By Bryan Wish
David Meerman Scott is an internationally acclaimed business strategist, keynote speaker, and advisor, as well as the best-selling author of books like Fanocracy: Turning Fans into Customers and Customers into Fans; The New Rules of Marketing & PR, and Marketing Lessons from the Grateful Dead. Since 2002, David’s books have been featured in notable publications like the Wall Street Journal and BusinessWeek, and have sold over a million copies in 29 languages. David’s collection of artifacts from the Apollo lunar program is said to be one of the best in the world, and his book Marketing the Moon was the inspiration for Robert Stone’s three-part PBS/American Experience documentary titled Chasing The Moon, which was released in July 2019 at the time of the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11.
Pre-pandemic, David delivered keynote speeches at in-person conferences and company meetings all over the world. Now, David has found a new niche by focusing on virtual events. Along with speaking, David serves as an advisor and investor in emerging companies that are transforming their industries by delivering disruptive products and services. In his role as a marketing professional, David realizes that new Web tools and techniques all have in common that together they are the best way to communicate directly with your marketplace, and has used this principle to achieve success marketing across emerging social media platforms. Never a stranger to radical ideas, David has built his career by pursuing his interests and living life to the fullest.
Bryan Wish: David, welcome to the One Away show.
David Meerman Scott: Hey, thanks, Bryan. Good to be here.
Bryan Wish: Yeah, it’s a pleasure having you here and being, I really enjoyed your work and just your background that you come from and it’s an honor. So let’s dive in David. What’s the One Away moment that you want to share with us today?
David Meerman Scott: Yeah, so I was working on my 11th book and I decided to write a book about fandom and I was working hard on it. And I was thinking to myself, gee, it’d be really cool to get the perspective of a younger person and fandom. I’m in my early 60s, I’m a man, and I wanted to get someone who was younger, perhaps a woman. So I kept bugging my daughter Reiko as I was doing the research for a book about fandom. And I’m like, what are you a fan of? What’s interesting to you? How would a millennial react to that? I was bugging her with all these questions and then the moment was, well, gosh, it was like a light book goes off, I should write this book with her.
And so I thought about it for 24 hours before I broke the subject with her. And I said, “Hey, Reiko, I’m writing this book.” And she knew that, of course, cause I’ve been bugging her about for the research. And I said, “How would you feel to write a book together?” And then there was dead silence and she’s like, “Tell me how that would work?” And I said, “I don’t know how that would work. We’d have to figure it out.” And it took her a couple of moments, but she agreed and we embarked on a project together to write a book about fandom.
Bryan Wish: Wow. What a meaningful experience between a father and a daughter? I’m curious, just for the audience’s sake, how old is she?
David Meerman Scott: When we started this project, which was about six years ago, she was 22 years old and was just entering medical school. The project itself took about four years and then the book published in the very beginning of 2020. And interestingly about a couple of months after it published, she graduated from medical school and is currently an emergency room doctor at Boston Medical Center doing her residency. So what’s interesting about the arc of our experience is that when she started, she was just entering med school and now she’s actually a doctor. And what’s super cool about having done this with her is that unique perspectives that each of us bring, you’ve got to an early 60s white male who loves the Grateful Dead, and a mid 20s woman who’s mixed-race who loves K-pop.
And so we had lots of things that we enjoyed that were similar. We both like live music, but many things that were utterly different. And her being a doctor utterly different, being into K-pop utterly different, the experience of what it’s like to be a mixed-race millennial woman utterly different. And so that just lended itself to be such a great experience I think for both of us and also made the book better.
Bryan Wish: Totally, I’m sure. The perspective she could bring into the work was profound. I’m curious, this question works both ways so I’d love for you to maybe answer it for her. What do you think she learned the most about you as a person in this process? And what do you think you learned the most about her through this process?
David Meerman Scott: What was interesting was that we had to shed very quickly the father daughter dynamic, it wasn’t going to work as a hierarchical relationship. Yes, I’m the father but I couldn’t be the boss. So I think what we both learned is that we could be true partners and I think I can speak to her on this subject. We both could be true 50/50 partners on this project. And I had to learn to be able to realize that in some cases, as we were writing and researching this book, her ideas were better than mine.
And she had to learn throughout the process that there are some cases where, what I was doing wasn’t the right approach. And she had to be strong enough as a person to say, daddy, you’re full of shit, that’s not how we should do it. We should change and we should do it a different way. And I think it took us a little bit of time to get there. But eventually we did get to the point where we approached it as full partners. And I would give her, for example, a section of the book that I wrote for her to read and comment on and she had no problem marking it up and telling me what sucked. And so I think that that allowed us to grow as a father daughter team. But also, I would say if I can be so bold, to move from a parent child relationship to a relationship that was based as two adults.
Bryan Wish: Yeah, absolutely. That’s powerful. You could create a let’s just a culture of constructive conflict in the dynamic that just from a power perspective, you’re the provider in certain ways or the father and that comes with its own things. But giving her that ability to speak up and kind of put your thoughts in place for the overall collective performance and impact of the work itself.
David Meerman Scott: Yeah. No, that’s absolutely right. And we both had to realize that this was a project that if we did a good job would benefit both of us. It wasn’t me asking her to help me rake the leaves outside. It was like, hey, if we do a good job with this there’s benefits for both of us. And there’s financial benefits because we shared in the royalties of the book and there’s intangible benefits as well. And not to give you the punchline ahead of time, but I will, the book came out and it made The Wall Street Journal bestseller list. And that was a tremendous accomplishment that we could both share equally as the co-authors of the book. And I had the honor of actually calling her on the phone because I was reading The Wall Street Journal on the week it came out or the week after it came out. And we learned that we hit The Wall Street Journal bestseller list.
And so I texted her and I said… I didn’t know if she was up yet, it was pretty early in the morning. And I said, when you’re up and you’ve had your cup of tea, text me back, I’m going to call you. Which she did and I said, hey, just wanted to let you know that… And the book is called Fanocracy, that Fanocracy is a Wall Street Journal bestseller. And then there was silence on the other of the phone. And she’s like, what, what, me a best selling author? That’s crazy. And so the idea that if we did a good job, we could share in something. If we worked together as a team, we’re going to achieve more than if I was dictating everything, actually worked out really well. Because in the end, the book has done and continues to do very well.
Bryan Wish: Yeah, wow. When you were able to call and tell her that, how did that make you feel?
David Meerman Scott: Oh, it was one of the best phone calls I’ve ever made. It was just a really unique kind of experience to be able to share. And I was really lucky as well, because at the time I was together with my wife and we were actually traveling, we were on the road. I was speaking at a Tony Robbins event and my wife came with me. And that day, I think I was going to go on the stage at a Tony Robbins event, which I speak at on a regular basis. So my wife and I were together in the same hotel room, and we did the call on speaker phone so the three of us could share the experience. And I think that it better, we only have one child so we’ve got a pretty good three person team going on
Although my wife did not have a role in the creation of the book, it was still nice to be able to have her share it. And yeah, it was the culmination of a lot of hard work. Writing a book is really hard work, marketing a book is really hard work. I think we did over 150 podcasts to promote the book. She wasn’t on all of them, but she was on some. We did speeches to promote the book, she and I spoke together on the stage a number of times. So there are many things that we did together that we had never done together. We’d never been on a podcast together, we had never done a video together, we had never done a speech in front of a live audience. This was pre-COVID before and all of those things were new experiences for us to share together.
Bryan Wish: Yeah. What a special way to build a bond or further a bond, right? With one of your own, and also give her a stage and a platform and a pedestal to rise up on. And I’m sure it’s pretty neat for her with her work medical space to share, right? She’s not just her room job, but she has these extensions of her that are very cool experiences.
David Meerman Scott: Yeah. And I would imagine over time that that will benefit her in many different ways as she’s growing in her field that she’s chosen to do, medicine. She’s actually an emergency room doctor. She’s not just a doctor, she’s a Wall Street Journal bestselling author who’s a doctor. It’s super cool.
Bryan Wish: Right, absolutely. Now, Dan, I would love… You said you worked on this for about four or five years and before you’re able to turn it into publishable text. During that four or five year period, I think you said four, but I’m being safe here, during that four year period, do any memories or stories stick out to you as maybe inflection points or catalyst moments that you and her would both look at and say, wow, that was a turning point for us in the way the book turned out? Or the way we were able to move forward in our partnership together? I’m just curious if anything jumps at you.
David Meerman Scott: Yeah, there’s one thing in particular that was really interesting. And yeah, it was about four years, but a number of different elements of the four years. The first was my initial research where I hadn’t yet to invite her to become part of the project, that was the beginning. Then when I invited her to become part of the project and we were researching, then we were writing. And then we were trying to find the right publisher for the book. Then when the book was accepted, we had to revise the manuscript and then it takes publisher six months for the book to come out. So a number of different elements of the four year process. But there was one point in particular that was very, very interesting. When we first started writing, so early on in the process, we first started to write. We were writing where she would start writing something and I would edit it, or I would start writing something and she would edit it.
And we were creating a manuscript in one voice. So it was a book with two authors, but one voice. And we were finding that this approach had challenges because she had a certain writing style and viewpoint and outlook and things that she was a fan of. I as well had certain things that I enjoyed and that I was bringing into the book and my life experience and my writing style. And it was proving to be really difficult for us to write in the collective, we, putting it together in a way that it was one voice. And so we both recognized that this was proving to be a problem. And we finally realized that we had to completely redo the book, like basically toss away what we’d already done. And what we chose to do instead was to write each individual chapter ourselves in our own voice.
And actually say that chapter one… Well, chapter one was different. Chapter one was very short, was by David and Reiko. But chapter two was by David, chapter three was by Reiko and so on.
Bryan Wish: Oh, how cool.
David Meerman Scott: We actually created a byline for each actor. So people knew instantly who was writing each of those chapters. And that allowed us to bring our own writing style, our own voice, our own stories, our own experience into the book in a way that made it way better because people could experience that, yes, I understand who Reiko is, I can feel her voice coming through. I understand who David is, I can feel his voice coming through. And then after we got the publishing deal and we went with Penguin Random House, one of the largest publishing houses in the world for the book. When that happened, when we started to work on the audiobook, we realized that we were going to both read the audiobook version.
So she read her chapters and I read my chapters and that also made, of course, our individual voices come through because it was literally our individual voices. And I think that that was a very major inflection point that made the book better was that realization that even though we were co-authors on a book, we still needed to make sure that our individual voices were heard.
Bryan Wish: Wow. I’m just thinking about traditional books, right? They are very much written through the vein of one voice, one message. And that’s what we’re accustomed to, but giving each other your own space to have a voice in the message within really empowering and also unique, right, for the reader who isn’t used to that style. And so I think that’s incredible and also really appreciate just the differentiation around how you guys found your way to that endpoint.
David Meerman Scott: It made it for a really great project in many ways, because yeah, we were co-authors and we were writing about the same subject, but she was able to bring things to the story that I could never, ever, ever, ever bring. I don’t have-
I don’t have the experience as a millennial woman so I’ll give you one example. When she was going through medical school… Actually, prior to medical school, when she was doing her undergraduate work, she went to Columbia University and studied among other things, narrative medicine as a pre-med student. So narrative medicine came out of Columbia University. It’s the idea that the best medicine is when the healthcare professionals understand the patient’s underlying story.
And that underlying story helps them to be able to provide better patient outcomes than simply looking at symptoms. Most Western medicine, a patient comes into the doctor or the hospital and they take vital signs and they say what’s wrong. And they take your temperature and your blood pressure or whatever, and then they prescribe some medication or whatever they do.
Narrative medicine is understanding the entire person’s story. So she tells, and this story actually is in the book and I think it’s super interesting where she, Reiko, was working with a patient. And she had a lot of time on her hands because she was simply an undergraduate pre-med student. She was not a doctor, but she was spending time in a hospital. And she was interviewing a patient who had a bad for form of cancer and was going to be passing away at some point in the next year or two. So it was a tough discussion, but Reiko didn’t ask him about cancer, didn’t ask him about his symptoms, didn’t ask him about how he was feeling. Instead she said, what are the things that you love to do? And then he ended up talking about how he loves to create art.
He was not a professional artist, but that was his love. He loved to create sculpture and sculpture was his thing. And then they got around to talking about the health issues and he admitted to her, he said, as long as I can do my art, I want to continue to live. As soon as I can no longer do my art, then I’m ready to pass on. And to Reiko as a future doctor, that was incredibly enlightening because the only way she could get to that was by understanding the patient’s story.
And by understanding the patient’s story, which is at the heart of narrative medicine, she was able to then realize that this particular patient had a very particular criteria for how they wanted to be treated. And it was all about making sure that he could do art as long as possible, but once that was no longer possible, he was ready for the next stage of his existence. And she wrote about that story in one of the chapters about narrative. Because again, this book is about fandom, but as you’re developing fans, understanding your customers, understanding the people you’re trying to reach. In your case, Bryan, understanding your listeners is more important than sometimes than the product you’re offering to them. And this idea of narrative became really interesting.
Bryan Wish: Yeah, wow. Chills, it is so neat that Columbia has a program like that. Not surprised, but very neat. And not only because, but I’ve done a lot of work just around my health learning. And so much of our external pain or manifestations or diseases come from a lot of our past events in some ways, right? So whether it’s a terminal illness or something that can be maybe more handled, right? Understanding the root cause and not treating with topical symptoms. I was such a believer in the holistic approach and getting the qualitative story around and the insights around how that may have developed.
So, it’d be fascinating to just ask her questions, but really, really appreciate the story here and how that came to be and the tangent. So let’s give some space or airtime to the book itself. And after talking about the relationship you’ve built with your daughter and how you created it, tell us a little bit about the book. Tell us about what you learned about fandom writing it. And some of the ways that you’ve seen it have an impact on the audience that you’ve shared it with.
David Meerman Scott: So we really dug in deep into fandom. It hadn’t really been done before in book forum and really wanted to understand how and why people become a fan of something. We interviewed hundreds and hundreds of people about what they’re a fan of. A sports team they’re a fan of, a rock band they’re a fan of, they’re fan of camping or skiing or they’re a fan of gardening or bird watching or a particular author, whatever it is, people are fans of different things. There’s people who are fans of software companies, there’s people who are fans of all kinds of different things. And we want to look at what’s the root of fandom. And we dug into the neuroscience aspect of fandom, which was really interesting. And again, Reiko being a doctor at the time, she had just started med school, at the time that we were doing the research. But far enough along that we wanted to look at, if we could find any underlying factors.
And in fact, we did. It turns out that all humans, you and me and everybody listening in, all of us are hardwired to want to be part of a tribe of like-minded people. Because when we’re a part of a tribe of like-minded people, we’re safe and we’re comfortable and secure. And then that actually is rooted in neuroscience and goes back tens of thousands of years in human history. Because when you were with your group of people, you’re safe and comfortable. When you’re not with your group and you’re alone, you’re vulnerable. And if you meet a group of other people who are not part of your tribe, that can be a dangerous situation. And that’s still true today, if you walk into a room and your friends are in the room, you feel great.
If you walk into a crowded subway car, for example, you feel a little bit vulnerable. And so that was really, really interesting and informed a lot of the ideas around fandom, is how can you understand your business to develop fans? If that’s your goal, to develop fans, from the perspective of building a tribe of like-minded people. So that was particularly interesting. And we looked at a number of different ways that people build fans and looked at stories around fandom. And as we talked with people about this idea, a lot of people would make excuses to us and they’d say, oh, I can’t build fans because I’m in the XYZ business, I’m a doctor, I’m a lawyer, I’m a software company, I have a commodity, product, whatever it is. So we really wanted to find examples of all sorts of companies that have developed fans.
And one of my favorite examples from the book is an automobile insurance company. And when I do my speeches, although there haven’t been many in-person speaking gigs during the pandemic, but I did do some talks prior to the pandemic, right after the book came out in early 2020. I would say, “Put up your hands if you’re a fan of your automobile insurance company,” and almost nobody would. Nobody likes insurance. And in fact, I found an auto insurance company that has millions of fans. They’re called Hagerty insurance. And they specialize in classic car auto insurance. And what they did, I interviewed the CEO of the company McKeel Hagerty about four years ago for the book. And he said, “David, we have built our entire company on building fans. We don’t have products, we don’t have services. We build fans of our company.”
So what do they do? They go to classic car auto shows and provide free information to people about classic cars. They have a website where you can find valuations of thousands and thousands of different makes and models of classic cars. And because Hagerty insures so many classic cars, these are real valuations of how much people have insured their cars for what valuations. They have a YouTube channel with well over a million subscribers. They have a driver’s club with over 650,000 members. And these ways of building fans are come completely different than the way that other automobile insurance companies do business. And most of them are just buying TV ads.
And so Hagerty quickly became the number one classic car auto insurance company in the world. And super interesting to me is as we’re recording this episode, last week Hagerty went public on the stock exchange. And I interviewed McKeel Hagerty four years ago, and he’s like, “David, we’re building this business based on fandom.” McKeel told me everyone hates auto insurance so I can’t market the way everybody else does. I need to build fans. And how cool is it that four years later, the ideas that are part of this book, Fanocracy that we wrote, have allowed this company to achieve such success that it just went public on the stock market.
Bryan Wish: Yeah, it’s very special. And from everything you said, it took a long term approach with people versus a short term approach with paid ads, right? And the underlying ways they did that, right, through the free information, the YouTube, the classic car evaluation site, or just a value first company taking maybe a Adam Grant approach here, give first type of model and to the people. So what I want to ask is underneath, right, all these interviews that you did, and maybe I’m sure there were a ton of common, right, between what it takes to actually build fans within an organization or within a sports team. What did you find as maybe some of the consistent overlapping criteria for someone who wants to say, I want to go out and build a like-minded tribe? What are the ingredients to make that possible?
David Meerman Scott: Well, there’s a number of different ingredients and we wrote about a number of them in the book. But underlying much of it is it’s not about selling products and services, it’s about creating that tribe of people. And there’s many different ways to create the tribe of people. And many of them are pretty easy to do. Like for example, this is one of a bunch of different ideas that we suggest, but one of them is to give gifts to people with no expectation of anything in return. And by gifts I don’t mean wrapping up a present and giving a gift. In the case of Hagerty, they have a YouTube channel, which is free, that’s a gift to potential customers, as well as existing customers. Hagerty also has classic car valuations, that’s a gift they’re giving with no expectation of anything in return.
And that’s the key, no expectation of anything in return. A lot of people, for example, do the opposite. For example, on their website, they say, okay, we’re going to give you a free white paper or a free ebook or a video or whatever it is, but they make you register to be able to get that content. So that’s the opposite. That is a coercion technique, giving a so called free report that people have to register for is not free. What you’re getting instead of money is you’re getting somebody’s personal information. And what we learned is that giving a gift with no expectation of anything in return is way better. And one of the examples we wrote about which I love is Duracell batteries. So again, I mentioned earlier that a lot of times people say to me, well, my business can’t build fans because, and they make an excuse why they can’t build fans.
And Hagerty insurance, I mean, automobile insurance, everyone hates automobile insurance. How can we build fans? Well, Hagerty did. Batteries are a commodity and people will often say to me I can’t build fans because I have a commodity product, but Duracell has a program called PowerForward, which is super interesting. What they do is they provide free batteries to people who are the victims of natural disasters where the power has gone out to their homes.
So hurricanes, floods, tornadoes, snow storms, things like that that cause a long term power outage, a day or two or more, Hagerty will send out, they have a fleet of trucks in the PowerForward program and send the fleet of trucks to the people who are these victims of the natural disasters. And give them free batteries with no expectation of anything in return. You don’t have to register, you don’t have to give your name, you don’t have to give your phone number, they just literally park their truck and hand out batteries to people. You don’t even have to demonstrate a need for the batteries. So people people have a flashlight and they realize that they don’t have any batteries for the flashlight. Last time they used, it was two years ago and the batteries are dead. All of a sudden they’ve got the batteries for the flashlight.
They’ve given away over 10 million batteries to people who have these needs and you go to their Facebook and they have six million fans on Facebook. And many of those people are fans of the PowerForward program. And we interviewed Ramon Velutini who is the vice president of marketing at Duracell. And he said, David, this is the best program we do. It’s way better than anything else we do because every one of those fans who was given a free package of batteries will remember that. And they’ll share with their family sometimes, sometimes they’ll share with their friends, sometimes they’ll share on social media. And the next time they need to buy batteries, they will remember that Duracell were the company that gave them batteries when they were in need. And they may even buy our batteries if they cost a little bit more than the cheap brand. So while we came up with a number of different ways that people can become fans, one of them is giving gifts with no expectation of anything in return.
Bryan Wish: Wow. What lessons in not transacting a piece of value, whether monetarily, personal information, right? And just showing up for the people and doing it in a way that’s going to serve them and most wholehearted way and just serve them. So thanks for sharing the examples on the website and also with Duracell and everything you learned from the book. David, this has been such a great experience interviewing you, meeting you digitally for the first time. Where can people find the book? Where can people find you? Where can the people check out everything you do?
David Meerman Scott: Thanks, Bryan, it’s been really fun for me too. So we have a great website for the book @fanocracy.com. So go to www.fanocracy.com, there’s a bunch of information you can get there. It’s free, you can see some videos and whatnot from there. You can also find my social media, I’m David Meerman Scott, I’m the only one on the planet. So if you Google my name, you’ll find me. On most of the socials I am DM Scott, D-M S-C-O-T-T.
Bryan Wish: Thank you. Well, best luck to you and excited to watch your journey unfold from here.
David Meerman Scott: Thanks.
This post was previously published on BW Missions.
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