Decoding Your Superfans and Antifans To Unlock an “Unfair” Marketing Advantage

August 18, 2023

Do you have some customers who not only adore your brand but also make outsized contributions to your bottom line? And who always want more of your products? 

On the other hand, are there customers who end up being a financial drain on your business? Who buy only your loss-leaders, have continuous inquiries that tie up your support team, and always expect you to cover shipping costs? 

I’m convinced that just about every brand will answer a resounding “yes” to both questions. I categorize these consumers into two groups: superfans and antifans.

Some brands are built wholly around their superfans, for example: 

On the flip side, antifan discontent can cause significant financial headaches. For example:

I have not worked with any of these brands mentioned above, but I believe the statistical distribution of their superfans and antifans roughly follows a bell curve that will be more or less the same for every business:

Truly consumer-obsessed marketing requires knowing your superfans AND antifans inside-out.

No, that’s not a typo. Getting into the heads of your antifans is just as critically important as knowing what makes your superfans tick. 

They’re the two sides of the consumer obsession coin. Assuming you can’t be obsessed with each and every one of your consumers – an idea that never made sense to me – when you choose some of them to focus on engaging, you’re necessarily choosing which ones you won’t want to be engaging.  

Constant efforts to gain an in-depth knowledge of who your superfans are and what they’re all about are a key factor for getting  properly obsessed with them and unlocking that seemingly “unfair” advantage to grow faster than competitors despite shrinking resources.

And when you identify your antifans, you’ll know whom to get rid of early and often.

Don’t bother making significant efforts to understand your core middle in as much detail. The idea here is simply to keep the status quo. You won’t dominate your category by focusing on them. 

Lose your antifans and keep your superfans with a profit-optimized marketing funnel 

A comprehensive understanding of your superfans and antifans enables you to build a marketing funnel that accounts for actual profit generated by customers. That’s a far superior metric to optimize around in comparison to cost per acquisition – which can be the same for an antifan or a core middler – or customer lifetime value.

Here’s how you do it:     

  1. Minimize your budget spent on your antifans. They will fall off organically. 
  2. Make no changes to what you’re spending on your core middlers. Think “benign neglect.”. 
  3. Ramp up your budget for your superfans. Aim for “surround sound” marketing that will keep them in the funnel. 

The result will be a more profitable funnel. As your antifans disappear and your superfan conversion rate increases, the relative proportion of superfans will increase at every stage.

To execute this approach, you’ll need good integration of analytics and media. Here we are entering the ad industry buzzword zone, so I’ll clarify exactly what you need to know:    

Tactically, putting together such a marketing funnel requires a process for creating your “surround sound,” templatizing your descriptors for your superfans and antifans, and continuously optimizing your media channels. 

More importantly, however, is the strategic courage it takes to truly obsess over your superfans. Your antifans are potentially paying consumers, and it takes long-range vision to exclude them. Also, saying goodbye to the old cost per acquisition-based performance marketing mindset takes conscious effort – but doing so is well worth the trouble.     

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Anton Lipkanou

President & COO