Core fans, communities and “pagafantas“

A couple of weeks ago in the Itnig podcast (one of our favorites), David Moreno, co-founder of the sunglasses brand Hawkers, very popular in Spain a few years ago, talked about their consumers’ reaction when things started to go south (Moreno is not anymore part of the company).

“Engagement wasn’t real… we didn’t have the feeling with consumers some people thought we had. We were throwing ads at them, and they were buying, that was the end of it“.

Then he follows:

“When the headlines turned negative, if we had had a strong link with our community we would have gone through that much better, but we realized we were really not communicating besides the commercial stuff“.

“We were somehow the `pagafantas´, if we were not paying for the drinks (the ads, the influencers, etc.) there was really no party“. Note: the “pagafantas“ is a popular expression in Spain that can be translated as the one paying the drinks expecting to get something in exchange that everyone knows will not get.



This is one of the things I love from that podcast that I always miss in media interviews – The hosts ask the right questions and avoid bullshit answers at all costs, getting really valuable insights out of each guest.


What is really a community?

A few important key questions come out of this story. The first one: what is really a community? When we say we have one, is that mostly based on people who follow our brand on social media and like one of our posts every now and then? As a brand, what is the real connection we have with these users? What will be their reaction if we ask them for an effort beyond the Like on social media?

Social media can give us a delusional sense of community. The implications of following a brand there and sporadically engaging with its content are so superficial, so effortless, that when the dust settles what you can really find in there is indifference.

What will happen when things go wrong? Or simply when someone launches the next super-trendy brand and all the cool people suddenly move to embrace the new stuff?

When we were at FC Barcelona, there was one suggestion we particularly didn’t love. When folks approached us saying “you have 400 million fans on social media, if only you could make 1 euro from each of these fans, that would be 400 million euros“.

Well… I am afraid things are not that simple.

This suggestion misses a few key points:

1- Social Media followers are not necessarily fans: they are certainly a good measure of your brand’s capacity to attract audiences – but we should be careful with those numbers when we build business plans based on them.

2- Not all fans (followers) are the same: some may follow you and another 10 teams, including your biggest rival. Others will not eat dinner when the team loses a game. Identifying the latter group is a key element of a successful direct-to-fan strategy.

3- Moving social media followers outside that space is really difficult: especially through organic content. The dynamics of consuming social media content will always push the user to scroll for watching the next short video or post instead of clicking to go outside the platform.


The onion of fans

Think about it as an onion and its multiple layers: the core fans, those who do not have dinner after losing a game or who will travel 100km to attend your latest show, are in the layers close to the core. The social media followers who occasionally see your content would be in those layers closer to the skin.

More than dreaming about getting 1 euro per social media fan, start by delivering value for the top 1% so that each is willing to pay 100 euros. And secure that number of core fans grows as you drag the casual fans into the interior layers with a brand that matters and a relevant portfolio of products, experiences and services. Also for the non-core fans, as they will always be opened for a one-shot product/experience if it’s properly designed for them.

The user and the brand will build a special relationship when these two elements collide:

–   The brand acts as a self-projection tool: the brand defines the fan personality and how they want to be perceived by others. So ask yourself: is my brand a vehicle for the fan’s self expression?

–   The brand narrative goes far beyond the product: the user cares for the brand beyond its product/service or core activity.

In the case of Hawkers, based on Moreno’s words it seems they were strong in the first element and missed the second one. That is dangerous in the fashion space, as you have cracks on your defensive moats and they will not properly protect you when new trends arise.

In the case of most football clubs, athletes or artists, they have both, which is the dream moat, but lack the product/service/experience portfolio to transform that into business. Something tells us that will change dramatically in the next decade. Hopefully not to end up being the “pagafantas“ of the party.

Thanks for reading.

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