Yesterday I had the opportunity to meet with the destinations of Leading Mountain Resorts of the World in Åre and present my research on travelling fans and fandoms. After my presentation we were able to discuss the future of destination marketing and development and the importance of finding and understanding fans of destination brands.
The destination managers and marketing managers of Saas-Fee, Queenstown, Åre, and Banff/Lake Louise all supported the significance of acknowledging the complex needs and motives of their own fans. We discussed how destinations can support fans and visitors who are searching for an experience between the real and the imaginary and how this puts a focus on balancing authenticity. Interestingly, it was also evident from the stories of the destination representatives that they often find their loyal visitors being very creative online and sharing lots of information and content on social media platforms. Fans often use religious language and metaphors to describe their fandom and experiences and all of the destinations confirmed that they find user generated content, for instance on their Facebook pages, which are clearly expressions of strong emotional bonds with the destination.These emotional bonds are also similarly explained by research on brand relationship quality where love & passion, intense interaction, commitment, intimacy, and trusting beliefs are significant factors. Also, where there is a strong link between the attributes of the brand and a persons self-image, loyalty is created and retained.
We agreed that finding and supporting the creativeness of the destinations fandom super-people (those with a lot of knowledge about the destination and who are highly regarded by the fan community and therefore have a position within the community where they for instance act as an important source of information) is an important task. Yet, it is also important not to impose on fans with a corporate approach to marketing but instead collaborate and co-create in order to effectively work together to support the endurance of a brand.
However, one question remain unanswered; can everyone become a fan of something?