In the Disney community there is a group of high-profile fans called lifestylers, who are known for their social media presence and large sub-cultural following. The Disney lifestylers personifies the "big name fan", a term that refers to a fan who achieves a degree of recognizability or fame within their particular fan community.1 As a result of their subcultural-celebrity status, the lifestylers collective discursive power has shaped what it means to be a Disney fan in the new media age through an emphasis on producing and sharing marketable brand content. Their willingness to provide Disney with unsolicited publicity enables the company to produce demographic-targeted merchandise. A recent trend started by the lifestylers are wall photos, where fans take pictures in front of brightly-colored walls around the Disney parks. Disney's vampiric relationship with their consumers resulted in them transforming this fan trend into corporate merchandise, producing a baseball hat and a Magic Band (an RFID wristband used for park entry and contactless purchases) emblazoned with the phrase "Meet me at the Purple Wall" in the same shade of lavender as the now-iconic wall at the Magic Kingdom.
Social media gives corporations a direct window to the marketplace, allowing them to articulate and shape the values associated with their brand in order to better align with those of their consumers. Some Disney fans now wear the official purple wall merchandise in their wall photos, which shows that they perceives this appropriation positively - regardless of the fact that their idea was monetized without their consent and without compensation - ostensibly because their fandom gets validated or, at the very least, publicly acknowledged by Disney. Disney’s vampiric appropriation of this fan trend signifies the level of potential influence fans now have on corporations at a time of increasing market fragmentation. At the same time, it also exposes the limits of that influence and reinforces the economic dynamics between fans and media producers. In this case, the lifestylers are cannibalistic consumers, buying products based on their own ideas yet kept outside of the profit structure.
1) Matt Hills, Fan Cultures (London: Routledge, 2002), pg. 44.