The most devoted fans of popular TV shows could be contribute to a rapid decline in audiences, according to a study in the Journal of Consumer Research.
America’s Next Top Model was well managed and had a very large and active fan base, yet the show experienced extensive audience fall off.
“We look at the influence that consumers — especially the most avid, attentive, and active fans — can play in destabilising a popular brand,” write authors Marie-Agnès Parmentier (HEC Montréal) and Eileen Fischer (York University).
America’s Next Top Model has seen a steady audience decline since 2009 even as the producers tried to re-engage fans by introducing new narratives, new judges and new types of contestants.
The authors found that brands can be thought of as assemblages made up of various elements such as cultural narratives (the notion of meritocracy), people (the cast, viewers), tangibles (studios, sets, clothing and makeup worn by participants), and technologies of distribution (websites where fans share their thoughts and reactions to each episode).
Fans of America’s Next Top Model engaged in three types of practices which can lead to a decrease in audience.
- Reframing is when fans decide new elements are incompatible with other parts of the brand.
- Remixing is when fans introduce new material that contradicts or undermines elements that the brand’s managers have assembled.
- Rejecting is when fans claim that elements introduced as replacements (new judges) are inferior.
“Ironically, fans may contribute to the destabilisation of a brand even as they are trying to help prevent this,’ the authors write.
“Avid fans often try to attract the attention of and help correct perceived missteps made by managers of a brand they have really enjoyed. While fans can be conducive to brand value creation or co-creation, they can equally contribute to value co-destruction.”
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