Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Corporate Fandom

Two things I noticed today:
  • Apple launched their iTunes site in New Zealand, after several years of depriving us of it.
  • I read Robyn's article about Holden fans and the prevalence of them on NZDating.

Which got me thinking about the strange phenomenon of corporations that have fans.

I can understand sports teams having fans. Musicians, actors and authors have fans. But why does anyone bestow their admiration on a publicly quoted company?

For car manufacturers (Holden and Ford in Australia and NZ, Ferrari in Italy) motor racing has been the route to this status (I guess). And while Ferrari have had to spend billions on producing the worlds best racing cars, Holden just hop up an overweight, low-tech family saloon and race a single opponent (Ford, of course) around the backblocks racetracks of Australasia.

Apple's method of reaching adulation has mostly involved Not Being Microsoft. Pushing their gear mostly to influential creatives and up market home users ensures cachet (David Brett uses a PC - he would never in a million years be furnished with an Apple). So while an MSFT product launch involves a good deal of sneering about bugs, security and how many dollars Bill Gates is making, the launch of iTunes is met with pure obsequiousness: "Can you tell us again how insanely great the iTunes store is, Mr Cue".

What other companies have corporate fans? Sony almost has, but could just be trying a bit too hard lately. Vodafone would dearly, dearly like to, but at the end of the day they're the phone company and they take your money. Google might have, but it's hard to see really how the search process is exciting enough to keep the fans amused.

Maybe MySpace - it's a bit ugly, but then that was never an absolute bar to fanned-ness.


Tom said...

I don't think it's the companies per se that have fans (except for shareholders): it's the brands. They're what some Saatchi types call "lovemarks" - see the site of the same name for examples of the sort of brands, people and places that "inspire love" (shudder).

With the Holden vs Ford thing, it's complicated by the fact that the manufacturers take on the role of teams. I've seen T-shirts showing a kid wearing a Holden logo pissing on a Ford logo (and vice versa): they're exactly the same as the ones that show a kid wearing a Chelsea shirt pissing on an Arsenal shirt (and vice versa).

I guess there are some brands or manufacturers that I'd have called myself a fan of. When I was a kid I had a "Roland" t-shirt (I fell in love with the JX-8P synth); I used to really like Sony; and there are still certain clothing brands (Armani, Paul Smith, Mandatory) that I drool over as much for the name as for the clothes themselves. I know people who are fanatical about coffee brands (especially L'affare and Mojo) and I know that if Matterhron were a brand I'd definitely be a fan.

Google, MySpace and other web companies definitely have fans, though often it's as much for the community as it is for the technology. I went to a flickr meetup where people where wearing flickr logo badges and t-shirts, and I saw someone wearing a Blogger t-shirt (in public!) the other day. And every version of linux has its rabid supporters, of course.

Tom said...

Oh, and Adobe of course! It helps to have one of your product names become a mainstream verb (Oh, that picture's definitely been photoshopped).