Bandwagon Jumpers

by Ian Doescher


I don’t know about you, but I jump on passing bandwagons pretty quickly. Mostly the bandwagons I jump on are sports teams; I still have my Canada hockey jersey from when Canada won Olympic gold in 2010. Occasionally the bandwagons I jump on have to do with other popular things like songs or TV shows.

Right now, it’s the Portland Trailblazers. As of this article’s posting date, the Blazers are 3-1 in their playoff series against the Houston Rockets. It’s all Portlanders can talk about. We’re giddy, because we don’t have much in the way of professional sports in this town. When the Blazers are doing well, I start paying attention. I start reading the postgame summaries online, thinking about picking up incredibly expensive tickets for the next game on StubHub. There’s a reason people jump on bandwagons: it’s fun when your team is doing well, even if it only lasts for a while.

When people jump on a bandwagon, they will do things they wouldn’t normally do. I, for instance, bought an almost $200 ticket to a Blazers game when they were in the playoffs five years ago. When the Blazers were in the NBA Finals in the early 1990s, we all had our Blazers t-shirts. All of us. Even my wife Jennifer, who doesn’t like professional sports at all, had her Blazers shirt in the early 1990s.

What does it mean for your customers to jump on your bandwagon? When might that happen? Here are a few things about bandwagon jumping that I think translate to companies.

1. The dictionary definition of a bandwagon—other than being a vehicle that carries circus equipment—is something people follow because they think it will be successful. By definition, this means people jump on bandwagons because they see something positive happening. One of my least-favorite marketing tactics is fear-based marketing. People do not jump on bandwagons of fear. Yes, people react to fear—fear can lead to groupthink. But that’s different than jumping on a bandwagon, becoming a cheerleader. People might follow you if you scare them, but they won’t be promoters (to use the term Pivot’s research department uses). People jump on bandwagons because they want the same exciting, positive feeling they are seeing the successful person or team or company enjoy. I have happily joined the Jimmy Fallon bandwagon because he just looks like he is having so much fun in his job. He is creating positivity, and I want to be a part of that. Do positive things—whether it’s being active in your community, developing cool or innovative products, or just doing something fun and awesome—and people will jump on your bandwagon.

2. When people are jumping on the bandwagon, enjoy the momentum and reward their loyalty. Let’s say you come out with a new product—or even just a great ad campaign—and people see what you are doing, think you are awesome, and jump on your bandwagon. They sign up for your service, they buy your product, and you have the greatest quarter you’ve had in years. It’s time to celebrate!—but not just internally. Say thank you to your customers, tell them you noticed their enthusiasm and you appreciate it. The Blazers are known for having great fans (and yes, the Rose Garden—now the Moda Center—gets loud during games), as are the Seattle Seahawks with their “12th man,” and you’d better believe those teams reward their fans. Sports teams are experts at building relationships with their supporters. You can be, too. Maintain the enthusiasm people had when they signed on with you or bought your product by giving them incentives to remain enthused with your company. Give your Facebook likers a little something extra every now and then, and they will become your brand advocates.

3. Bandwagons don’t last forever. The Blazers—I hate to admit—may not win the Finals this year. In fact, the odds are they won’t even see the Finals. So I’ll enjoy the bandwagon ride while it lasts, and then I will move on to something else. When something positive and exciting happens with your company, it won’t last forever. Make sure you are taking advantage of the good times while they last and working on retaining your customers so the next time you are flying high you have more and more people who are proud to say that they have been with you for a long time. For example: I am a longtime, long-suffering Mariners fan. Their bandwagons are notoriously short (about 12 games this season, thanks guys). But you better believe that on that glorious day when the Mariners win the World Series, I will proudly stand up and proclaim myself a lifelong Mariners fan. Hopefully your company performs consistently better than the Mariners. But every day won’t be a high. You can’t win every season, not even if you’re the Yankees. So enjoy the good moments while they last, and treat your customers well so they stick with you through the losses.

For a person who isn’t that into sports, I just wrote more sports analogies than I have for the last 36 years. Blame it on my Blazers, who are on fire. At least for now. Then go out and create a bandwagon of your own. People will jump on, and all of you will enjoy the ride.

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