Brand Fan Clubs


By web gangsta | Published:

Michael Jones at the terrific business-oriented ALL THINGS DISNEY blog posed this question as he asked about GIVING DISNEY’S D23 MEMBERSHIP CLUB A CHANCE:   Can you name another company (besides Apple) that has a large a following as Disney and yet has no official outlet?

Disney has a large and rabid online fanbase.  No doubt about it.  Other companies do as well.

And in today’s world of TwitMyFace social marketing, any company that has a large and vocal fan base should be aware enough of their surroundings to monitor the online goings-on of their consumers.   In 2000, Coca-Cola issues a cease-and-desist order to a fan who had created a fan website, vintagecocacola.com (the site is currently down).   The claim was that the user was cybersquatting on Coca-Cola’s trademark, but ignores that there can exceptions if the trademarked name is not used for profit (as is the case with most fan-based sites).  Coca-Cola’s stance was that they were merely protecting their trademark… though they recognize that in doing so they may upset their most loyal, well-meaning fans.

Fast-forward to this month where Coca-Cola embraced a fan’s use of Facebook in celebrating the Coca-Cola brand and lifestyle. It turns out that the 2nd most popular fan page on Facebook, after Barack Obama, is one for Coke. 

And it wasn’t started by the company, but by a fan.

And due to the same copyright issues that were seen in 2000, Facebook contacted Coca-Cola and asked what they wanted to do with the page.  Nine years can make a big difference — Coca-Cola proposed that the page creators can continue their page, but asked that they be involved a little bit in the process. 

Like Coca-Cola or Disney, TiVo is another company that has a rabidly loyal fanbase.  Their fans started up their own support and information site, TiVo Community (displaying a “This site is not part of TiVo, Inc” message), that became so large and influential in disseminating TiVo information to new users that TiVo has a link to the site prominently displayed on their own help pages on TiVo.com.  In this instance, it was a case of “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em”…and along the way, created goodwill amongst the users.

And even when a company fully embraces a fan community, sometimes the company has to cut the cord on their own participation in it, as Apple did when they pulled out of MacWorld.

So to ask about why Disney doesn’t have an official outlet isn’t really the question, as they’ve had various forms of membership clubs before (some would argue that the theme parks themselves act as a glorified fan clubhouse, based on how some blogs have described how the Annual Pass users treat Disneyland). 

The better question is why does Disney keep changing course with regards to how they treat their loyal fans:  cancelling the Mickey Mouse Club TV show, Disney Magazine, or Disney Catalog are just three examples of removing something that the fanbase had collectively embraced without replacing them with something of equal expected value. 

The answer may be in D23 and using it as a community builder – getting back to the roots of figuratively gathering everyone again in front of the TV every afternoon with their Mouse Ears (perhaps with their glass of Carnation Instant Chocolate Drink, or tube of Ipana toothpaste as well) to watch “Anything Can Happen” day. 

Because when it comes to D23 as it exists right now – Anything CAN Happen.   We may just have to wait a little longer to see it.

But that’s okay, I have my Mouse Ears ready.