Monday, November 2, 2015

Bandwagon fans: love 'em or hate 'em

Bandwagon fans. The words leave an unpleasant taste in many a fan’s mouth. Bandwagoning is a particular activity or cause that has suddenly become fashionable or popular. A bandwagon fan is someone who follows that trend whether it is a sports team, fashion, music, movies or other entertainment, because it has been or is the popular choice. However, if or when the trend falls or is no longer the popular choice, he or she will gleefully jump to the next trend. There is a psychological theory which explains the bandwagon effect. The Bandwagon effect is when individuals will do something primarily because others are doing it, regardless of their own beliefs which will be ignored or overridden. This theory is applied in advertisements to influence consumer behavior. Bandwagoning is similar to herd or mob mentality. There are three types of bandwagoners which everyone is guilty of at some point in their lives and possibly without realizing it.

First, “The Follower.” the person who simply follows the crowd as what clothes to wear, what sport or team to follow, what music to listen to, what books to read, what television shows to watch and on and on based on what friends or celebrities are doing. When I was in junior high, it was popular to have a favorite Looney Tunes character. Everyone liked Taz or Tweety Bird, I chose Marvin the Martian. I think I chose him because no one else did. Even though I still like Marvin, I chose him on a whim because it was popular to like a character from the cartoon. Same thing happened in high school, when Winnie the Pooh was the popular cartoon to have a favorite character. Again, while everyone chose either Winnie the Pooh or Tigger, I chose Eeyore for the same reasons I chose Marvin.

Second, “The Hot and Cold Fan” is a fan who jumps on and off the trend depending on how well it is doing, specifically a sports team. When the team is winning and on a hot streak, this person will cheer, boast how the team is the best and “We’re #1!” But when the team takes a bad turn and starts losing, this person will take it very personally and start criticizing the team and say “They are the worst.” I see it with fans of certain teams. When the team is hot and winning, the fans are everywhere and in your face about how their team is winning and yours may not be. But when the team is losing or having a bad season, the fans are suddenly quiet. The flags on cars are gone and posts to social media stop. They usually disappear until the team gets on a winning streak again.

Third, “Lifelong Fan,” the bandwagon fan who becomes a lifelong fan. All fans start somewhere. Whether it’s a family tradition to follow a certain sport or team or they are introduced to new music by a friend, someone started somewhere. In many areas, I am a lifelong fan who began as a bandwagon fan. For instance, I haven’t always been a Kansas City Chiefs fan or really a football fan in general. In 2003, I met a friend who introduced me to football and the Chiefs. I, then, chose the team as the one I would follow. I remain a fan to this day even though that friendship has ended. The Chiefs have been a hot and cold team for many years but I remain a fan. I may not know the entire history of the team or know the stats of every player but I cheer them on win or lose.

On its face, bandwagoning should be avoided. However, we are social creatures who are influenced by those around us. Some influences are bad but some influences are good and can open your world to a different experiences. We long to a group with common interests. Some people follow what is popular simply to fit in and some discover they like an activity and become a part of the group.  I think most people dislike bandwagoners because some people come in and try to speak with knowledge and authority that they don’t have. If you are new to a trend, acknowledge that you are and that you are still learning the history of a team or the story of a movie franchise, and so on. The lifelong fans will appreciate the honesty and even help you learn the information you need.