The 5 Senses of Fan Research

What’s MISSING from market research for entertainment brands?

What are the roadblocks to being more engaging, and actionable?

And what to do about those falling response rates, and the same old surveys?


1. Purpose

2. Community

3. Fun

4. Value

5. Influence

And not forgetting the SIXTH SENSE. Find out more at the end ...

Being a fan is a TOTAL experience!

What we normally know of as Vision, Hearing, Smell, Taste, Touch all play a role for maximum enjoyment of your passion.

As an example, in sport its all of them on game-day!

Following the play, the roar of the crowd, and the irresistible smell & taste of the hot dogs & fries, or hot chips & pies depending on where you are in the world ?. And flying hugs at the extra-time win.

Likewise at a live concert. The emotional build-up from the first familiar note is all-consuming, as you’re immersed in the cathartic, communal rituals, practiced by generations of fans.

And the exponential growth in both home and mobile entertainment technology means you can be virtually anywhere to create your own stadium atmospherics. 

The big screen TV ads promise it’ll feel like being there. BYO popcorn.

So it goes for any form of entertainment – the best will embrace you.

Whether flying with the Game Of Thrones dragons, or dancing like no one’s watching to your favourite radio bangers up loud.

So, there’s no reason why the entertainment & engagement should stop, when it comes to gathering insights from your Raving Fans.

This engages whole new set of emotional triggers, when you need that critical feedback to make better decisions, and build your fan relationships.

Let's explore further...


Now, there’s absolutely no way you’d roll out a marketing campaign without …

  • target personas
  • an engagement plan
  • desired outcomes
  • Taking heat from upstairs would be one result!

    The rest is hard to tell, because there’d be no benchmarked measures for success.

    At best the campaign would be wallpaper. At worst, your confused customers would switch to a more relatable competitor.

    So why on earth would you do this with your fan research?

    For research to be an effective marketing touchpoint, you need that Sense of Purpose.

    Both for your benefit and your fan engagement.

    They’ll do anything for you … IF they know WHY.

    So invite specific fan personas to your study, focus the questions in their language.

    Tell them what the research is for, relating to their persona, and how they'll make a difference.

    A SENSE OF PURPOSE is a win-win for all.

    Fans feel part of the brand, and you get more relevant, actionable insights.


    In airport novels SOLITARY is where people end up after falling into the hands of the secret police.

    A dark, cold cell with no human contact.

    Not dissimilar to how it can feel participating in research. And no wonder response rates are under pressure.

    Of course some types of research, like surveys, need to be completed one person at a time - that's just how it is.

    But there are ways to offset this Sense of Detachment, and replace it with the Sense of Community.

    The great thing about entertainment brands is your audience, members or subscribers already form a natural kind of affinity group with a common interest.

    So your research communications can stress how contributions are being made by other people like themselves, and how their input will benefit the tribe as a whole.

    This goes with Sense of Purpose (above), and Influence (below).

    As humans, we come wired with a primal need to share our stories, opinions and feelings with others round the campfire.

    Solitary or Community ... what's it to be?

    Consider building a basic Fan Insights Community, within your database, where you can run quick surveys or discussions as part of a group identity.

    Give it a name that fits your brand like a Fan Council, Insider Circle, and so on.

    So participation doesn't mean isolation.


    Yes, research is a serious business!

    Many decisions large and small are made on the basis of data and insights, that affect the performance of both the brand, and you personally.

    So using the word fun in this context, can seem like a massive contradiction.

    But from your fan's perspective, FUN (and ENTERTAINMENT) is an essential ingredient of giving you their time and attention when participating in research.

    No amount of incentivisation can compensate for a boring, low-engagement fan experience.

    And BTW, this is not saying that people want to take part in a trivial or frivolous project either. That would not be worthy of their time, because they do want to help you make better decisions for everyone's benefit.

    What people do appreciate firstly, is when you use a light, smiley (but not gushing) tone in your language when inviting them, and guiding them through their tasks, which can sometimes be a little complex.

    Then keeping the activity engaging and entertaining. For instance, using images and GIFs to dress questions, but being careful not to 'lead' or bias the response.

    You can even include a fun question or topic about your category.

    'Gamifying' techniques are now more available as standard features in online surveys, to make repetitive tasks both more fun and productive. Dig deeper to see what options are available in your survey tool.

    We find in our online discussions, that fans respond very well in a social-style environment. With elements like customisable avatars, emojis and visual stimulation, that also fit our client's entertainment brand values.


    There are three ways to look at this.

    One is the value you promise the CFO you'll get from your research budget.

    All the great ROI and actionable insights that will take your business to new heights in the next financial year!

    The second, again in a monetary sense, is a fan perceiving they're getting great value from their membership or subscription fee. That they're enjoying the entertainment they signed up for.

    And in some cases, like a sports club, there's a deeper, emotional edge. Where perceived value might include bonds that go back generations in the same family. The upside being intense loyalty, the downside when club decisions, like Leeds United changing a heritage logo, can feel like betrayal.

    Which leads to the third aspect, and just as important, about how we all like to FEEL valued.

    That what we do in our everyday life, what gets us out of bed in the morning, is of value to the world. That someone wants what we have to offer.

    I include this as another dimension of Purpose and Community, because they're all part & parcel of nurturing a stronger relationship with fans, including the context of your research.

    That by asking someone to participate in a survey or discussion group, you make sure they don't feel like they're in a cattle call, but in a personal conversation with you. Where their opinions really matter. Which leads to ...


    Influence is a cornerstone of digital marketing, tapping celebrity brand ambassadors, and customers with a large social following who can amplify your message reach.

    But what does Influence mean from your fans' perspective? And how does that impact your research?

    Along with the Sense of Value, this is about people feeling that by participating in your study, they're making a tangible difference to your brand.

    Like the Fan Insights Community mentioned above, it's a way of doing more than pay lip service. There has to be a transparent mechanism for showing how it happens.

    Every touchpoint from the research invitation, to the actual activity, and right through to the follow-up must reinforce the outcomes of their valuable time and energy.

    Saying thanks is a given, but for continued participation in the future, and ongoing brand loyalty, there's another step.

    Now commonly known as 'Shareback', this involves sending people a short summary of your findings, and what improvements you're making as a direct result of their input.

    This could be a video from the CEO as a powerful, personal message, and goes right back to communicating the Sense of Purpose.

    Of course, you won't be sharing commercially sensitive information. But your fans will get a buzz, and tell others (turning into Influencers themselves) about how they helped drive the changes.

    Some call this 'giving the fan a seat at the board table', which is nicely descriptive.

    And in our experience, compared to the world of AI and chatbots, where humans are redundant, it's awesome to have people give genuine thanks for being able to express their opinions directly to a brand decision-maker.


    As well as being a classic spine-chilling, movie (no spoilers here!), this is the ultimate outcome of getting up - close & personal with your fans.

    But, it only comes into play, when a solid, long-term fan insights program is in place.

    Every interaction you have, every piece of actionable insight you gather, builds your reservoir of knowledge. That over time, makes your decisions more instinctively and accurately reflective of your fans' needs, and a predictor of potential behaviour.

    The Sixth Sense in Fan Research can be described as ‘informing your intuition’, or ‘educating your gut’.

    Research for entertainment brands is not just about the What of stats, but the Why of emotional drivers.

    So as well as metrics, also consider finding out more about the world of your core audience. Their hopes, fears, aspirations and how you fit into their daily life and could make it better.

    A marketer with a well-developed Sixth Sense of the fan experience, based on insights, can make fast decisions under pressure. When a bush-fire ignites and an instant solution is called for.


    Applying the 5 Senses to your Fan Research creates more meaningful, longer-lasting outcomes, at a number of levels.

    When marketing is all about relationships, conversations and 360° touchpoints, the insights-gathering process will be a weak link in the chain, if fans don't feel emotionally engaged.

    Insights will remain at a superficial level, that don't go beyond the What to the Why.

    And will not be particularly useful for creating new fan experiences, based on deeper knowledge of their motivations and lifestyle.

    Because in all areas of the entertainment space, from media to sport, whether live or digital, it's an Accelerated Culture where today's innovation is tomorrow's 'meh'.

    And when Acquisition costs so much more than Retention, a quality research-based relationship is so much more durable. When based on mutual respect, trust and ongoing 2-way communication.

    Just like real life!

    About the Author

    Eriks Celmins brings a wealth of global experience in talking to media, sport & entertainment audiences, as a long-time research & content consultant.

    He runs both in-depth quantitative & qualitative research, including his innovative techniques for participant engagement.

    Eriks passionately believes in the power of conversation to build fan relationships. Helping entertainment brands gather Exclusive Insights into the Hearts & Minds of their audience.

    Which you can now access on his new social-style, private chat-platform cliizii

    Customer Led Insights? Easy cliizii!

    He is also a full Member of AMSRS (Australian Market & Social Research Society).

    "I'm always open to exploring creative solutions to research challenges. Reach out to me personally if you want to hash out some ideas, or connect with me on LinkedIn".

    #allblacks #sportsmarketing #radio #marketing #insights #springboks #afl #nrl #rugbyunion

    Exclusive Insights into the Hearts & Minds of your Fans. That's the cliizii Method!

    Spread the Word!