Fandom is about proximity and emotion management

I am working with a client on writing a book about athlete branding. An incredibly interesting subject (and a very good book).  Going back to the gladiators in ancient Rome and how athletes are the new marketing powerhouses.  Because when you say athletes, you say fandom. Hence “Fanocracy: Turning Fans into Customers and Customers into Fans”. They call the act of consciously bringing people together through a shared endeavour a fanocracy: an organisation or person that honours fans and deliberately fosters meaningful connections among them.


Here are some questions:

  • Have you reached a point where you expect the worst in the companies you do business with? 
  • Do you throw corporate statements that come in the mail out with the trash? 
  • Do you anticipate being taken advantage of? 
  • Do you ever assume that companies you do business with won’t respond quickly and that when they do, they either won’t be honest or will somehow manipulate the truth? 
  • Is there any company you are truly a fan of?

The experience economy

I am betting you can mention a very few. That is where the problem lies. We have moved away from only being transaction-based. When organisations set out to provide a product or service, they typically make the crucial mistake of believing that they are only there to provide that product or service—as if they were merely there to fulfil a transaction. Focus on product alone results in a race to the bottom. Read “The experience economy”. 

Lessons from the book

Some lessons (a lot are open doors):

  • You need to create a culture in which your entire reason for being is to make sure that your clients are continuously blown away. 
  • Fandom culture is necessary to achieve the success that comes with developing passionate fans of your business. 
  • Fandoms connect us. That’s the kind of human connection we crave. 
  • You need to go beyond the product. 
  • The relationships we build with our customers are more important than the products and services we sell to them. 
  • You need to bond with your customers by taking an interest in the things they love. 
  • People don’t want to be alone; they want to be together. 
  • Personal interactions are what makes us human. And humanity is what builds a loyal fanocracy. 
  • Deepen your understanding of your work by seeing it for what it means to a fan.
  • Fans share their experiences because they’re motivated, inspired, and excited. 
  • Your ideal brand ambassador has an authentic relationship with your company and is a true fan of the product.
  • A brand advocate is a person who is eager to spread the word about something he or she cares deeply about.
  • Treating your fans as part of a family leads to your fanocracy.
  • Develop employees who are fans 
  • Fandom begins with the creation of a common language that allows us to connect. 
  • Be consistent in your behaviour, and you can win the trust of your customers.
  • Welcoming fans into our inner worlds melts barriers between seller and buyer. 
  • When you engage with your fans, always tell the truth.
  • Authentic advocacy from inside your organisation will inspire the enthusiasm, enjoyment, and passion that create a fanocracy.

A cold digital world

The book has some good thinking about social media. Read “The Fourand “Likewars. The algorithms deployed by social networks like Facebook don’t show us what we want to see, because the technology favours profit for shareholders rather than the original promise of allowing people to interact with their friends, families, and colleagues. While most people understand that a free social network means some loss of privacy, we didn’t sign up to have our innermost thoughts, secrets, and notes to ourselves and loved ones stolen and sold to the highest bidder. The result is a polarising and cold digital world. 

Back to human connections

The authors think that we are on the cusp of a significant cultural shift. We’ve gone too far into manufactured friendship through social media, and something different is coming next. The pendulum is swinging back to genuine, authentic human connections. 


The book also has some interesting insights about fandom and proximity. The degrees of proximity makes the difference in how you connect. Our evolution has taught us to unconsciously track those who come near us to quickly determine if they are good or harmful. When we are in close proximity to people we trust, a personal connection develops. People maintain various kinds of spatial boundaries—and how this can impact the way we relate to one another in any context, from our relationships with our coworkers to how our cities are designed.  The degree of human proximity is tied to shared emotion and has an enormous effect on how well we do in business. We’re happiest when we’re in social space or personal space with people, and we’re all experiencing some emotion. We’re laughing together, or we’re crying together. 

Fandom is proximity and emotion management

The closer you get within the zones— for example, from public to social and from social to personal—the more powerful the shared emotions are. Fandom is proximity and emotion management. When those around us are happy and smiling, our unconscious brain tells us we’re happy, and we often smile too. It works on social media in the same way.


When customers have the opportunity to establish an emotional bond with others as a result of doing business with you, it sticks. They feel compelled to experience it again and tell others about the fantastic experience you gave them. Ultimately, this is what will inspire passion and build your own fanocracy.  Read “Difference“.

Customer service

Customer service is key in this. The most famous story about the company’s customer service involves a man returning a set of four snow tires to a Nordstrom store and getting his money back. But, as you likely know, Nordstrom doesn’t sell snow tires! That was more than forty years ago, and the story still makes the rounds and gets laughs. And they still feature in the literature. Read “The connected company”.


Fandom business is human-centred instead of data-obsessed. Your relationship with your customer starts with your curiosity about them. Yet behind the closed doors of your offices, you don’t see who really uses their products and how. Do not say behind closed doors. Find out what those nonobvious customers want. Your customers have lives beyond their digital footprint, and once you learn more about them, you inspire loyalty. Read “Small data”. 

Are you loved?

Are In the end, it all about “Lovability“.  Because if your customers love you, they will not only remain fiercely loyal but become your most powerful marketing asset. UMOT on steroids. Put your head down, ignore the hype, and focus on your fans.

sensemaking cover


Sense making; morality, humanity, leadership and slow flow. A book about the 14 books about the impact and implications of technology on business and humanity.

Ron Immink

I help companies by developing an inspiring and clear future perspective, which creates better business models, higher productivity, more profit and a higher valuation. Best-selling author, speaker, writer.

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