Annals of weird fandom: Erin Esurance? Really?

Posted by Rob Walker on February 15, 2008
Posted Under: Fandom,The People's Marketing

Through a series of clicks that started I’m not sure where, I ended up encountering this post, and this one, about what Esurance (which is an online insurance outfit of some kind) should do about the fans of its ad icon, a cartoon hottie named Erin.

The questions are the usual stuff about how Esurance should leverage the fandom. (“Find someone who can assume the persona of Erin Esurance and engage your clients with experiential marketing.”) But really, isn’t the more interesting question: What are these people thinking?

Are they really, truly fans of Erin Esurance? If so, what is the nature of that fandom, precisely? Is it just kind of kitschy? Or is this page of fan art from DeviantArt — I don’t have it in me to go through the process of seeing the blocked “mature” examples — an indicator? I’m not criticizing anybody here: If you want to draw pictures of an animated advertising mascot in her underwear, you know, that’s really your business.

But I admit I’m more curious about what motivates these fans than I am about what, if anything, Esurance ought to do about it.

Further diversion may be found at MKTG Tumblr, and the Consumed Facebook page.

Reader Comments

Rule #34 of the Internet: If it exists, there is porn of it.

I think this concept could be grouped under a larger heading: If it exists, there is fanfic for it. I think internet fandoms are just one of the current expressions of the human drive toward collaborative storytelling. As many creators know, it is often easier to create within an existing framework than to start with nothing but endless possibility. The human need to respond to incoming ideas builds upon whatever pop culture element is a compelling foundation for whichever creative individual. Add access to a forum where inspired individuals can share their work and connect with others, and you have a fandom — complete with fanfic (and fan art) and, without fail, porn.

#1 
Written By fontgoddess on February 16th, 2008 @ 2:57 am

Long time reader (way back to the newsletter days), first time commenter. I read the articles you linked but I don’t need to see the pics to believe it. I think this strange fandom makes a kind of sense. For one, Erin is an easily drawn, attractive, strong female character. It’s easy to write your own story around the commercials because they are so short and so pointless themselves. You’ve got a woman, in charge, giving orders and kicking ass, with a throaty voice and all in 30 or 45 seconds. I’d be more curious to see first how many of these fans of the character are actually fans of the insurance. It may not be kitsch exactly, but I think this brand may suffer a backlash when they realize that people love the character but could care less about the product. Yes, the wrapping paper is nice and colorful and animated, but look inside the box, people!
That’s all I got. Keep up the great work.

#2 
Written By kevin on February 16th, 2008 @ 6:12 am

Kevin, welcome, and you’re 1 for 1 on good comments. I think you’re quite right that the connection between Erin and the insurance brand is pretty close to arbitrary for most of these, uh, fans.

And fontgoddess, I see your point. But I still think it’s weird. Not as weird as, say, murketing.com fanfic might be. But weird.

#3 
Written By Rob Walker on February 18th, 2008 @ 12:16 pm

Yeah, it’s kinda weird. But not as weird as Thomas the Tank Engine slashfic. *shudder*

Another hypotheses on fanfic just showed up on BoingBoing:
http://www.boingboing.net/2008/02/18/steven-brusts-unauth.html

I like Cory’s thoughts about this, and his theories would cover any creative fandom. It also explains stuff like “FixFic”.
[BTW: TVTropes.org is a lot of fun, look around a bit while you're there.]

#4 
Written By fontgoddess on February 18th, 2008 @ 2:15 pm