On Saturday, I delivered a talk at the Boston RV and Camping Expo. While there, I was once again struck by how the whole recreational vehicle world is built on the ideas that my daughter Reiko and I wrote about in our Wall Street Journal bestselling book Fanocracy.
As I walked the show floor, I listened to families who were excited to compare Recreational Vehicle models. Many were thinking ahead to the warmer months here in New England when they could get to the campground once again.
At its core, fandom is about a group of like-minded people getting together to share what they love. And at the Expo this was certainly true.
Interestingly, the Expo includes multiple dealers and manufacturers, yet there was much more of a feeling of cooperation - rather than competition - among the different exhibitors. RV salespeople pointed buyers to another dealer when they didn’t have the right fit for a family. That’s fandom at work.
“We say take the family and get out into the campground,” Bob Zagami, executive director of the New England RV Dealers Association, told us when we were researching ideas for Fanocracy several years ago. “In today’s society, many people don’t even talk to their next-door neighbor. They don’t talk to people at work. We’ve insulated ourselves from the very people that we need. But when you get into any campground, nobody cares who you are. You’re just a person who wants to be outdoors, likes the elements, and likes to be with family and friends. And then within a few hours you know the people from the campsite to the right and you know the people on the left because they came by to say hello. You have this personal connection.”
When most people think of camping, they might imagine being in the great outdoors, hiking or fishing, or being close to animals. Indeed, that’s what was traditionally the focus when marketing products and services to campers. But research reveals that the social aspects of camping are of primary importance to people. What makes camping an enjoyable experience is being together with other campers, an activity that builds what we call a Fanocracy.
There’s something magical about sitting by a fire, telling stories with family, close friends, and new acquaintances. Camping places people together for longer lengths of time, and it connects people in unique ways.
“The whole nature of a campground is that you are social: you’re engaging, you’re gathered around the campfire at night, and you’re making friends from all over just because you happen to be at the same place,” Toby O’Rourke, president of Kampgrounds of America, Inc., told us when we connected with her. With more than five hundred locations, KOA is North America’s largest and most established system of campgrounds. “It’s not like when you go to a hotel where you don’t talk to the person in the lobby. At a campground you’re walking at night and you’re visiting with people. You’re sharing a beer or talking about the great new rig that they pulled up in, or playing with their dog, or sharing stories. As long as I’ve been here, we’ve talked about campgrounds as being some of the last small towns in America. It’s a very relaxing social environment.”
The ideas in Fanocracy include how you can build this kind of fandom for any business. It’s rooted in neuroscience because we humans are hardwired to want to be a part of a like-minded group.