Phish "phans" and how data informs marketers
Jim Johnson
September 26, 2017

Data is the air that marketers breathe, yet it’s not always clear how to approach it. What data should I be using? How can I make all my data fit together? What types of audiences and segments do I need to reach the right consumers? These are just some of the questions on the minds of marketers.

Data is practically infinite in this industry, so the challenge is to break it down into usable nuggets.

For example, marketers can better offer some value exchange to their potential customers in the form of personalized messaging in the right contexts by using lifestyle data based on consumers’ passion points and content consumption, thus eliminating ad waste and generating customer loyalty and affinity.

Sounds great, right? But what does that mean? Here's a case study about fans of the band Phish and how data about them can inform marketers on how to best reach this subset:

The "Baker's Dozen" tour and event-based data collection

Especially in light of the fact that this past summer,Phish embarked on a historic series of concerts called “Baker’s Dozen,” which included 13 shows at Madison Square Garden, 237 songs (without any repeats) and more than 2,000 minutes of music.

Phish “phans” behavior and preferences during the show series shed an interesting light on the types of insights marketers can uncover from a particular set of people convening around a particular event.

Just like the flavors of each donut passed out on each night of the Baker’s Dozen, Phish phans are truly a unique bunch. To understand this group better, we analyzed anonymous internet users interested in the band during the month of July 2017 and uncovered some expected behaviors and some surprises.

  • Demographics: Anyone who has waited in the restroom lines at Madison Square Garden knows that the band’s followers tend to skew male, and data confirms that Phish “phans” are about 25% more likely to be male than female. In terms of age, we see the highest lift for interest in Phish from internet users aged 36-40, which sounds about right for those coming into fandom during the height of Phish’s popularity during the mid to late 90s.
  • Preferences: Our data shows that Phish phans are 17x more likely to be interested in rock music than the average internet user and 13x more interested in jazz.
  • Geography: With its roots as a band in Vermont and many early shows across New England, it’s also no surprise we see strong interest in the band from folks living in places such as Portland, Maine, Boston, Massachusetts, and their home state of Vermont. But we also see interest in the band from residents of Wisconsin, Colorado, and Nevada.
  • Lifestyle: What do Phish phans like to buy? Considering many now have children, we see a 14x lift over average for electronics related to children’s learning and education, as well as 13x lift for bikes and skates. Many Phish phans have also been known to be musicians themselves, as evidenced by an 11x lift in guitars and other musical instruments. They also like to shop for art and collectibles as well as flowers and gifts. Finally, we see a 17x lift for home improvement related to the garage and a 13x lift for griddles and grills to cook grilled cheese on the lot, or a feast at home for the family.
  • Brand preferences: In terms of affinities for specific auto brands, their favorite vehicle to road trip with is Subaru, which is a brand known for its Outback, Forrester and Crosstrek, all vehicles equipped with the versatility and ability to deal with any kind of weather and terrain. This coincides with another interest of camping and hiking, which Phish phans are 15x more likely to do than the average.
  • Travel: Traveling to family friendly destinations such as Universal Studios in Orlando, FL was also high on the list with a 12x lift. Phish phans also go on excursions, music and arts festivals (27x) international trips to places such as Australia and Iceland (15x and 12x, respectively), and proactively booking snowboarding trips to mountain resorts (23x).
  • Sports: Sports preferences are also telling. Phish phans prefer MLB teams such as the Washington Nationals (70x, possibly some carry over fandom from the “Wilson” chant for their former catcher Wilson Ramos?) Cincinnati Reds (15x) and Boston Red Sox (11x), along with the rest of the AL East (9x).

Like any other consumer segmentation, taking into account the human element is the key to bringing data to life. By learning more about Phish phans and their preferences, marketers can move beyond the surface level of “music lover” segmentation into microsegments based on their passion points of jazz music, Subaru vehicles, children’s learning tools, adventure travel and New England roots.

This example demonstrates how diving deep into your customer's profile and interests can help guide smarter and more effective marketing. Knowing who your audience is marks the first step to success in this age of personalization.

Jim Johnson is the vice president of account planning at Exponential Interactive.