Maligned Hallmarks Can Also Galvanize Fans
One of the many things that too many focus groups can do is eliminate the risk of failure. Especially when it comes to hallmarks (logos, traditions, etc) which a small minority of people might want to avoid because of the outcry that may follow. But the thing is, sometimes, those maligned hallmarks have the best impact on a fan base and actually bring them together.
The reasoning behind this is simple: While the fan base may not always enjoy the hallmark themselves, they begin to feel protective about it when outsiders begin to criticize.
It’s one thing for a person to criticize their own sibling, but quite another when an outsider does so. This is the same concept. Because it feels like an attack on the entire group. Enough that it generates passion for the hallmark, and almost a protective standard for the image.
The problem is, with so few chances to take risks, it actually avoids the opportunity to find a hallmark that offends the outside groups enough to make the affiliating group protective of it. This can be a double-edged sword, as the idea of avoiding risk actually prevents opportunities for the group to come together as one.
Take the Red Field at Eastern Washington University – we had a lot of people internally criticize the decision to lay it down. There were season ticket holders who said they would never attend another game because of the red turf. Then, a wave of criticism came from regional rivals such as the University of Montana and Montana State. As well as national and international press. All of that wave of criticism did was foster a protective shield around the talk fo the Red Turf by EWU fans. Once again, if you criticize our brother, our choices, you criticize us.
This type of scenario happens all of the time. Once there is a choice and a critical backlash, there is a backlash to the backlash. There is an idea that the criticism has gone too far, and isn’t fair, and that ends up making the maligned hallmark almost a good thing to the general consumer of the product, the fan base. It may not be the best thing, but it’s our thing.
It’s all about understanding whether the risk is worth it to take. If you have no fan base, but want to create one, the best way is by trying new things. And hopefully, the opposition will make it something that your fans feel is worth protecting.