Brands, Take Notice: Fangirls Are Changing the World

Barbie, Swifties and so much more

While fangirls are nothing new, their influence on the culture at large has never felt so prevalent—and there's much that brands can learn from them.

Consider the past 12 months. Barbie was the highest-grossing film, pulling in over $1 billion worldwide. Swifties boosted the economy and drove viewership for the NFL, and women's sports teams sold out stadiums around the world. 

These developments are especially notable, as the interests of female fans have traditionally been ignored, infantilized and even stigmatized. Girls screaming their hearts out at a concert is a punchline; boys screaming at the television when their team loses is part of a normal Sunday ritual.

Topics with mostly female fans get labeled as frivolous (fashion, reality TV). At the same time, male-dominated fandoms are lauded as cultural cornerstones (men's sports, war biopics, etc.). Girls learned from an early age that if they're interested in something, the world won't roll out the red carpet. So, they got damn good at finding ways to share and expand those interests.

Case in point: the fangirls' fierce dedication to cultivating community. Take a look at the growth of women's sports over the past few years: in particular, women's soccer. Because league games weren't aired on television—and certainly not in prime time—fans networked to find ways to watch. These could include livestreams or Twitter. In the world of women's basketball, The Sports Bra, a bar in Portland, Ore., was launched when its owner couldn't find a venue that would tune its set to the Women's NCAA Championship Game.

We can also thank women and girls for bringing fan fiction to the mainstream. And TikTok was once an app for super fans (mainly female) to lip-sync to new tracks. Fast forward a few years, and the platform has inspired millions to co-create with their favorite fandoms or invent new ones.

So, what can brands learn from the fangirl era?

Making people feel something is the most important thing a brand can do.

As a brand, the way you make people feel will always be more memorable than what you say. Artists with massive fandoms are experts at this emotional response. Taylor Swift, for example, tapped into a sense of rage that women everywhere felt from being cast aside in a male-dominated world (note her "Taylor's Version" albums.) Brands—pay attention and tap into the emotional lives of your consumers.

Recognize that your brand is what your fans say you are.

Stop trying to tell people what your brand is. Instead, tap into what your brand means to consumers. Mattel is a champion in this regard, refusing to shy away from difficult conversations around Barbie. Instead, the company showed up for women everywhere in an empowering way.

Create for fans first.

Don't get caught up worrying about reaching broad audiences. If you create with super fans in mind, their passion and excitement can be infectious. McDonald's took this approach to heart with its recent fan-inspired anime campaign. The fast-feeder used insights from fans and collaborated with beloved artists on products, sauces, an IRL experience and more.

Don't be afraid to experiment.

Get curious. Find your inner fangirl. Experiment. Make a bunch of small bets and turn them into bigger bets when they pay off.

Advertise With Us

Featured Clio Award Winner



The best in creativity delivered to your inbox every morning.