09.26.2018

Nerds? Superfans, gamers, devotees, disciples… and finding the way to their hearts

by Rich Gallagher

Sofia Vergara and Cobie Smulder’s husbands play Dungeons & Dragons together. And are more than happy to post about it on Instagram, to the delight of hundreds of thousands of fans. Not that long ago, Superman pajamas and 12-sided dice were exclusively reserved for The Bullied and Meek… and now, a contender for People’s “Sexiest Man Alive” is PLEADING with a late night host to validate his nerd cred. What a time to be alive!

The fact is, nerds aren’t what they used to be. In our first-ever consumer survey, we at Resound sought to understand more about the relationship between this most passionate group of consumers and the brands we (yup! We’re nerds too!) love. We canvassed a diverse cross-section of 1,000 US consumers, with the help of partner Pollfish.

We’ve seen the lines blurring between obsessive fandom and the mainstream for some time. Just a few months ago, Resound helped gaming PC brand NZXT build partnerships with professional athletes like NFL draftee (and now Indianapolis Colt) Nyheim Hines – the first gaming-based endorsement announced ahead of the NFL draft. As I write this, we’re in the middle of an exciting project infusing the lore of The Kraken Rum with sci-fi and fantasy elements, and an assist from The Walking Dead’s Tom Payne. But are they signals of a larger, lasting shift?

MORE ZOMBIES, FEWER Z-ROUTES

More than anything else, our survey drives home the fact that a healthy majority of consumers (67%) are spending more time on “nerdy” fare like binge-worthy TV shows than they are watching sports (30%). In a signal to a seismic shift in behavior (and heavy misallocation of ad dollars), watching sports is only the fourth most popular leisure activity, behind reading books and playing video games. It will be interesting to see how eSports, with relatable athletes, affect this trend. At the same time, more traditional sports leagues should look to embrace the fun, nerdy side of their athletes to better connect with the audience. Expect to see a Fortnite dance or two in the Super Bowl this year!

NO CORD IS SAFE

Streaming entertainment services and cord-cutting are radically redefining broadcast, and the most dedicated fans among us are heavily contributing. 66% of respondents get their video content primarily from streaming services, with just over 50% factoring in cable TV as a source. It’s a gap that will widen in the coming years, as cable TV usage fell to under 45% for respondents under the age of 34. Interestingly, nerds within ethnic minority populations are almost twice as likely to watch video content via a PC, tablet, or video game console than white respondents.

THE DARK KNIGHT, THE GOD OF THUNDER, AND RDJ

Clearly, the gender gap for fandom has closed, for all intents and purposes. All genders are  watching Walking Dead, Game of Thrones, and Stranger Things in equal shares. And when they go to the movies, over a third of us are on board with Robert Downey Jr.’s witty, acerbic Iron Man. But guys put the dark and brooding Christian Bale as a strong #2, and accessible galactic funnyman Chris Pratt as #3. Women elevate Starlord a bit, and #3 with a bullet is the Asgardian with a fine… eyepatch; Chris Hemsworth’s Thor.

Most retailers are well on their way to phasing out their “boys’ toys” and “girls’ toys section.” The old standbys like gender, ethnicity, and age are increasingly risky ways to segment and target an audience.

On the other hand, passion points — or the stuff we nerd out about — tug at the heartstrings of an organically diverse group of consumers. Will the reveal of a new Captain Marvel trailer at New York Comicon, and the live social media chatter accompanying it, create an ample channel to reach nostalgic baby boomers that grew up reading the character? Or hopeful young women that identify with the character? Or parents of young children, that have never even heard of Carol Danvers? The answer to all three is ‘yes.’  

IT’S OUR WORD, NERDS!

According to a representative cross-section of 1,000 people, we’re ALL superfans now. The vast majority of men and women, of all ages and colors, are checking out between two and six movies a year starring a superhero. Over 56% can even name the secret identity of the superhero, played by their favorite actor. But a scant 34% would actually refer to themselves as nerds.

This came as a surprise, because the popularity of content channels like Geek and Sundry and Nerdist would suggest that the term has largely been taken back as a term of endearment. It’s never been a better time to be a nerd, so stand up and be proud!

To see the full results of our survey and discuss how our team can help your brand authentically connect to the most diverse, passionate audience of fans available, please reach out here: julia@resoundmarketing.com.