Apple, Starbucks, Amazon, Harley-Davidson, Oprah, Ritz-Carlton, Jimmy Buffett, Southwest Airlines and Trader Joe’s… Many marketers dream that their brand or product will be as successful as these industry giants. These ‘cult’ brands are so popular one can argue they don’t need to advertise thanks to the consumer’s brand loyalty.
Many have tried before, most have failed and they usually fail for one primary reason: They focus on the product instead of the product’s tribe. A cult product or brand gives customers a sense of belonging within that product category, and owning that product is an honor. A cult brand is the result of people’s opinions of your products. Therefore, it is essential to find a way to influence people’s opinion, attract a certain kind of customer that represents your brand image and give them a sense of belonging.
To build this kind of brand, everything starts with building a tribe. A tribe is a group of people with a connection to your product and brand. In “tribal marketing,” you empower the individual to join your brand and convert him or her into a passionate follower that is willing to spread your marketing message.
Sounds complicated, but here are five easy steps that could make your product or service the next ‘it’ brand!
1. Create an Experience – Consumers want to be a part of a group that is different. It’s tempting to laugh at anyone that waits hours in line for the latest Apple product. But to laugh is to miss the point. Apple doesn’t take any shortcuts or focus on maximizing profits in delivering the ultimate consumer experience. The obsessive attention to design is not just for their devices, you also see it in the packaging, retail store locations, Macworld Expo and so on. The devotion to a quality experience is real.
2. Attach Status to Buying – Harley-Davidson is the prototypical cult brand because it’s one of the earlier companies to truly develop a lifestyle brand. It means something to own a HOG. A grass roots initiative called the “Harley Owners Group” gave enthusiasts a structured way to meet, ride and create Harley evangelists. Eventually, H.O.G. chapters created a movement as chapters stared appearing around the country – all based around the Harley brand.
3. Exceed Expectations – Trader Joe’s prides itself on unique and diverse offerings such as edamame or Paneer Tikka Masala. Their prices are well below what you would normally expect in a specialty store. For example, they offer a $2.99 bottle of wine dubbed “Two-Buck Chuck.” I always have fun finding a new favorite item and am consistently blown away by Trader Joe’s offerings.
4. Focus on Consistency – The history of the Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, originates from the Ritz-Carlton, Boston in 1927. The Boston hotel revolutionized hospitality by offering a private bath in each guest room, gourmet cuisine, intimate lobbies and fresh flowers. The standards of service, dining and facilities would become a benchmark for hospitality in the hotel industry worldwide.
5. Please Your Niche – Like the Volkswagen Beetle, the MINI Cooper stood out as something different. MINI prided itself on being smaller, much smaller in a highway filled with gas-guzzling Escalades and Hummers. It’s also more than fuel efficiency makes a MINI a smart choice. Like other cult brands, MINI promotes personal freedom by having their drivers “you-ify their MINI.” MINI loves to make it fun and surprise their customers at every turn. As a MINI owner, you might receive a cryptic package in the mail, complete with a purple filter sheet, a letter descrambler, a password key and a note saying, “look forward to our hidden message.” By pleasing their niche, MINI has created a loyal following for their customized cars.