How I Became A Fan of Momoiro Clover Z
Battle And Romance
I never cared for fandoms nor found a reason to join one until recently. I viewed them as just a bit too cultish and fanatical. Have you seen Beliebers or the Beyhive in action? God forbid, you criticize Justin Beiber or Beyonce — you can expect a barrage of insults and death threats. It’s sickening. Scary. After witnessing such rabid fanaticism, I kept my distance. I studied fans and fandoms, collected data, and remained cynical and detached. I vowed to never become that attached to a brand.
Then I discovered the Japanese Pop quintet, Momoiro Clover Z.
Resistance is Futile
Initially, I fought Momoiro Clover Z or “Momoclo”. Intellectually, I knew the brand tactics. Great brands don’t outright sell to you. They build familiarity and trust then they sell their products and or services. Momoclo attracts prospects with high energy songs, incredible live performances, and unique branding (each member has a color assignment and matching brand persona). Momoclo maintains interest and trust through rewarding fans or “mononofu” (the term that refers to Momoclo’s legions of fans) with merchandise and relative transparency. Fans don’t simply consume content and attend live shows — they get to ‘know’ the individual members and the staff behind the Momoclo brand.
Fans get to ‘know’ each member and their staff through mini-documentaries, member curated blogs, variety shows, and other branded content. Through these various platforms, fans often see both scripted and ‘unscripted’ moments — the joy and the tears. Remarkably, in a genre that thrives on fantasy and illusion, Momoclo seems to be the most authentic — even the contrived and scripted moments seem genuine. Despite understanding the tactics at work, I couldn’t help but fall for the irresistible Momoclo charm.
They’re just so darn cute.
The more I fought Momoclo, the more they warmed my heart with their seemingly genuine friendship and their silly antics. After a while, I immersed myself in all things Momoclo — music, media, and eventually the fans. Although I started to embrace my growing fascination, I had my reservations. I really liked Momoclo but despite purchasing their albums and other content, I didn’t really consider myself a fan or mononofu. I certainly didn’t feel I belonged to this unique community. I didn’t (still don’t) speak Japanese and above all, I just wasn’t as devoted to this group as most mononofus. Their loyalty goes well beyond the usual fanfare. For many, being a mononofu is part of their identity. I just couldn’t identify with that level of devotion and attachment to a brand.
Then my favorite member fell ill.
More Than A Brand
At the time, Momoclo started to become a regular feature of my life. I checked Twitter for updates, I watched videos, and I started to participate in online fan communities. As I learned more about the group and its members, I started to actually view the members as individuals not simply brand personalities. More importantly, I started to become attached to these young ladies and I started to care about their careers and their well-being.
When Momoclo member, Momoka Ariyasu, fell ill last year, I was heartbroken. It wasn’t just because she was my favorite member and I’d miss her voice. It was because I genuinely felt sorry for her. I knew she was probably devastated at the prospect of missing a performance and I was sympathetic. It was the first time in a long time that I was genuinely concerned about a pop star — let alone a foreign one. Despite not knowing Momoka personally, I couldn’t help but feel compelled to do something. Out of this fervent desire, #NoDangoNoParty was born.
Becoming A Fan
The #NoDangoNoParty campaign wasn’t simply an expression of my admiration for Momoka — it was the defining moment in my Momoclo journey. It changed everything for me. It was the moment I became a fan. It was the moment that I finally understood the passion and devotion that defines fanhood. Suddenly, ‘fan’ was no longer something I shied away from. I didn’t fear it. I wasn’t ashamed of it. I wasn’t intimidated by its weight. I didn’t feel unworthy of the label. I reveled in it and I embraced all the feelings and expectations associated with being a ‘fan’. I embraced it all and crucially, many mononofus embraced me too.
Thousands of fans participated in the campaign. Everyday, I received hundreds of Twitter notifications and thank you messages. Everyday, fans tweeted messages of love and support for Momoka. It was humbling to witness such dedication and support from complete strangers. Thanks to their enormous love, I no longer felt like an outsider. I felt a part of something truly meaningful. As if their acceptance wasn’t enough, Momoka acknowledged the campaign by using the tag to title a blog post.
I was overjoyed.
I almost cried.
My housemate berated me and later ruthlessly ridiculed me for my excitement. I didn’t care. If I lost cool points or lost my edge, so be it. I just witnessed my greatest moment as a fan and that was worth all the teasing in the world.
Looking back at my Momoclo journey, from discovering the group to #NoDangoNoParty, all I ever wanted was confirmation. I wanted confirmation that my Momoclo experience was real and meaningful not cheap. I wanted confirmation that this experience wasn’t simply a product of effective branding and marketing tactics. I wanted confirmation that I wasn’t simply another unpaid brand ambassador. The more I harbored those concerns, the more I realized those concerns were the confirmation of authenticity. Truly authentic experiences are shaped by conflict and motivated by love. Being a fan and or connecting with a brand is no different.
Being a fan is both battle and romance. It’s both the fear of the unknown and the joy of discovery. It’s both the initial regret of buying too much and the pleasure of endless entertainment and fun. It’s both the acknowledgment that you’re one of a million consumers and the comfort of knowing there are others just like you. It’s both the fear of rejection and the excitement you feel when your heroes acknowledge your existence. Ultimately, being a fan and or connecting with a brand is an emotional rollercoaster but great brands make being a fan worth while.
It’s been almost two years since I hopped on the Momotrain and it’s been quite the adventure. I never thought in a million years that I’d be so hopelessly in love with five young ladies from Japan. I certainly never thought I’d be that attached to this group. Even so, I don’t plan on hopping off the bandwagon anytime soon. Being a fan has been absolutely worth it. Though I may never meet the fabulous ladies of Momoiro Clover Z, I’m content with the unbridled joy I get from listening to their music and watching them blossom. It’s beautiful and inspiring.
When I think of them, I get a goofy grin on my face — surely, Kanako, Shiori, Aarin, Momoka, and Reni are doing something right.