David Meerman Scott, Best Selling Author of Fanocracy, New Rules of Marketing and PR, and More [Podcast]

We’re very excited to bring you some really groundbreaking stuff here… Fanocracy. It’s the concept that our next guest, David Meerman Scott, and his daughter Reiko Scott, detail in their new book called, well, Fanocracy.

We’re really digging this book here at Wellspring Digital. We highly recommend you grab it. It will change your thinking about your business and how you market it.

In this interview, David talks about…

  1. Newsjacking and COVID-19
  2. The Grateful Dead’s Fanocracy
  3. Sleep No More and The New Fan Experience
  4. Influencer Marketing
  5. Passion as a Habit

We know you’re going to love this chat with David as much as we did!

David Meerman Scott is an online marketing strategist and author of several books on marketing, including The New Rules of Marketing and PR and, of course, his latest book, Fanocracy: Turning Fans into Customers and Customers into Fans.

We hope you get as inspired as we did…

Transcription Edited for Readability:

Jon-Mikel Bailey: Hello and welcome to the Wellspring Digital chat, where we interview marketing experts, bringing their brains directly to you. My guest today is the amazing, wonderful, and super smart, David Meerman Scott. David, if you could take a minute and introduce yourself to anyone out there that may not know who you are.

David Meerman Scott: Thanks, Jon. I love that you said I’m super smart. It’s a nice way to start the day. So, I worked in the corporate world for about 15 years in the financial information business. I started my own business in 2002. I’ve written 11 books. Three of them are international bestsellers. One of my books, called The New Rules of Marketing and PR is in 29 languages from Albanian to Vietnamese and my latest book came out in January. It’s called Fanocracy: Turning Fans into Customers and Customers into Fans. I have a copy, right here.

Fanocracy: Turning Fans into Customers and Customers into Fans

I actually wrote this with my 27-year-old daughter, Reiko, and we spent five years researching together and writing and then getting this book out into the world together and it was a fabulous experience to work with her because you know, as you can tell, I’m getting on there in years and a white man and Reiko is a millennial mixed race. My wife is Japanese; Reiko was born in Tokyo and is a woman, so that combination was pretty fabulous.

Bailey: Well, I’m glad you showed a cover of the book because I only have it on my Kindle, but it is one of my favorites. I read it about a month or so ago and I’ve been recommending it like crazy to clients, coworkers, marketing friends. I tell them this is one you need to read.

Scott: Very kind of you. Thank you very much.

Bailey: I also read your blog and I did read both versions, the original and then one of the updated versions of the New Rules of Marketing and PR. And that is another favorite. That book is timeless and it just keeps getting better with every issue.

Scott: What’s interesting is that in a way, it’s timeless because it originally came out in 2007. That was the first edition and the seventh edition, which gosh, I can’t even imagine. The seventh edition is out in mid-May. So it is pretty exciting that that book is timeless, but on the other hand, I have to keep up updating it. Otherwise, it would feel a little bit old and stale.

Bailey: Sure and the reissue that I read was completely timeless. So each update you do is fantastic. So I still recommend it today.

Scott: Thank you, very kind.

Newsjacking in the Era of COVID-19

Bailey: So speaking of that era, we did a webinar last week on content marketing. And I mentioned the term newsjacking, which you popularized years ago. And in the crazy era of COVID-19, we’re definitely seeing some newsjacking going on. I wanted to both get you to define newsjacking for anyone not familiar with the term and then maybe talk a little bit about how it’s relevant today in the pandemic and in general as well.

Scott: Sure. So, newsjacking is the idea that the news cycle always follows a bell-shaped curve. As reporters and editors are looking for information, they’re looking for people to quote, they’re looking for facts, you can generate tons of attention for your business.

So it’s the art and science of injecting your ideas into a breaking news story. I first started talking about this 10 years ago and I’m kind of stunned that newsjacking has taken on a life of its own. In fact, that word newsjacking is in the Oxford English Dictionary.

Bailey: Really?!?

Scott: Yeah, which is kind of amazing for me that, you know, a mere mortal like you or me can create a word and have that word be so popular that it ends up being in the dictionary.

In today’s world, there are interesting opportunities for some, but certainly not all organizations for newsjacking in the world of COVID-19. So, I’ve seen some great examples of newsjacking. I’ll share one in a second. I’ve also seen some bad examples. The bad examples are the ones where an organization says, “Hey, you’re stuck at home. This is a great time to buy clothing 10% off and free shipping right now.” It just feels exploitative. It feels like you’re trying to use the situation simply to sell more.

There are some organizations that have done a good job. Some of the clothing manufacturers, for example, very quickly shifted production and started to make masks or gowns for healthcare workers. In many cases, they didn’t do that just to get attention. They did it truly because they wanted to help the universe and help the healthcare workers. And then maybe they get some press out of it.

Newsjacking Examples

Both Brooks Brothers and LL Bean did that and both of them got positive press. So you have to do it with the right intentions. One of my favorite examples is an attorney in Ontario, Canada. His name is Russell Alexander, and he’s a family law professional. He’s got a team of, I think, 20 people in his law practice.

So he created a COVID-19 and Coronavirus help page for people looking for the legal aspects of what’s going on with Coronavirus. He’s a family lawyer, so for example, he provided a whole bunch of information on something like, for example:

“I’m divorced from my wife. We share custody of the kids. The kids are living with my wife now. And she’s refusing to bring the kids over to me because she’s citing Covid-19 as a reason for why she can’t bring the kids to me. Is this legal?”

This is just an example, and he’s gotten a ton of press because the media goes to him around any issues in Canada relating to the law and Coronavirus.

Bailey: That’s very interesting. Yeah. I have seen, as well, bad examples and great examples. I think anytime that you can put yourself out there as a resource with altruistic goals, it shows through.

The Grateful Dead’s Fanocracy

Bailey: So I can’t help but notice the Steal your Face 50th Anniversary banner in the background there. I know you are a legit deadhead. I’ve been to shows myself back in the day. So, you know, the Grateful Dead of all bands has probably one of the most rabid fan bases still to this day. Jerry Garcia has gone from this world since what 1994 and 1995, so 25 years, and they still have a huge fan base today.

So, I wanted to maybe tap into that a little bit and get you to talk about the dead and its fanocracy. You talk a little bit about in your book, but I want to see if you could maybe expand on that here.

Scott: Yeah, sure. Absolutely. I saw my first show when I was 17 years old. I’ve been to 75 since then, and I include the Grateful Dead including Jerry Garcia as well as the bands that followed Jerry that included original members of the Grateful Dead in that count.

But what was so fascinating to me about growing fans is that in the early days, the band allowed and still do allow fans to record their concerts and that was really radical, still is really radical, that you can allow people to bring professional-level recording here into a show and record the music.

Originally the music was recorded and then swapped around on cassette tapes.

Bailey: I remember the coveted first generation.

Scott: Yeah, I know right. And then after a while, if you have the fourth or fifth or sixth generation it’s got hiss on it and later on, became mp3 files that people traded around. And that helped to build the band and the fans of the band because they were a recording, they were not a real strong recording on they were a touring band.

And when you heard multiple versions of the same song, and you ended up starting to collect 30, 40, 50, 100, 200, 500 different shows – music from 500 different shows – you naturally want to go see the band live. And they sold a half a billion dollars worth of concert tickets, the most that anyone has sold up to that point, and they just built on their fandom.

They’re what I would call their fanocracy on giving away their music. And that’s something that we can all do still today. And the idea of a tribe is something that we focused on a lot in our book. And we looked at the neuroscience of why and how people become fans of something and it turns out that all of us humans are hard-wired to want to be part of a tribe of like-minded people. Because when we’re with a tribe of people that we like to know, we feel safe and comfortable.

That goes back 10s of thousands of years because if you’re with your group of people, you’re safe. If you’re not with your group of people, you’re vulnerable. So, for any of us who become fans of something, whether it’s a sports team or participating in sports, or bird watching, or whatever it might be, in my case, I love live music 104 live shows in my life and 75 Grateful Dead concerts that when I’m at a Grateful Dead concert, I’m with my tribe. I’m safe and uncomfortable.

Bailey: Right. Very interesting. And I think some people might miss that. It’s a big lesson in your book, and I resonated with it. Absolutely.

Scott: So but what’s fascinating as well, Jon, if I could add to it…

Bailey: Yeah, please, please.

Scott: It can. My daughter Reiko and I went into this book with the thesis that any organization can build fans not just an artist, like the Grateful Dead. Or my daughter loves Harry Potter, not just like just Harry Potter. Anybody can. And that was our thesis. And we’ve found it to be 100% true.

Tons of examples that we write about, but one of my favorites is Haggerty insurance. And they have built over a million fans in the auto insurance business. Now what’s cool about this example is that everybody hates auto insurance. Everyone hates auto insurance, right? No one wants to spend money on auto insurance because it feels like you’re just tossing your money away when you write that check.

And then no one ever wants to use the product because it means you crashed your car. Haggerty goes to over 100 Classic Car events around North America every year. And they meet people who are fans of classic cars. They specialize in classic car auto insurance and they have a YouTube channel with over a million subscribers.

They have an auto club, a virtual auto club with 650,000 members and they have built a massive fan base. I spoke with Shaquille Haggerty, the entrepreneurial CEO of Haggerty insurance told me, “I could never build this business by being a low-cost provider. I could never build this business by spending more money on ads. I can build this business by building fans.”

I see no difference, an auto insurance company and I’m actually a customer, I have a 1973 Land Rover that’s been insured by Haggerty all 10 years. After having spent five years researching this idea of fandom, I see no difference between how Haggerty insurance builds fans the Grateful Dead, right over to fans were even of a government agency. NASA has 50 million fans.

You can walk down any street in the world and not be surprised if someone approaches you wearing a NASA logo t-shirt. Right. You know, that’s nuts. They’re a US government agency with 50 million fans.

Reimaging the Customer Experience

Bailey: Yeah, that is a great point. And you mentioned Reiko. My daughter has been doing some drawings for my presentations, but she’s only 12. So I think we got a little bit of time before we can write the book together, but I think she’s gonna run circles around me when she’s in her professional world. She’s already a natural marketer.

Lennah Bailey, Warrior Queen

But I love that you wrote this with her, and you have that multi-generational experience there. And she has a section in the book that I really enjoyed, where she talks about a completely unique experience watching the play Macbeth. And there’s a lot to that story, but I wondered if maybe you can kind of sum up the experience and then maybe, you know, outline the lesson that companies can take from that.

Scott: Yeah, absolutely. Do a project like this with your daughter. It may not be a book; start a company with her or do something because until Reiko graduated from undergraduate, (she did an undergraduate at Columbia in neuroscience) until that point, we had a hierarchical kind of relationship.

As a dad, I was paying the bills. She was living under my roof. Now, we’re co-authors in a book. We had to be the partners. I couldn’t be the boss. We had to be equal partners. Now she’s out on her own. She’s just graduated from medical school. She’s going to be an emergency room doctor at Boston Medical Center.

Because we worked on this book together, we became very close in a way that we weren’t with father when we were always close. This cemented the relationship in a very different way. So please do, figure out at some point, 10 years from now or whatever number of years from now, some cool project to do with your daughter.

We wrote individual chapters, which was fun. I wrote some chapters and she wrote some chapters, each in our own voices. She talked a lot about the idea that a fans’ experience is the way that they experience something. It’s not something you can force on people. So the way that I interact with a company, a product, an idea, a book, a musical group, or a sports team is different from how you do and that’s taken to the extreme in this version of the play that you mentioned.

A Completely Different Macbeth

It was a theater company is called Punch Drunk. It’s pretty awesome because you’re in an old warehouse, a five-story warehouse. The set is on every single floor and there are all kinds of different rooms set up like a hotel, and they perform in and among you. So you’re in with the actors in this five-story building as they’re performing this.

And every single person’s experience is different because you can’t be at all places at all times. It’s not like you’re in an audience looking at up at a stage. And so what I love about it is that – and by the way, the play is called Sleep No More, it’s held in New York City (obviously not now as we’re recording). Yeah, but hopefully there’ll be back – everybody’s experience is different because I might be in a certain room and I might see an actor come in another actor come in and perform the scene in front of me, but if you’re anywhere else on the set, right and not see that particular interaction. It’s wild, it’s really freaking cool and, and it’s taking to the extreme this idea that fans interact with products and services in their own way.

I love how Reiko came up with this, this comment that an organization cannot dictate how a fan interacts, once you put your product or service out into the world. It no longer belongs to you. And there’s a lot of organizations that try to control their messages. But the lesson here is that you can’t control your messages. You’re better off putting your stuff out there and letting the fans control the messages.

Bailey: It’s a lesson that I think is hard for a lot of companies to learn because they still want to, you know, hang on so tight to everything. But I think it’s, it’s a super important lesson. And I also I hate to say this. I also I know I introduced you as super smart, but I get the sense that Reiko is just a little bit smarter.

Scott: You’re allowed to say that because we joke about this all the time. We truly joke about this all the time because she’s a way better writer than I am. She wrote half the chapters, I wrote half the chapters and we say who wrote each chapter so it’s obvious. I’ve had a lot of people who, they don’t say, “Oh my god, she’s such a better writer than you.” They say, “Oh, it’s really interesting how you and Reiko have different writing styles.” That’s code for David, she’s a better writer than you.

Influencer Marketing

Bailey: That’s awesome. So I want to shift gears and talk a little bit about influencer marketing, a term which I think gets misused and a practice that I think gets abused quite a bit. You talk about influencer marketing in your book and the fact that influencer marketing is so much more than just getting a Kardashian to talk about you or Oprah to talk about you or something like that. I wanted to see if you could talk a little bit more about the importance of the micro and nano influencers and how a company could maybe work with them to build out their fan base.

Scott: Yeah, you know, what I think is that the best people to talk about your product and service are the ones who love it. The ones who use it, the ones who are fans of what you do. So many organizations, when they think of influencer marketing, they think of it in the context of paid advertising.

Paid advertising is where you pay to have a TV commercial on a network, you pay to have your advertisement in a newspaper, you pay Google to have your ad appear when someone does a search, you pay Facebook to show your posts in people’s feeds. People then take that same approach and say, well, I’m going to pay somebody to talk about my product or service on Instagram or Facebook.  That’s advertising, right?

You know, if you have $20 million to spend, maybe you hire Kim Kardashian to say that your product is good, but I think it’s way better to find the people that love what you do, and then figure out ways that you can work with them to have them share your story in ways that they’re not doing quite yet. Celebrate who they are, share their stuff. How radical is that?

Oh, people are so selfish. “Oh, please share my stuff, share my stuff, share my stuff like.” “Well, okay, why don’t you like share mine?” You know, it’s like, “oh, we never really thought about that.” If I get emails 5 times a day and “could you have people who want me to talk about their company or post something on my blog or do something?” And you know, 99.99% of them I just delete, right?

And I’ve never taken money to post something. I have taken, on occasion, something free but then if I blog about it, I’ll say you know, “Hey, I got a free night at this hotel?” You know, or “somebody gave me this product for free?” I’ll say that for sure. Right?

But I don’t do it because I want the free thing, I do it because I want to check it out and see if it’s interesting. And if it is I’ll talk about it. If it’s not, I won’t. And so I think there’s a really important distinction there and I mean, how cool is it if there are people who love what you do right for them to be talking about it? Can you cultivate that?

Bailey: I get so much more out of sharing other people’s stuff that I’m really passionate about that than them sharing my stuff because I want to help. I feel good by helping spread the word about something I’m very passionate about.

Scott: Absolutely. And, you know, not to get to like airy-fairy, but I’m a really big believer that the more you give to the universe, the more the universe gives back. I believe that, you know, give gifts to the world, share things, help other people, and be kind. You know, right now in this world, people are struggling because they can’t work or whatever is happening, support them. I believe strongly that the universe will then give back to you so. So yeah, share other people’s stuff. Absolutely.

Bailey: I agree. I think it’s a very important point.

Passion Builds Fans

Bailey: So I want to kind of wrap things up here with what I think is probably one of the more common themes throughout the book, which is passion. You have a section in the book called Passion as a Habit, which by the way, is going to completely change how I interview potential candidates for positions. We have an interview later today, so she’s in for it. But yeah, your point about passion was so important and so big and I wanted to see if maybe you can talk about why passion is so infectious and how the idea of passion can help build fans.

Scott: Sure. So this was surprising to us because, throughout the book, we did talk about passion, because we were coming at it from the perspective of when you’re passionate about the things you love, you live a great life. You know, I make my best friends of people who go to live shows. We haven’t seen each other in three or four months. But normally we see each other like once a month because we go to live shows it’s fabulous. And that passion is infectious. It’s great. The thing that we didn’t realize is how important that passion becomes to build the fans, even if you don’t share that passion.

A Passionate Dentist

So I’m giving you an example. We met a dentist, his name is Dr. Marashi. I actually met him about three years ago at a Tony Robbins event I was speaking at. And he had heard me talk about the idea of fans and building customers. And he said, David, I get this idea you’re talking about, but I’m a dentist. There are 10,000 other dentists in Southern California. How in the heck can I build fans?

And I said, “Well, Dr. Marashi, what do you love to do?” And he goes, “I love to skateboard.” And so I said, well, that’s cool. Why don’t you celebrate the fact that you love to skateboard and he ran with it. He told me totally ran with it. So in his office, he’s got skateboards on the wall. I’ve got Grateful Dead stuff on the wall. He’s got skateboards on the wall. He’ll skateboard from one examination room to another. On his website, he has images of him skateboarding and has an Instagram with 14,000 followers last time I checked.

He contacted me out of the blue a couple of months ago and said, “David, you shared with me this idea of celebrating the fact that I love to skateboard. I grew my business by 30% last year that I can directly attribute to the skateboarding.” Because people are attracted to that passion that he has for skateboarding.

They’re attracted to the fact that he loves to do that. And you don’t have to be a skateboarder to appreciate that; you can anybody can appreciate the fact that Dr. Marashi loves to skateboard and, and so now he’s not one of 10,000 dentists. He is the skateboarding dentist, right? And it’s been huge for his business and it was cool when he reached out he was like, you know, “you may not remember this but you told me to do this and this is what’s happened.” I was like “wow, that’s freakin awesome.”

Bailey: That is awesome. And a dentist at that.

Scott: That’s why I said at the top of the show that it doesn’t matter whether it’s a government agency, NASA, an auto insurance company, Haggerty, a dentist, you know, Grateful Dead. Anybody can build fans.

Bailey: Right? Well, that is all we have. And I really appreciate you doing this. Like I said, I’ve been a fan for years. I love your books. I recommend them all the time. I am passionate about what you have to say. And I think Fanocracy really shines a light on how we’re making a shift and how businesses need to really rethink how they do things and especially how they market.

Scott: I appreciate that Jon, and you know, the book came out as three months ago and I think that’s even more true now. That being kind builds fans. Have fun and enjoy life. Give to the universe, don’t just take, and things will be great.

Bailey: That’s great advice. I’ll leave it at that. So thank you so much. I really appreciate it. And that’s our show. Stay safe everyone out there and we will be out there sharing great content with you.


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