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:
- Disney’s superfans make pilgrimages to Disneylands around the world, eagerly collect merchandise, and subscribe to Disney+.
- Harley-Davidson has always stayed true to its original product philosophy. attracting superfans that garage entire fleets of bikes.
- Kylie Jenner’s superfans raced to buy $125 Kylie Skin sets, which sold out within six minutes of launch.
On the flip side, antifan discontent can cause significant financial headaches. For example:
- In its last earnings report, ASOS acknowledged that 6% of its active consumers had cost the company >$100M.. The brand loses over $6 every time one of these antifans places an order.
- Bud Light’s antifans recently created a costly public relations nightmare by speaking out against its brand values.
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:
- Your superfans are at one end. They constitute approximately 10% of your overall customer base and have an outsized positive influence on your bottom line. Their authentic connection to your brand and mission drives them to make frequent purchases across your entire product range. They exhibit low return rates, almost never complain, and are always recommending you to friends and family.
- Your antifans are at the other. Also making up around 10% of your customer base, these malcontents don’t actually care for your brand all that much and often wind up costing you money. They sporadically buy from you, usually if they’ve identified your product as the cheapest of its type. They are quick to make returns, bog down your support staff with trivial issues, and leave bad reviews.
- And falling in between is your “core middle.” Your earnings from them are satisfactory. They’re valuable enough to keep around but are not particularly exciting. Likewise, they are not particularly excited about your brand..
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:
- Minimize your budget spent on your antifans. They will fall off organically.
- Make no changes to what you’re spending on your core middlers. Think “benign neglect.”.
- 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:
- With analytics your goal should be to nail down descriptions of both your superfans and antifans in as much detail as you can. Doing so will improve your funnel’s efficiency by helping you assess consumers to target and consumers to exclude.
- With media your goal should be to create the conversion rate-boosting “surround sound”that maximizes your funnel’s effectiveness.
- Integration of analytics and media is crucial. They work best in symbiosis. You need good analytics for good media, and you need good media for good analytics. They are the Yin and Yang of efficiency and effectiveness together make for an “unfair” marketing advantage.
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.