Turn on the Hub, and you’re likely to recognize a number of properties that were important in your own youth. My Little Ponies: Friendship is Magic is just one of the old-school toys that’s received a refresh from Hasbro’s “The Hub” TV network. And while every cohort of little girls seems to love ponies, kids and tweens aren’t solely responsible for this show’s popularity. Meet the “Bronies.”
According to urbandictionary.com, “Bronies” was coined on 4chan's /co/ board as a term used to describe the mainly teenage and older, often male fans of My Little Ponies: Friendship is Magic. 4chan provides the following sample dialogue between Bronies:
Brony A: “Dude, just finished watching the first season from MLP:FiM!”
Brony B: “Cool! So who do you think is the best pony?”
Brony A mentions the pony they think is best. Brony B agrees and exclaims: “Brohoof!” The “Bronies Brohoof” is similar to a high five.
These superfans have their own signature MO, interrupting conversations on message boards in an attempt to change the conversation to one about unicorns and pink horses. But according to Angela Watercutter of Wired, this type of affinity might be more sincere than subversive. Watercutter coined the term “neo-sincerity” back in 2010 to describe a shift away from seeing irony in everything to sincerely appreciating the sentimental.
So what’s a youth brand to do with these vocal superfans, especially those whose fandom might be interpreted as bad behavior (or at least an unwelcomed annoyance) by some?
- First, say thank you. It might make sense to be suspicious of the taste of superfans, but in most cases, they’re responding to something that seems authentic, complex and unique in your property. Find out what they appreciate and see if it helps you understand the specifics behind your success.
- Second, keep your eye on the prize. Superfans often relish in a sense of discovery; your primary target or audience might expect you to speak more directly to them. Superfans might provide some insight and inspiration, but don’t let them silence your main target.
- Finally, have fun! It’s okay to acknowledge these superfans and to build on the buzz that their unconventional attention garners for your brand, product or property.