I did this kind of singular analysis quite a long time ago, which you may or may not remember. At that time, I took a look at Zoo With Roy and his brand and what makes his community special. I wrote that ‘case study’ way back in 2010 and, half a decade later, it’s as strong a community as it ever was. Perhaps I know what I’m talking about after all.

As such, I wanted to revisit that case study with another brand that has seen a great deal of success and see if there are similarities between the two. Fans of football or soccah will know well Roger Bennett and Michael Davies of NBC Sports, collectively known by many around the world as the Men In Blazers. They boast having the least technically ambitious show on television and push sub-optimal radio on their podcast of the same name. What can two bald English chaps who talk about soccah have in common with a penguin? It turns out quite a bit.

In my ZWR case study, I mentioned five things that were critical to the success of the ZWR brand: humor, absurdity, living the brand, building a community, and interaction. If you look at MiB you’ll see they share those same five features.

1. These gents are hilarious

If you follow MiB on any of their social media channels, watch their show on NBC Sports Network, listen to their podcast, or read their weekly newsletter—every bit of it is layered in humor. Be it classic British self-deprecation, cheeky observations from around the grounds at football matches (or tunnel; I love tunnel), or clever references to popular television shows like Game of Thrones and Downton Abbey—Rog and Davo have a sense of humor that they share with the world. As I said five years ago, one of the top reasons people share anything on the internet is because it’s funny. People love to share laughter, and MiB make that easy.

2. MiB is absurd

Not only are Rog and Davo hilarious, but they—like ZWR—are absurd. It’s not just humor, but it’s absurdist humor. It’s the Golden Blazer, it’s putting bald caps on already bald men, it’s meat pies that can predict the future, it’s gilding the first pooh of a brand new puppy to send to a fan. Subtle humor is funny, but absurdist humor is memorable and remarkable. Going over the top gets people talking.

3. Rog and Davo are always the MiB

From the Embassy Row Studios in the crap part of SoHo to the stage at Super Bowl Central in the crap part of Phoenix and everywhere in between, Rog and Davo live their brand everyday. It doesn’t matter if they’re on their own show, visiting Dan Patrick down the street, or tweeting about Lady Edith on Downton Abbey—Rog and Davo are always ‘on’. A consistent image presented across every medium helps grow the brand, and the community.

4. MiB is a community first and foremost

MiB is a show and a podcast, but first and foremost it’s a community. A community constructed around a game its fans all love, and reinforced through a singular vocabulary, inside jokes, and references that only other fans will know. These shared experiences engender feelings of community, and of exclusivity. GFOP, Warpig, Size the Day, “an MLS”—they’re words and phrases that not only have an inherent meaning, but they also act as badges of membership. To know them signifies your inclusion in a group that not everyone is privy to. Oh, and MiB also give real, actual badges to fans who provide content for their shows and newsletters—the ultimate sign of exclusive membership. (Or would that be a Warpig tie?)

5. Rog and Davo interact

There are more ways that ever to interact with one another in this modern day. Rog and Davo take every opportunity they get to engage with their fans, whether that’s through social media, newsletters (ravens), or in real life during GFOP meetups at fine drinking establishments in most any city they visit. It’s this interaction which strengthens the binds of community and creates truer, more loyal fans.

What can we learn from the Men In Blazers?

In the branding world—just as in football—there are smalls and talls. But building a brand is more than an exercise in growing numbers. It’s also about growing passion.

  • Humor allows people to connect to you on a deeper level. Sharing a laugh is an intimate way to get to know someone, and its something we all want to pass along to others
  • Being absurd won’t work for everyone in all cases. Still, if given the choice to be either ordinary or extraordinary, consider that people remember and talk about the remarkable when you go about making up your own mind
  • Building and maintaining a brand is an all-the-time kind of effort
  • Shared experiences, common language, inside jokes, and privileged references all help foster a sense of belonging to a community, and an air of exclusivity
  • Fans make the brand successful. With countless choices and lower barriers to entry than ever before, it’s easy to change allegiances. Make it difficult on your fans by engaging with them as frequently as you can to show them how much they’ll miss out on if you’re not there

Smaller communities can be powerful ones as well. It’s all in how you curate your brand.