So what’s going on with cult brands? Simply put, as long as a brand is selling something that can be turned into a lifestyle or status badge for a group of consumers, they can very well build a cult for it. Some, like me, choose to become fans of selective items only, and in my case do it through accessories like my mobile phone. I’m a Sony girl and it’s going to be really hard for you to change my mind about Sony.
What’s a cult brand?
Think of a cult brand as a strong religion with steady fan-base, with highly engaged and involved followings of true believers. That’s how it’s like with cult brands like Apple, Sony, Harley Davidson, Nike, Mini Cooper and Coca-Cola. They’ve got stronger and more powerful over the years because of the type of connections they’ve developed with their consumers.
The typical cult brand would preach like a priest, tell their fans stories and provide a clean, slick and comfortable shop environment as a place of worship. There’s always a lot of hype when cult brands are about to release some mysterious product and in some cases cult fans could even pause their lives so that they can make the time to be there at the launch and be in the first lot of people to own that product.
The typical cult follower
Such strong connections give the consumers a sense of belonging. A cult follower can tell you about the time when they first connected with the brand. They participate in activities with other fans in some way or another, be it on discussion forums like Facebook, sales activities on launch day, or they could even go as far as sending in ideas for improvement. They become so interested in the brand that they develop some sense of ownership:
“I’m a Mac guy!”
“I’ve been attending the Jeep Owners Club meets every Sunday since I bought my first Jeep when I was 18.”
“I’m a Dockers fan, I’ve been to all their games since I was eight!”
In most cases the staff become cult followers, too.
Cult brands tell a great story
We’ve all heard it before. Talking about your brand gets people talking about it, too. Word-of-mouth is very important in building a following. However, just talking about your financial profits and the amount of money your company is receiving quickly bore consumers. You have to tell us something amazing to let us know that we should continue to give you our money.
The idea is to sort of treat your business like a religion, and I believe that even small businesses can be successful at turning their brands into cult brands. Yes, really. You as the storyteller are the preacher. You have something to say but in order for it to be heard you need us to listen, hear, question, test your theory, reject the idea if we must, give you feedback and acknowledge the greatness of your story.
When you tell us the story, tell it with such passion and strength that we are left dying to go and and retell it somewhere else. Be it on Facebook, Twitter, in a forum or at a hangout with friends. We might even use your story as case study in our own storytelling such as in presentations, assignments and reports.
Throwing in a reward kicks our participation up to a much higher level. Getting a soft drink bottle with our name on it just like in Coca-Cola’s “Share a Coke” campaign is a good example of a reward without it really being seen as a reward. But many of us got excited, participated and shared the campaign links on Facebook with thousands of others. Even if we don’t drink coke! We saw a great story or campaign, so we shared it.
Are you designing a cult brand? Are you a cult brand follower?