Recently, more and more consumers have been planning and participating in the production of their own products, beyond merely consuming products and contents, related to celebrities and characters, that are already on sale. These consumers are called 'fansumers'. Let’s explore the specific features of fansumers, as well as examples and prospects of fansumers.
What is Fansumer?
Fansumer is a combination of fan and consumer, and it means a new consumer who participates directly in the investment and manufacturing process of a particular product or brand based on the fan’s interests. Fansumers have the characteristic of not only actively consuming their own products and brands, but also not hesitating to criticize and interfere. The role of the fansumer first stood out in the entertainment industry, and its typical example is Produce 101 Season 1, which was broadcast on Mnet in January 2016. In this program, viewers were called 'National Producers', and through voting, they could directly express their opinions on the debut by their favorite trainees. Companies are paying more attention to fansumers’ voices to increase product satisfaction and obtain loyal customers. They operate a review team in the company to check the reviews written by consumers in real time, or they can analyze and research accumulated reviews, and actively respond in product planning. In this way, the influence of fansumers is expanding not only in the entertainment industry but also in a variety of other fields.
Fansumers are proud and happy that they have influenced a specific product or brand. For example, singer Jeon So-mi created an issue because of her episode related to McDonald’s apple pie on the JTBC entertainment show Knowing Bros in June 2019. She said, she had called the customer center every day for a month because she wanted to eat apple pies that are sold only at overseas McDonald’s branches, and she was proud, “Thanks to me, apple pies are sold at McDonald’s now!” This fansumer craze is not just a simple trend, but a reflection of the trend of consumption, because people want to enjoy planning and promoting what they like. Kang Tae-bong, CEO of RGM Consulting, said, "This consumption behavior is not limited to the idol culture of teenagers, but it is also spreading to those who pursue small changes or little difference that brings them happiness. This characteristic of Fansumer is related to the 'IKEA effect', which is the effect of loving the product because of the labor put into the product. It comes from an analysis that consumers will be more affectionate to IKEA's furniture, which is more difficult to assemble than other furniture. As consumers continue to buy IKEA’s furniture despite the inconvenience of assembling it, fansumers have high attachment to the product when they directly contribute to the production and promotion of products.
Various cases of Fansumer
Fansumer's remarkable activities is shown through the entertainment industry, including Pengsoo and Xiaomi's MI-FAN. First, the most active field for fansumers is the entertainment industry. Fansumers also participate in active promotion of their celebrity against the company. For example, because of the recommendation from Fansumers, Maeil Dairies Co., Ltd. selected the Mr. Trot winner Lim Young-woong to be the model for its coffee brand ‘Barista Rules’. When he was unknown, he said, on his YouTube channel, that he liked that coffee when he worked part-time at a convenience store. When the video became known through SNS after his appearance in Mr. Trot, Young-woong Times (Lim Young-woong's fan club name) came forward and promoted him to become an advertising model. He said at the advertisement shooting scene, “It’s more special and I’m grateful as it was made by fans.” On the other hand, fans who are busy consuming contents can also create their own content and make promotional effects. Among them, fansumers’ cross editing videos are becoming popular and changing costumes and makeup to be more natural on the music broadcasting stage. The reason why cross editing videos produced by fansumers are becoming more popular than broadcasting station videos is that they present good quality based on the fans heart. In particular, the cross editing video of TWICE's ‘What is Love’ posted by YouTuber Boseogsujibga recorded 47.62 million views and gained a huge promotional effects in May 2018. This was higher than the choreography video of ‘What is Love?’ posted directly by TWICE’s agency, and higher than other idol music videos. As you can see, in the entertainment industry, the strong support of fansumers has a promotional effect for stars.
Beyond the entertainment industry, Pengsoo is one of the most outstanding examples of the effects of fansumers. In 2019, EBS trainee Pengsoo was getting popular among many age groups, many of them wanted Pengsoo goods, but there were no official sales of those goods. Then some people start making and selling goods without a copyright. In response, fans not only censored themselves, but also searched for illegal sales and notified and requested the company for official release of goods through EBS viewer board. In addition to a simple request for Pengsoo's official goods, fansumers were actively involved in the planning stages by creating a detailed list. In fact, on the EBS viewer board, fans of Pengsoo posted specific requests of goods such as Pengsoo’s diary and coloring books. Their ideas were actually released as official goods, and in November 2019, the Pengsoo essay diary, ‘Today Pengsoo, Tomorrow Pengsoo’ recorded sales of 10,000 copies in 3 hours.
The last example of fansumers is Xiaomi's MI-FAN. Xiaomi, a Chinese home appliance company, is leading the market with its fansumer ‘MI-FAN’. MI-FAN means Xiaomi’s Fan club. When Xiaomi released various products, customers who were satisfied with all the products developed fan clubs, and voluntarily started uploading good reviews on their SNS accounts after using new products that came out. The fans’ own viral marketing has become one of the Xiaomi’s big promotional methods, and in order to maintain MI-FAN’s strong loyalty, they communicate directly with customers. For example, before officially selling a new Xiaomi phone, the company gave test devices to MI-FANS and asked them to test it for two months. Moreover, the collected opinions from MI-FAN about the test device were used to correct the phone send out to supply orders. In addition, every spring, ‘MI-FAN day’ is held to provide various cultural activities to fansumers, and to sell Xiaomi products at a lower prices. Xiaomi's active fansumer marketing has gotten MI-FAN members to prefer Xiaomi's products, as well as make fans go crazy for Xiaomi. The actual number of MIFAN members is more than 100 million. Fansumers who have become active participants are more than just fans; they are changing from being consumers to being business partners, and their role is becoming increasingly important.
Pre-order post-production boom by Fansumer
As the number of fansumers increases, there is a boom in the ‘pre-order post-production’ method, which first checks consumers' demand and produces products that satisfy it. It has the great advantage of dramatically reducing failure and opportunity costs. Let's look at specific examples of 'pre-order post-production.'
For the goods pre-order post-production method, there are crowd funding, Class 101, and My Music Taste, The most typical examples of pre-order post-production is crowd funding, which gets funding for the specific product first, and produces the product according to that quantity. Crowd funding means to produce a product or services, by raising funds from an unspecified number of individuals, not professional investors, companies, or financial institutions. This is a change from a passive consumption culture of choosing what you want to buy among the products by manufacturers, to an active consumption culture that invests money directly into the products you want. One example is the crowdfunding for the release of OST(original soundtrack) albums from the animation film ‘Full Moon’ which was popular in the 2000s on Tooniverse. This funding was held at Tumblbug in September 2019, with many fansumers of Full Moon participating. Finally, the enormous amount of 2.6 billion won was collected and it became a hot issue. The USB album, which was first planned, exceeded the target amount by 7,989%, and products were added such as a CD and signed postcards of the voice actors who appeared in the animation. The number of people who participated in this funding to purchase the album and completed the payment was 77,714 and it recorded as the largest crowd funding event in Korea.
Fansumers not only invest through crowd funding, but also actively participate in production by providing input such as suggestions for improvement. For example, when Full Moon actual album design was changed from the design at the time of funding, fansumers actively demanded a change in album cover. One netizen said, "The cover is pretty, but there is no feeling of reviving the memories about the animation, and I'm a little sad that it's just like a solo album of Lee Yong-shin, the voice actor of the Full Moon. So please reconsider the cover." In response to the fansumers’ opinions, the producer said, "The final design is being modified to reflect the opinions of the sponsors, and we will also provide a refund guide.”
Another example of pre-order Post-production is Class 101. Class 101, an online lecture platform, decides to open classes through a demand survey of whether or not students want a lecture is before it is produced. By April 2020, 570 lectures have been produced through the 100% pre-demand survey method. In Class 101, all creators who want to make a lecture can do so regardless of their jobs, and consumers can pay 101 won for the content they want to learn. After that, if the threshold level of support is reached for a week, the class is confirmed. If the lecture is canceled due to a lack of demand, the 101 won payment will be automatically refunded. In July 2020, classes were becoming popular. For example, popular classes reaching one million won a month were Naver Smart Store, tarot classes, and cafe start-ups. The tarot class is cheap at 47,100 won per month, but the satisfaction of students is 100% because of a high level of lectures. In June 2020, a member of the Tarot class contentedly said, "I wanted to learn tarot, so I searched YouTube and other websites, but I gave up because it was difficult and hard. I like this class because I can start step by step without difficulty."
The last example of a pre-order post-production service is My Music Taste. The concert planning platform called 'My Music Taste' has also appeared that casts artists when fansumers choose a concert schedule and location. It is different from the past when the agency planned the concert and notified the fans. Fansumers can request a concert by choosing the artist they want to meet, the city they want to hold the concert, and the price they want to pay. Through this process, My Music Taste analyzes the demands of fansumers with big data, selects artists and places in high demand, and schedules the concert. It also offers special benefits to the ten Fansumers (TasteMakers) who contributed the most to the concert. It is increasing in popularity as it gives fansumers the opportunity to invite their favorite celebrities and helps agencies to secure stable profits through pre-demand surveys. Sales were 9.6 billion won in 2017, 11.3 billion won in 2018, and 25.5 billion won in 2019, showing nearly 200% growth each year. In November 2019, the band group DAY6 completed a global concert, ‘Gravity in Australia’ through My Music Test, and VVIP tickets were sold out within a few hours of the start of online booking. LOONA’s fan on Twitter @krloonafans tweeted for the concert, "We've launched a new campaign on My Music Taste! Let's all enjoy LOONA's online concert through voting."
The way for Fansumer to go
Meanwhile, there are concerns that fansumers might make illegal products, such as those that violate copyrights. For example, before the launch of Pengsoo's official goods, various illegal goods such as badges and hoodies were sold on SNS. In response, EBS participants received reports from fans about illegal goods and issued warnings to the sellers. On YouTube, Fansumers’ contents are also being sanctioned for copyright issues. For example, In May 2018, KBS and MBC intervened on the use of copyrighted videos being cross-edited, and videos of some fansumers were blocked. According to the Korea Copyright Protection Agency’s announcement in 2019, the number one (at 14.9%) copyright infringements were by one-person media based on YouTube and Africa TV. Yoon Tae-yong, head of the Korea Copyright Protection Agency pointed out, "For the development of the content industry and the cultural industry, copyright protection should be the highest priority."
On the other hand, another limitation of fansumers was in December 2004, when Nongshim Kellogg held the Presidential Election Event of Chex Choco world to promote its cereal Chex. They said that they found a match between a cheki symbolizing chocolate flavor and a Chaka of green onion flavor, drawn as a villain character, to produce a Chex with more votes. However, Chaka won with the votes of netizens to produce green onion flavor chex even though they will not eat it. Contrary to their intentions, Kellogg required an information security company to remove more than 42,000 tickets from Chaka. In this way some fansumers did something wrong by the use of consumer power. However, in July 2020, 16 years after the controversy, Nongshim Kellogg sold its new product, ‘Chex green onion flavor’, and used it as a new marketing tool. At the time of the launch, Kellogg released a video of Chex green onion flavor on their official Youtube channel, which got an explosive response of over one million hits in a week. Meanwhile, there is a tendency among fansumers to pursue the 'right' of consumption and production. They discredit illegal products and conduct socially meaningful consumption campaigns. Kim Nan-do, a professor of consumer science at Seoul National University, said, "The characteristic of young people who lead funsumers is that they move to clean up the contents together.” If these current problems are improved through fansumer's voluntary efforts, Fansumer culture may develop further.
These days, Fansumer's influence is widening unlike last week when it was limited to the entertainment industry. Accordingly, companies can use the voluntary participation of fansumers for their marketing. However, these Fansumers’ products do not always bring about only positive results. Therefore, it is important for fansumers to pursue right consumption and production on their own.
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