony:                                         
That's great. Showpiece. So you've been speaking about Fanocracy now since about May. And audience reaction has been really great. But when people... I often find that when the talk is over and people surround you because they want to talk about stuff that's on their mind that maybe they were afraid to raise their hands about. What're talking about?

David:                      
So what's interesting is that I built into the speech about a third of the way in an opportunity to people for people to share what they're a fan of. So I take about two or three minutes and have people turn to the person next to them and chit chat a little bit about what they're a fan of. And then I ask people to share, stick their hand up in the air if they'd like to share what they're a fan of. And people are fans of such interesting things, snowboarding and the Boston Red Sox and birdwatching. Somebody told me that they've read every single issue of the New Yorker since they were 17 years old, and this person looked to have been 30 years of the New Yorker that they read cover to cover she said.

Tony:                                         
I'm not going to do a crossword puzzle with her, right?

David:                      
Someone else says that she is a huge fan of NASCAR. Somebody else said they've gone to where they went to college basketball team, every game that they're in town, home game they've gone to. So people love to talk about what they're a fan of. And then I ask them two other questions. I say, "How many large fandoms do you have?" I call them Fanocracies a title of the book. "How many Fanocracies do you have?" And the average is two and a half of major things that people are a major fan of, which is really interesting. Two and a half. And then I ask, :When did you start your biggest fandom?" Now for me, that's live music. And for me that was age 15. And it turns out the average is age 12 and that was-

Tony:                                         
That's a long time.

David:                          
And I've now asked, and I do that show of hands during my talks, I probably had 5,000 people in the room when I've asked for that show of hands over the last half a year. And so what's interesting about age 12, I actually wanted to understand this and I still had enough time to stick it in the book, even though I was coming right down to the wire when the manuscript was due, what I think it is Tony, is that people no longer in our culture do we have a coming of age ceremony as people enter adulthood. They go through puberty and enter adulthood. In some religions, for example in the Jewish tradition there's bar mitzvah bat, mitzvah, but for the most part there really isn't coming of age ceremonies. Yet. In all of human history, there's always been coming of age ceremonies.

So we believe, Reiko and I believe, that what's going on is that people are substituting what they become a fan out for coming of age ceremony. So for me it was going to rock concerts, for Reiko it was geeking out about Harry Potter, and for other people it's the thing that they enjoy. And for many of us, we carry that love that we shared with our friends. And typically it's not shared with adults. It's your peer group, your friends going through some self-created puberty rights in the sense. And I share that from the stage and afterwards people love to talk about what they're a fan of. And I had one group that, I went the next morning to see a part of the second day of the event, and someone came up to me, goes, "Thank you. We had a dinner last night, 12 of us. We talked about fandom and fanocracy for the entire dinner." Because people love to talk about what they're fans of.

And then the second thing that people always want to talk about is, because I only talk about personal fandoms for a short period of time, about 10 minutes, just to get people thinking about the idea of fandom. Then for the vast majority of the talk, I'm talking about how you can create fans in any business, B2B, enterprise software, nonprofit, government agencies, educational institutions, doctors, lawyers, dentists, I mean-

Tony:                                         
You've got great examples. All of those.

David:                      
Yeah. And so then people love to hear the examples like your friend and the surfboard example, which is one that I share at some of my talks. And so people love to share with me the things that they're a fan of. And I've actually built some things into the speech around that.

So one of the ideas in the book is let go of your creations. And the idea here, actually the title of one of the chapters, let go of your creations is the idea that once you put a product or service out into the market, it's no longer yours. It belongs to your fans. And so I say to people, "You really need to let your fans then talk about your products in the way they want. If they want to do something different with it, mash up somehow your ideas and talk about them different in the way than you expected. Celebrate that. Let people do that." So people share those ideas with me. Somebody came up to me recently and said, "I have a great example for you." I'm like, "What's that?" And he goes, "You know those Roomba vacuum cleaners?"

And I go, "Yeah." And he's like, "Well how about the let go of your creations with the people who put the videos on YouTube of their dogs and cats riding on the Roomba." And so there's actually millions of views of these videos. There's hundreds of videos that people have posted. You have to get your dog up onto the Roomba by the way. Millions of views of these people whose dogs and cats are riding on the Roombas. There's a whole subculture of fandom around a product. A robot vacuum cleaner. So-

Tony:                                         
It brings a lot of attention to the Roomba folks.

David:                  
It brings a lot of attention to the Roomba. And it's a perfect example of this concept of let go of your creations. And it actually came from somebody who heard me speak and said, "David, I have an example for you." So, I love number one when people share what they're a fan of, and number two, I love when they come back to me and say, "Here's an example of a product or service that I'm a fan of and here's how I use it." And because that often becomes a story for the talk.


Fandom is the new frontier for business.  Learn more about
David Meerman Scott's latest book
Fanocracy: Turning Fans Into Customers and Customers Into Fans

LEARN MORE


Tony:                                         
And the book is called Fanocracy. Fanocracy is defined as what?

David:                        
Well it's when fans rule. And that's why I came up with that name Fanocracy, Democracy is ruled by the people. Fanocracy is ruled by the fans and it's when an organization really takes their ideas and lets fans run with them. And this can be scary at first for some organizations, but once they get the hang of this idea, it's fabulously powerful. And we've got examples all over the place, different companies, different ideas, and I've got a couple of favorites.

David:                        
You've heard me talk about Hagerty before. Hagerty is an insurance company. They do auto insurance. It's a product category everybody hates. Nobody loves to buy auto insurance, yet at Hagerty they've created millions of fans because they do classic car auto insurance. And McKeel Hagerty, the CEO told me, "David, I can't compete with the Geckos of the world who are spending millions of dollars on advertising. And I don't want to be the low cost provider. So I had to go out and generate fans." They go to over a hundred classic car events in North America each year. They provide educational seminars. They have a million followers of their YouTube channel. They have 650,000 members of their drivers club. They do a magazine six times a year. And they have millions of fans. And they're an auto insurance company in a product category that everybody hates.

Tony:                                         
Not very sexy.

David:                        
Not very sexy at all. The other example I love to share for people who are skeptical, right? Cause there's always skeptics. They're like "Jeez, David. I run a B2B software company, I don't have fans." And I always say "Yes you do. And yes you can and you can develop fans." The other example I love to share that's surprising to me is there's a U.S. government agency that has 50 million fans. This U.S. government agency, you can find people wearing the t-shirt with the logo on it, anywhere in the world. You can be in any city in the world and run across someone wearing that logo tee shirt. I was walking down a street, a village street in a remote place in the Seychelles just a two months ago with my wife Yukari who you know Tony and we were in the Seychelles, a group of islands on the East coast of Africa, just above Madagascar on the Indian ocean. This is a remote place. And there walking from a village towards us, was a young man in a NASA logo t-shirt. And it's a government agency with tens of millions of fans. They have 50 million followers on their Instagram. It's a government agency with fans. So anybody can generate fans.

Tony:                                         
And then of course the other piece to this, as we move to a close here I don't want to take up too much of your time, but the idea that beyond just customers as fans that large organizations really do need to make fans of the people who work there.

David:                      
Yes.

Tony:                                         
To take pride in what it is they're doing and to be disciples, advocates, and the all of that for the company and the work that it does. And you've got examples of that and how to go about doing that.

David:                      
Yeah, there's no question about that. And we looked at this idea of how can you develop employees who are fans of the company because then they're the best advocates to go out and create fans for the company which grows the business. And Reiko coined a phrase, which I love, Passion is infectious. So when employees have passion for the place that they work, that passion is infectious. And the example that I chose to share, is kind of a remarkable the prescience of this example. But as you know, I'm on the board of advisors of HubSpot, a company I've been involved with since 2007. I've helped them grow from zero customers and no revenue to $650 million in revenue this year. They're a marketing sales and customer service software company. They're traded on the New York stock exchange, last time I checked something like a $6 billion market capitalization. So I've helped them grow from essentially zero to a massive success, and I always noticed how they've done such a good job at building employees who are fans of the company.

David:                        
So I had a chance to interview Katie Burke, who's the head of their... Her title is actually Chief People Officer and they specifically do build a culture so that their employees become their fans. And just about two weeks ago, HubSpot was honored by Glassdoor, which is an organization that rates companies based on employee input but Glassdoor rated HubSpot the number one company in the country to work for as rated by their employees. Now, what's interesting to me about this is I identified them as doing this really well about two years ago and wanted to include them in the book. I interviewed Katie for it. She provided me with a bunch of information. I wrote about it. This was really great. Here's what you should do, but how cool is it that they're so successful? They're rated number one in the entire country over every other company you can think of.

Tony:                                        
And you've had a chance to see what they do up close which is-

David:  
Oh, yeah. For 13 years I have. And they do a really fabulous job. And their customers love them as a result. For example, they have this Inbound conference that I speak at every year and when I first spoke there, I was the keynote the very first year, they had 400 people in a hotel ballroom. This past year, 2019 they had 26,000 people at the Boston Convention Center. And it's a love fest. It's a fan fest. It's a Fanocracy in action because all of those people are there because they love HubSpot. Many of them are not even customers. Many of them actually pay their own way to be there. Their company doesn't pay for it. Because they want to be there because they're fans of the company.

Tony:                                         
Carin from my office went to the HubSpot Inbound conference and just said, "The energy and the passion was just unbelievable."

David:                        
It's unbelievable. Yeah, it's absolutely unbelievable. And so what I love about the ideas of Fanocracy Tony, is that we've identified a prescription to create that in any organization. And it wasn't easy. You know, you've lived this with me for the past five years. It wasn't easy to do this, but boy I'm glad we dug in deep and didn't go it just into the surface. I'm so glad we spoke with thousands of people over the years, either individuals about what they're a fan of or companies about how they've grown fandom or neuro-scientists about what's going on in our brains when we become fans of something. And I'm really excited about this book coming out in just a few short days.

BUY THE BOOK

Tony:                                         
Wonderful. Well congratulations on the new book David.

David:                    
Thank you.

Tony:                                         
We're excited about the idea of helping you expand the reach of that message by bringing your talks to audiences all over the world and giving them a glimpse at really the future of building growth for business and establishing new relations with the people who are part of a organization.

David:                    
Thank you Tony. And if I could just add one thing as we're closing. You have built a Fanocracy. And I know you wouldn't say this yourself, but I'll say it for you. I can be talking to anybody who I meet who works at a Bureau. I can be talking to people who have booked events through you. I can be talking to other speakers who know who you are and people love Tony D'Amelio and D'Amelio Network and what you do. So you are doing many of the things that I talk about and you have built a massive fan base as a result. So thank you for what you do because it's incredibly helpful to me and to many of the people that you work with.

Tony:                                         
Well, thank you. A fish never knows it's in water as they say. But I appreciate the kind words and looking forward to all that 2020 has in store for us. David, thank you for your time.

David:                        
Thanks Tony.

SUPPLEMENTAL READING: THE CASE FOR FANDOM - HOW CREATING FANOCRACY DRIVES BUSINESS GROWTH and
50 YEARS AFTER MOON LANDING: SUPERFAN POSTS MUST-SEE COLLECTION OF APOLLO 11 PRESS KITS

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About Tony D'Amelio

Tony has spent his career putting talented people and audiences together, first in the music business and later representing the world's leading speakers. After concluding 27 years as Executive Vice President of the Washington Speakers Bureau, Tony launched D'Amelio Network, a boutique firm that manages the speaking activities of a select group of experts on business, management, politics and current events. Clients include: Mike Abrashoff, Geoff Colvin, Ron Insana, Katty Kay, Polly LaBarre, Beau Lotto, Nicole Malachowski, David Meerman Scott, Bill Walton, and Bob Woodward.

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