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The Culture of Fandom


This case study has been abridged to maintain client confidentiality. 

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Project Overview

Helping a global Fortune 500 client understand how to leverage their existing services to support different facets of fan community and culture.

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Fortune 500 company, streaming services department

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78 in-depth interviews across 13 countries 

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Incorporated findings into product roadmap and won executive approval for following development stages

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Role: Lead Researcher

Plan and execute all research, product artifacts, lead moderator, client liaison, project management

Client Context 

Our client was a Fortune 500 tech company with experience and services in nearly every industry. For this project I was specifically working with the streaming services department. My primary stakeholder was a fellow UX researcher on the client team and the research would be supporting designers, engineers, and especially, PMs.  

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Business Challenge

Our client needed to find ways to address their declining customer retention and differentiate their offering within a crowded streaming space.Our goal was to: 


Understand how the culture of fandom develops within music communities and among individual fans.


Identify how to leverage existing services to support fan culture and community.


Inform product strategy and design

Research Questions

We outlined our research questions in a collaborative process with our client at the start of our project. 

What is the culture of an online fan community and how does culture develop among fans in an online community?

How do the cultural factors of a community influence fan identity?

How does fan interaction create a unique culture within a fan community?

What tools and services fans use to connect and what gaps exist in the current tools and services?


How might we leverage existing product features to foster connection and music identity among fans? 


From the start, we knew recruitment would be our biggest variable, combined with our 3-month timeframe, it would heavily influence the method we chose. 

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We conducted 1-hour virtual interviews with 6 participants in 13 countries. 

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Virtual in-depth interviews

We wanted a synchronous and qualitative method because that would better lend itself to the complex and exploratory nature of the study. And we could validate and supplement our research findings with hard numbers from a concurrent and ongoing quantitive project. Lastly, hearing directly from fans (via highlight reel format or interview sit ins) would be the most persuasive way to gain leadership buy in.


(per country)

n= 6 is a good minimum sample size to start with, any lower would make it difficult to see differences between countries. Any larger wold be an insurmountable amount of data.

13 countries

Countries were selected based on where our client had the biggest presence and wanted to expand

Participant Considerations

Participants were recruited via an online panel and selected based on screening qualifications, quotas, and availability.  


We focused on screening for participants who had similar demographic and behavioral traits to best reflect real users. We did not recruit existing users due to privacy regulations, had that not been the case, they would have been a good participant pool to connect with


it was important to localize our study and make sure we was appropriately addressing our research questions within the context of another culture. Especially when conducing global research from a us-centric perspective. We collaborated with the international client team and brought on local moderators to conduct research in participants local language.


To ensure we met international participant privacy guidelines, we made sure to get consent for recording, anonymized and aggregated data for sharing, and deleted data after completing the project. 


Fieldwork was conducted over the course of 1 month. I was responsible for moderating all English-speaking interviews in addition to managing all aspects of fieldwork. In total: 


Interviews conducted






Because of the complexity of these research questions, the synthesis process was very non-linear. While I generally started by focusing on individual questions, participants, and countries, I slowly broadened the scope to develop a more global story. 


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I used Hofstede's model of cultural dimensions to frame our analysis. I chose this because it was a framework our client had previous research on and used in the past, to understand the current landscape of micro-niches/scenes on the internet.

Key Findings

All this research culminated in a global story about fans, their experiences, and their longing to connect and share their dedication to artists. We told stories of fans hosting internet friends for the first time, attending the same music festival 7 years in a row, creating their own inclusive plus sized merch, and puzzling over every word in a set of lyrics. Together these became a cohesive story where we addressed our original research questions:  


Connected layers of the framework and client services to identify ways to facilitate fandom


Identified current issues with tools products that fans are using to connect 


Built two models of communities that informed how to best design for each 

Client Outcomes


1. Our insights report was shared with senior members of leadership and the following product innovation stages were approved.  

2. Our insights influenced the direction of product concepts and served as the foundation for the innovation team.

“Big thanks to the [internal team] and Reach3 for this monumental study.  We are already incorporating this into our roadmap.”  

- Principle Product Manager

Internal Outcomes


After receiving this project, our clients decided to renew and increase their retainer to $195K (up from $125K). They also introduced us to a new team who opened another $150K retainer with us. 


Lead researcher


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We had previously conducted quantitative engagements with the same team on a similar topic. We could validate and supplement our research findings with existing quantitative data. 


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6 interviews per country would be sufficient to identify high level themes and provide comparison points across markets while maintaining a reasonable timline.


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Virtual sessions allowed us to reach a geographically diverse range of participants within each country in a cost effective manner.


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The interview format provided video content for a highlight reel. Stories shared in a highlight reel format would be more persuasive for getting buy in from decisionmakers. 


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Semi-structured interviews would ensure that we addressed research questions while capturing complexity and providing the flexibility to explore unexpected avenues.

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