Cult Branding: Ten Years Later

Cult Branding Ten Years Later by

Cult Branding: Ten Years LaterAugust 14, 2014

Brand Loyalty - By: Bill Pasha

A decade ago, it was the “in” thing for marketers to sit around tables, usually sporting a veggie platter and sparkling water, to talk about their master plans for Cult Branding their products and services.

You remember Cult Branding; Entice your consumer to love you so much that they and others would buy the product or service, fanatically endorse it to friends and family, and become followers.

Cult Branding was treated as the Holy Grail of marketing.

Gradually, new fads and fashions came and went, and the venerable cult branding became only one facet of larger and, forgive the intended pun, more communal marketing plans. During that time, the marketers who were, themselves, fanatical about this approach to their products have seemingly faded away, now espousing the benefits of Google advertising or product placement in the latest shoot ‘em up video game.

So why bring up Cult Branding in a 2014 blog?

Because we still believe in its benefits for many of the businesses our clients hold dear. We so value the idea that small groups can drive huge numbers (Remember the old 20/80 Rule?), that we still preach and practice the best practices that we believe drive this useful branding tool.

When we talk about best practices with the businesses we serve, often we deal with entire playbooks of steps that managers must learn, often commit to memory, and implement without fault. In this case, our team has boiled down the trait that successful cult branded products share to only six.

Take a walk down Memory Lane of a decade past, as MBMI dusts off what you really need to know to be effective:

    • 1) Differentiate Like Crazy

Many potential consumers will bond to your product or service if you provide a wildly and insanely different experience from all other products or services that portend to be like yours.
In our day-to-day work with our clients, we urge them to write down how their offerings are already perceived in the minds of their consumers. Then we begin an interactive process that helps them to generate more and more points of differentiation from competitive brands. This is the true “No Bad ideas” exercise. If you have not held one of these brainstorming sessions recently, gather together the clouds as soon as you can to see what rain falls out.

    • 2) Take Risks to Stand Out from the Pack

Conventional wisdom is for other guys. To win big in the Cult Branding world, you must possess courage of your convictions. If you don’t believe, who will?

At Valley Forge, Revolutionary War soldiers followed George Washington because their General demonstrated that he believed that he could win, even in the face of overwhelming opposition. Would those same soldiers have believed so intensely in your conviction? Washington showed no fear in public, nor did NASA’s Gene Krantz.

When it was “go time,” these leaders led by the mantra that they could only learn from mistakes, not fail because of them. As a result, their group of followers grew and became worshippers rather than minions. That example was set time and again in the businesses that we most respect today for disruption of the marketplace; Apple, Space-X, Tesla, and Google.

Get noticed and you, too, will enjoy those fruits. Are you risking enough to collect big rewards from your consumers?

    • 3) Knowing Your Consumer Creates Brand Endorsement

We all want brand evangelists. But guessing is not the way to attract them or to stand out. Steve Jobs didn’t think that the iPod would be a hit, his research proved that his consumers highly valued design, simplicity and mobility. Jobs forced Apple to accommodate them because he knew they would buy his product.

Mark Zuckerberg not only valued input from his early adopters, he hired many of those who offered suggestions.

Both Jobs and Zuckerberg acted on their knowledge that their consumers want to be pleasantly surprised and reinforced by their user experiences. They listened to their customers because customers eventually always tell us how to be extraordinary.

Once a consumer experience is associated with emotional excitement, intense personal pleasure or interaction, or just a simple sample of customer service, that customer often becomes an avid fan for a lifetime.

In the early years of MBMI, our owner chose to spend money on those who had available resources to invest in our expertise. We found our customer base to be located primarily in Europe, and we noted that they consumed a wide array of marketing messages. When we reviewed those marketing messages, it became clear that our competition often demonstrated less knowledge than those companies they sought to advise. So we advertised, too, at industry conferences, in trade publications, and in other venues.

We spent hundreds of thousands of dollars only to learn that our consumers, the men and women who lead companies at the very top, often from the boardrooms, and the people in the trenches, engage with our brands most often when we provide lifestyle changing ideas and products.

When MBMI introduced Career Rehab, our one-to-one service that helps career-minded people reach new heights, response was enormous from sectors we had no reason to expect. When we launched Safe 360˙, our VIP protective service managed and executed by former Secret Service bodyguards, concert promoters, managers and the VIPs, themselves, came out of the woodwork.

Our customers love these products but like the main consulting services and products we offer, those who use MBMI guard their secrets carefully. Nonetheless, they speak excitedly to other people with whom they are close in their respective industries, and it is those referrals that have made MBMI a very quiet success story.

Acting on our own advice, MBMI gets to know our potential customers and their level of appetite for a product before we put it into the field. We target the different and extraordinary, and we settle on nothing less than delivering the best possible products and services.

Our goal, and yours, is to create the means for your customers to chase their goals and tackle them with excitement and vigor. After interacting with your brand, customers should feel good about themselves.

    • 4) Stay In Touch

This is not hard. Create a database. Design an exclusive club, complete with membership privileges. Write emails and use the telephone.

Every customer should feel that he is both your only customer and a member of a giant support group that he or she may call on at any time to create more business, discuss new ideas or methods, or work together to generate more customers.

There are dozens of ways to build this type of brand loyalty. Get creative or call us. We’ll help.

    • 5) Give Customers Their Freedom

We’re all hippies at heart. Give us our freedom, man. Take me back to the good old days, or make me an avid fan of what I anticipate from you next, but appeal to my sense of choice.

Don’t force feed your consumer, create experiences from which choices come. Be consistent, but be fresh. Be smart, but don’t be know-it-all smart. Accept that part of freedom is the freedom of your customer to take business elsewhere. It will happen and perhaps it will be a growing experience for both of you.

Regardless, do everything in your power to remain friends, because we may not have the freedom to choose our relatives, but we do have the freedom to choose our friends and those with whom we do business.

    • 6) Include Everyone

The best Cult Brands are those that invite everyone to the party. Imagine being the only house on the block that isn’t invited to the neighbors’ house for the cookout. You would be unlikely to offer a smile when you see them at the grocery store.

Take great care to invite all potential clients to your party. Remember that “exclusive” is a bad word in the Cult Brand world. The entire consumer world is your potential customer.

So now, go out there and build huge, avid groups of followers. They are waiting for you and so are the profits they bring with them. Remember, MBMI is always here to offer a helping hand.

Post by

Bill Pasha

Bill Pasha is President/CEO of The MBMI Companies, LLC., the parent firm of MultiBrand Media International, Maximized Brand Marketing International and Valoriant Safety. Before joining the entrepreneurial world, Bill was recognized as one of the top Program Directors in America and as an authority on consumer consumption of media. He continues to consult broadcasters around the world.

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