State Fair Syndrome (steit fâr sÌndroum): A group of symptoms commonly seen amongst event attendees that causes an overwhelming and unexplained desire to purchase items previously thought silly or pointless, only to be quickly disposed of upon exiting event.
It’s that strange state that infects your brain at an event where you have to purchase silly things in order to fully connect to the event experience. Symptoms include a significant draw to ugly merchandise, a form or temporary psychosis that convinces you that you’ll absolutely use that $70 water bottle when you get home, a lust for large foam fingers, and a strong desire to show off these goods to friends and family alike.
What does State Fair Syndrome (SFS) have to do with customer experience and community building? Good question!
Being part of any community, whether as an active participant or a loose affiliation, comes with a desire to show off that membership. Ride a motorcycle? Check out my leather jacket. Star Wars nerd? Check out my Vader tattoo. LEGO fan? Look at the LEGO Space model on my desk at work. There’s something really powerful about the tangible “stuff” that’s so important in building successful communities.
Communities need connective tissue to hold them together. The military has uniforms and ceremony. Sports fans have mascots, colors, and rituals. Local communities have architectural icons that represent their cities and the connection to it.
Community builders need to consider what kinds of swag they will produce. Not just to give away, but to offer for purchase. Giveaways can be nice, but things I have to purchase tend to bring the buyer closer to the experience itself. Hell, it’s PART of the experience. I’m not just buying a event t-shirt, I’m adding to my community uniform. I’m creating another way to share my passions with the world. I’m building additional ways to be connected to others who share the same interests.
Are you thinking about how and what you design for people to buy as part of your community strategy? You should be… after all, imagine the State Fair without the corn dogs. Just wouldn’t be the same, eh?