Building a Cult….. Brand

Imagine inspiring loyalty within a small group of followers who will stick around through thick or thin. Sounds great, doesn’t it? This in branding terms is the white whale of the industry often described as a Cult Brand. 

A cult brand is incredibly lucrative as its loyal customer base is very unlikely to switch to competitors and will often be seen recommending or promoting the cult brand’s products.

So how does a brand go about attaining a cult-like status and what can we learn from this?

To pull it off you need a deep understanding of culture, creativity, and emotion. Powerful emotions and clever creative ideas are the difference between the average and the bloody grand. Like any good cult, there are psychological considerations to be taken into account which can drive the thinking that inspires this kind of super cool work.

– Good VS Evil

“Find an enemy… make sure they know who the enemy is.” – Jim Jones, Cult Leader.

All the best cult leaders have an ‘enemy’ who they are fighting with their divine vision. A great cult brand wages war against a brand, trend or for a cause. A fabulous example of this is the Apple “Think Different” campaign which created an enemy of PCs and presented themselves as the ‘superhero’ equivalent of your computer choice.

– Something to believe in

One of my flipping favourite brands Harley Davidson reached cult status through shared values that bring together their audience and personify the brand. The ideas of freedom, speed, and luxury inspire loyalty in their followers.

– Create a universal experience

Humans bond over shared experiences, within a cult brand creating a unique experience that your following can connect with helps your brand achieve cult-like status.

When it comes to brands there is no greater example than Ikea who has created the ‘Ikea Experience.’ Going to Ikea isn’t convenient. It is one of the best examples of how saying screw it to customer experience design can go amazingly. At Ikea, we often have to drive far, walk around the whole store to find one item, load our own car and put together the furniture ourselves. Talk about a nightmare!

What’s particular ‘culty’ is that you then rave about the furniture to your friends and family, declaring your love for the brand and inspiring others to follow your behaviour.

– Cult-like rituals strengthen brands

Rituals are a type of ceremony consisting of a series of actions performed according to a prescribed order. Simple things like giving someone a birthday or Christmas card are an example of doing a certain action in a prescribed order.

The next time you’re dunking an Oreo or bringing a box of favourites “when you’re told not to bring a thing” keep in mind that you are following a branded ritual.

– Shared vision exclusive products and services

A great cult brand is human and inclusive but that doesn’t mean it’s easy to obtain. Like many cults, a brand will have different ‘levels’ to climb so to speak. Limited release products, expensive prices, and influencer promotion leave something to aspire to for their loyal followers creating a desired lifestyle that can only be ascertained through purchase. Furthermore, without purchase, the consumer is left feeling isolated from the brand cult lifestyle often purchasing to be a part of the community. After all, you can’t be a Harley Davidson rider on a Vespa scooter, am I right? 

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