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BJ Bueno & Scott Jeffrey

52 Types of Marketing Strategies

As a student of sleight-of-hand magic, I value the number 52. Here we bring you 52 types of marketing strategies and tactics you can use to bring new customers to your business and grow your brand.

In order for businesses to win market share and stay relevant they need to consider many types of marketing strategies. Each marketing strategy can communicate to a target market the benefits and features of a product.

Marketing strategies can also communicate an overall value to their customers. In many cases, this is the core of building equity or good will in your target markets. Apple, for example, has invested in creating commercials for television, billboards, and magazines that showcase their products in such a way that their customers feel an affinity towards Apple’s products.

52 Types of Marketing Strategies In Use Today:

Cause Marketing

Finding a causes both your customers and your company cares about can create magic for your business. This requires internal knowledge about what your organisation cares about and who they want to help in the world.  A good example of this is Toms Shoes. Instead of doing the traditional “buy one get one free” promotion, Toms built a strong customer following and reputation for giving back by giving away a free pair of shoes to someone in need for every shoe purchase made by their customers.

Close Range Marketing (CRM)

Use Wifi or bluetooth to send promotional messages of their products and services to their customers’ smartphones and tablets at close proximity. Close Range Marketing is also known as Proximity Marketing.



Relationship Marketing

Many companies focus on building relationships with their customers instead of always exclusive trying to sell them something (transactional marketing). Customers who love your brand more will also spend more money with your brand. Many traditional retailers have found this to be true. Walgreens has seen that customers who buy from all of their purchasing channels (store, web, mobile, etc) buy up to six times more than the average customer that only buys in their store.

Transactional Marketing

Driving sales can be challenging, especially for retailers that have to consistently sell products in high volume to consumers. In order to stay with the demands of investors, retailers have to encourage consumers to buy using coupons, discounts, liquidations, and sales events. High volume big-box retailers like Target are constantly running promotional events in order to get interested consumers into their stores.

Scarcity Marketing

In some markets it’s important to control how much product is available at one time. In many cases this is done because of the difficulty of acquiring raw materials or higher quality of the product. A company may choose to make their products accessible to only a few customers. Rolls-Royce’s release of their Chinese edition car called Phantom sold quickly. While the cost of the car was higher than most cars the scarcity drove the desire and the price.


Word of Mouth Marketing

Word-of-mouth Marketing is the passing of information from person to person by oral communication. Customers are very excited to share with the world the brands they love. Many consumers find meaning in sharing stories of their favorite products and services. Word of Mouth is one of the ancient ways people learned about what to purchase. Modern marketers have learned how to create authentic word of mouth for their companies and the products they represent.

Call to Action (CTA) Marketing

CTA Marketing refers to methods of converting web traffic into leads or sales on websites using text, graphics, or other elements of web design. Conversion strategies help improve the percentage of online visitors who become customers or who join the mailing list.

Viral Marketing

Cult Brand marketers are constantly creating new business ideas that keep their products in the heart and minds of the global consumer. Each time a new product is created, customers have to be given a reason to dream about their future purchase. Sometimes marketers of Cult Brands hit on something so great that people can’t help but share with others. Getting your customers talking about your products and services is very important to growing awareness for your business.


Diversity Marketing

Develop a customized marketing plan by analyzing different customer segments based on cultural differences including tastes, expectations, beliefs, world views, and specific needs.

Undercover Marketing

Sometimes not telling everyone everything can become a great source of buzz. Think of a movie trailer that got you very excited to go see the movie. While not showing all the aspects of the movie, the advertiser can create enough intrigue to drive viewers to want to see more.

Mass Marketing

Major corporations need to drive large numbers of purchasing of their products in order to survive and grow. While mass marketing may seem like a shotgun approach to marketing this is far from the truth. Big businesses spend big money in understanding big data–thats a lot of bigs!) This gives them an insight to where to place media for their potential national customers who buy their products and services. Walmart is an example of an effective mass market retailer. As the number one retailer in the world, they are very smart about their mass marketing efforts, often giving their customers a feeling of locality and warmth.


Seasonal Marketing

Seasonal events offers a great way to meet new consumers. Sometimes these events can be actual changes of weather or national holidays. For a retailer like Hallmark, Valentine’s Day represents a large portion of their business. By tuning into the various seasons that are important to your customers you can become more relevant in their lives.

PR Marketing

One of the most important marketing strategies is public relations. Many effective marketers work with the media to bring awareness to their products and the benefits their products offer. Also, in many cases where things go wrong, a good PR marketing strategy is vital. When Apple’s founder Steve Jobs was alive, Apple held a major press conference to announce every new product. This tradition is now continued by their new Apple CEO and CMO.

Online Marketing

As commerce has propagated to the Internet, a new form of marketing has emerged. From online banners to those annoying pop ups, online marketers have attempted to get their customers attention any way they can. Most online strategic marketing efforts today are a mix of growth hacking strategies ( A/B testing taken to the max) and a variety of awareness tactics that drive attention. A very effective online marketer is the insurance company Geico who simply asks their users to enter their zip code for an instant quote on a better savings.

Email Marketing

As soon as customers migrated into the online world, Internet marketers have attempted to collect and organize emails for potential prospects. Many business-to-business marketers depend on email marketing as a primary way to connect with customers. At industry tradeshows, IBM consultants can often be seen exchanging email information with their prospects.

Evangelism Marketing

Develop raving fan customers (what we call Brand Lovers) who become advocates of your brand or product, and who represent the brand as if it was part of their own identity.


Event Marketing

Creating events is a great way to drive sales. Customers often need a reason to shop and events can often offer the perfect reason. Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade has become part of American culture by connecting two events together that consumers love: Thanksgiving and shopping.

Offline Marketing

With mass adoption of the Internet, many companies are finding new ways of integrating offline marketing with new technologies to create more engaging customer experiences. The Coca-Cola company has create vending machines that invite customers to hug them. This continues to tie the Coca-Cola brand to the core emotion of happiness, but also invite customers to experience the real product offline.

Outbound Marketing

Sometimes it’s important for companies to let their potential customers know they exist. By developing a list of prospects a company can begin to reach out to their individual target groups in order to find new customers. When Microsoft was selling their accounting software they often used outbound marketing to identify potential targets before trying to call the companies for an in-person meeting.


Direct Marketing

Communicate directly with customers and prospects through mail, email, texts, fliers and other promotional material.

Inbound Marketing

Companies often have customers calling them for various reasons. This can present a great opportunity to sell customers additional products and services they currently don’t have. When business customers call to check their balances, the business bank Chase often takes the opportunity to ask if they are interest in a credit line, a 401 k plan, or a variety of other services the bank offers.

Freebie Marketing

Promote free give aways or sell your products and services sold at low rates to boost the sales of other related products or services.


Newsletter Marketing

A fun way to promote a business is to write a newsletter that highlights some of the newsworthy things that have happened for the organization. The Motley Fool have been sharing their investment insights with their community for many years. These newsletters create a sense of inclusion and participation with their members and has provided a key driver for their incredible growth.

Article Marketing

In industries where expertise is highly valued, articles can offer a powerful tool to showcase your knowledge and expertise. Some innovations are shared in the form of articles or white papers where technical information needs to be convey to specialized buyers. has dedicated part of their site for white papers on technical know-how on cloud computing. This is a very sophisticated form of marketing for specialized buyers.

Content Marketing

Write and publish content to educate potential customers about your products and services. For the appropriate businesses, this can be an effective means of influencing them without using direct selling methods.

(JAN2011) Detroit, Mich. North American International Auto Show

Tradeshow Marketing

Many products have to be experienced to be bought. There are very few customers that will buy a new automobile without doing a great deal of research and test-driving the car first. Tradeshows are industry gatherings where customers are invited to come sample all that the industry has to offer. To introduce their new lines of products, Ford Motor Company spends a great deal of time setting up and operating their booth at the international consumer auto shows each year. These auto trade shows give reporters and consumers a chance to experience cars first hand.

Search Marketing

These days, when consumers have questions they often don’t ask their friends; they go straight for Google. In fact, Google is so good at answering our questions that millions of people daily search for their answers on this leading Internet search site. One does not have to look far to see the power of search marketing. Google has shaped the industry for many years now and has helped hundred of retailers grow their businesses. While many businesses used to advertise in their local yellow pages, as less and less consumer consult their local physical directory, this channel becomes increasingly less effective each year.

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Digital Marketing

Advertise and promote your products and services to customers using a range of digital devices including computers, smartphones, and tablets. Internet Marketing is an essential practice in Digital Marketing. Once a target market has been clearly identified, it is possible to work in conjunction with the USPS or a professional mail carrier that knows where your customers live. Direct marketing can be an effective way to reach consumers right where they live at home. While there is often a negative side to this approach (consumers don’t want to be bothered with a flurry of mail), many smart companies execute direct marketing well. Catalog retailer L.L. Bean, for example, created direct marketing programs that their customers looks forward to receiving.

Niche Marketing

Finding a niche and filling it could be described as the secret recipe for growth in over-crowded marketplaces. Take the shoe business, for example. There is a great demand for shoes in the world and so many top companies have evolved to satisfy most of the immediate shoe needs in the marketplace.  The shoe space might seem crowded, but shoe manufacturing company Vans noticed an underserved customer: the skater. By focusing on this niche market Vans has developed a thriving business.

Drip Marketing

Drip marketing is a communication strategy that sends, or “drips,” a pre-written set of messages to customers or prospects over time. These messages often take the form of email marketing, although other media outlets can also be used as well.

Community Marketing

Engage an audience of existing customers in an active dialogue, speaking to the needs and wants of this particular customer group. Instead of focusing on generating the next transaction, community marketing promotes greater loyalty and higher levels of engagement within an existing brand community. Learn how to build brand communities here. Community marketing can also lead to word of mouth marketing.


Social Media Marketing

Social media sites like Facebook and Twitter offer a unique opportunity for savvy businesses willing to invest in customer engagement. Social media marketing is still in its infancy but is growing up rather quickly. Companies like Southwest Airlines have departments of over 30 people whose primary responsibility is to actively engage with customers on social media.

Cross-Media Marketing

Provide customers information through multiple channels like email, physical mail, websites, and print and online advertisements to cross promote your products and services.

B2B Marketing

Business-to-business marketing is a marketing practice of individuals or organizations (including commercial businesses, governments, and other institutions). It allows businesses to sell products or services to other companies or organizations that in turn resell the same products or services, use them to augment their own products or services, or use them to support their internal operations. International Business Machines is a well known B2B marketer. IBM’s business has grown because taking a very intelligent approach at marketing their products to other business and governments around the world.


Promotional Marketing

Promotional marketing is a business marketing strategy designed to stimulate a customer to take action towards a buying decision. Promotional marketing is a technique that includes various incentives to buy, such as:

  • Contests: We all enjoy winning something for free. Contests offer an attractive marketing vehicle for small business to acquire new clients and create awareness.

  • Coupons: According to CMS, a leading coupon processing agent, marketers issued 302 billion coupons in 2007, a 6% increase over the previous year. Over 76% of the population use coupons, according to the Promotion Marketing Association (PMA) Coupon Council. Coupons still work and provide an affordable marketing strategy for small business.

  • Sampling: Try before you buy. Giving away product might appear profit-limiting, but consider how giving your customers a small taste can lead to a big purchase. Retail genius Publix supermarkets share samples of their award-winning key lime pie not because people question the goodness of the pie but to get their customers to buy more.

Ambush Marketing

Advertiser use this marketing strategy to associate with specific events and brands without paying sponsorship fees. This allows the business to capitalize on these events or leverage the brand equity of the other business, which has the potential effect of loweringthe value of the original event.

B2C Marketing

The ultimate goal of B2C marketing (business-to-consumer marketing) is to convert shoppers into buyers as aggressively and consistently as possible. B2C marketers employ merchandising activities like coupons, displays, store fronts (both real and online) and special offers to entice the target market to buy. B2C marketing campaigns are focused on a transaction, are shorter in duration, and need to capture the customer’s interest immediately. These campaigns often offer special deals, discounts, or vouchers that can be used both online and in the store.

Cloud Marketing

In this new form of marketing, all marketing resources and assets are brought online so customers (or affiliates) can develop, modify, use, and share them. Consider how gets customers to buy digital books, movies, and televisions shows in a digital library that is accessible in the customer’s online account or on their digital device like their Kindle Fire.


Mobile Marketing

Marketing on or with a mobile device, such as a smart phone. Mobile marketing can provide customers with time and location sensitive, personalized information that promotes goods, services, and ideas. Here is a recent example of mobile marketing in action.

Alliance Marketing

A joint venture is formed between two or more businesses to pool resources in an effort to promote and sell products and services.

Reverse Marketing

In reverse marketing, the idea is to get the customer to seek out the business rather than marketers seeking the customer. Usually, this is done through traditional means of advertising, such as television advertisements, print magazine advertisements, and online media. While traditional marketing mainly deals with the seller finding the right set of customers and targeting them, reverse marketing focuses on the customer approaching potential sellers who may be able to offer the desired product.

In 2004, Dove launched the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty focusing on the natural beauty of women rather than advertising their product. This campaign caused their sales to soar above $1 Billion and caused Dove to re-create their brand around this strategy. Although successful, this campaign caused a lot of controversy and discussion due to what people saw as an advertisement with a contradictory message.


I know what you are thinking, you hate telemarketers. You are not alone in your feelings. However, telemarketing can play an important part of selling your products to consumers and it must not be overlooked as many companies rely on it to connect with customers. Telemarketing (sometimes known as inside sales, or telesales in the UK and Ireland) is a method of direct marketing in which a salesperson solicits prospective customers to buy products or services, either over the phone or through a subsequent face to face or Web conferencing appointment scheduled during the call. Telemarketing can also include recorded sales pitches programmed to be played over the phone via automatic dialing. Telemarketing has come under fire in recent years, being viewed as an annoyance by many.


Free Sample Marketing

Unlike Freebie Marketing, this is not dependent on complementary marketing, but rather consists of giving away a free sample of the product to influence the consumer to make the purchase.

Direct Mail Marketing

A channel-agnostic form of advertising that allows businesses and nonprofits organizations to communicate directly with the customer, with advertising techniques that can include text messaging, email, interactive consumer websites, online display ads, fliers, catalog distribution, promotional letters, and outdoor advertising. Direct marketing messages emphasize a focus on the customer, data, and accountability. Characteristics that distinguish direct marketing are:

  • Marketing messages are addressed directly to the customer(s). Direct marketing relies on being able to address the members of a target market. Addressability comes in a variety of forms including email addresses, mobile phone numbers, Web browser cookies, fax numbers, and postal addresses.

  • Direct marketing seeks to drive a specific “call to action.” For example, an advertisement may ask the prospect to call a free phone number or click on a link to a website.

  • Direct marketing emphasizes trackable, measurable responses from customers regardless of medium.

  • Direct marketing is practiced by businesses of all sizes—from the smallest start-up to the leaders in the Fortune 500. A well-executed direct advertising campaign can prove a positive return on investment by showing how many potential customers responded to a clear call-to-action. General advertising eschews calls-for-action in favor of messages that try to build prospects’ emotional awareness or engagement with a brand. Even well-designed general advertisements rarely can prove their impact on the organization’s bottom line.

Database Marketing

Database Marketing is a form of direct marketing using databases of customers or potential customers to generate personalized messages in order to promote a product or service for marketing purposes. The method of communication can be any addressable medium, as in direct marketing.The distinction between direct marketing and database marketing stems primarily from the attention paid to the analysis of data. Database marketing emphasizes the use of statistical techniques to develop models of customer behavior, which are then used to select customers for communications. As a consequence, database marketers also tend to be heavy users of data warehouses, because having a greater amount of data about customers increase the likelihood that a more accurate model can be built.

There are two main types of marketing databases: (1) consumer databases and (2) business databases. Consumer databases are primarily geared towards companies that sell to consumers, often abbreviated as [business-to-consumer] (B2C) or BtoC. Business marketing databases are often much more advanced in the information that they can provide. This is mainly because business databases aren’t restricted by the same privacy laws as consumer databases.


Personalized Marketing

Personalized marketing (also called personalization, and sometimes called one-to-one marketing) is an extreme form of product differentiation. Whereas product differentiation tries to differentiate a product from competing ones, personalization tries to make a unique product offering for each customer. Nike ID is a popular brand that has developed a strong business around this personalization marketing concept.

Affinity Marketing

Create strategic partnerships that are mutually beneficial by forming alliances with complementary brands. Also known as partnership marketing, with this strategy, one brands generates sales while the other creates new customers and builds brand awareness.

Cult-tural Marketing

The proposition of cult marketing holds reign upon the notion that a way to convert—ahem, excite … OK, convert—consumers is by using timeless human behavioral drives found in religious cults. Heck, fellow acolytes, nothing is more permission-, buzz- and one-to-one-based than “a central ideology with a parallel social universe rich with customs.” Cult marketing is a bright spot in the list of newfangled marketing templates, one that applies timeless social-science principles in a powerful way. To the list of newfangled marketing buzzwords, let’s add the term cult.

Humanistic Marketing

Human needs are “a state of felt deprivation.” They distinguish between physical needs (food, shelter, safety, clothing), social needs (belonging and affection), and individual needs (knowledge, self-expression). Needs are a relatively narrow set of non-cultural states of felt deprivation.

Guerrilla Marketing

Grass root, untraditional, and low-budget methods that found involve creativity, big crowds of people, and the element of surprise to market or promote a product, service, brand, event, or new launch.


Brand Lover Marketing

Brand Lover Marketing is a marketing concept that is intended to replace the idea of traditional brand marketing. Brands are running out of juice and Brand Lovers are what is needed to rescue brands. But what builds loyalty that goes beyond reason? What makes a truly great brand stand out? Brand Lovers bring brands to life. For a brand to elevate itself into the “Cult Brand” category, it has to give customers a feeling of belonging while generating strong feelings of love for its customers. Creating loyalty beyond reason requires emotional connections that generate the highest levels of love and a sense of belonging for your brand.

Contact us to discuss how you can better prepare for what’s ahead. We can help you identify ways for your organization to tap into the power of cult branding, create value, and ultimately thrust your performance.

Word of Mouth Marketing

Definition of ‘Word of Mouth’

1: the passing of information from person to person by oral communication

2: an important area of marketing is called word-of-mouth marketing, which relies on the added credibility of person-to-person communication, a personal recommendation.

3: storytelling is a common form of word-of-mouth communication where one person tells others a story about a real event or something made up.


Word of Mouth Meaning from a Marketing Perspective

Customers are very excited to share with the world the brands they love. Many consumers find meaning in sharing stories of their favorite products and services. Word of Mouth is one of the ancient ways people learned about what to purchase. Today modern marketers have learned how to create authentic word of mouth for their companies and the products they represent.

So how do you produce authentic word-of-mouth? You work hard to create amazing experiences for your customers—experiences worth talking about.

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Cult Branding Company explains Word of Mouth

Here are seven principles to help you better understand how to get your customers to talk about your products and services:

1 – The Principle of Integrity: They know that you know that they know
2 – The Principle of Status: People share what makes them look good
3 – The Principle of Cool: Ride in front of the “Cool Wave” or wipe out
4 – The Principle of Groups: Small groups—the critical few—dictate the large
5 – The Principle of Influence: Everyone is influential—especially on the Internet
6 – The Principle of Meaning: People talk about what’s meaningful to them
7 – The Principle of Surprise: People love to share what surprised them

Source: Why We Talk: Seven Reasons Your Customers Will – Or Will Not – Talk About Your Brand



Word of Mouth Marketing (WOMM)

Five ways to create Word of Mouth Marketing:

  1. Don’t say every benefit about your business in every business communication. If everyone already knows everything about you, they won’t have anything to tell their friends that their friends don’t already know, aside from how you may not have fully met their expectations.
  2. Break a standard rule in your industry. Think back to the standard airline attire that flight attendants used to wear. Then Southwest Airlines breaks the rule and let’s their flight attendants wear shorts, a trademark feature of the airlines.
  3. Steal one from your customers. Listen in to what your customers are suggesting and surprise them by actually doing it.
  4. Create fun events your customers will want to be a part of and talk about. Think music festivals, BBQ’s, a simple lunch. Have fun. Enjoy bringing your customers together.
  5. Help your customers be generous. People like to give to others who need help but they also like to give to themselves. Think of promotions to help your customers help the world.



Viral Marketing

Cult Brand marketers are constantly creating new business ideas that keep their products in the heart and minds of the global consumer. Each time a new product is created, customers have to be given a reason to dream about their future purchase. Sometimes marketers of cult brands hit on some things so great that people can’t help and share and engage. Getting your customers talking about your product is very important to growing awareness of your business.

But how can you create viral marketing for your Business?

According to marketing professors Andreas Kaplan and Michael Haenlein, to make viral marketing work, three basic criteria must be met, i.e., giving the right message to the right messengers in the right environment. Three specific types of messengers are required to ensure the transformation of an ordinary message into a viral one.


  • Market mavens are individuals who are continuously ‘on the pulse’ of things (information specialists); they are usually among the first to get exposed to the message and who transmit it to their immediate social network.
  • Social hubs are people with an exceptionally large number of social connections; they often know hundreds of different people and have the ability to serve as connectors or bridges between different subcultures.
  • Salespeople might be needed who receive the message from the market maven, amplify it by making it more relevant and persuasive, and then transmit it to the social hub for further distribution. Market mavens may not be particularly convincing in transmitting the information.



  • Only messages that are both memorable and sufficiently interesting to be passed on to others have the potential to spur a viral marketing phenomenon. Making a message more memorable and interesting or simply more infectious, is often not a matter of major changes but minor adjustments.



  • The environment is crucial in the rise of successful viral marketing – small changes in the environment lead to huge results, and people are much more sensitive to environment. The timing and context of the campaign launch must be right.



 The science behind viral word-of-mouth marketing :

Stories are the currency of communication, and the most effective content taps into deep-rooted social behavior while embedding memorable brand messages. Here you will find several key principles that retailers can use to promote powerful word-of-mouth sharing.

  • Social currency – People love secrets, and since the things we say and share affect how others see us, juicy secrets make us look especially savvy. In an environment where our choices communicate things about us, retailers can help consumers advertise their own identity while talking about a brand. This particular approach is especially effective online, where consumers are carefully crafting their public personas.
  • Triggers – Despite its questionable musical integrity, the music video for “Friday” by Rebecca Black sees a surge of YouTube activity each week … on Friday. Similarly, Cheerios gains more word-of-mouth mentions than a brand like Disney because cereal is a product that many people eat every day. If your product isn’t used regularly, find a way to tie it to a trigger that’s top-of-mind.
  • Trojan horses – You’d never say “Did you know that Subway has five subs under five grams of fat?” to someone at a party. But people do talk about Jared’s famous weight loss story.  Panda Cheese makes its advertising impossible to explain without mentioning the brand name. Will it blend?demonstrates the Blendtec blender’s main feature – power and durability – while entertaining with video stories that are begging to be retold. Just remembering the story isn’t enough. Ideally, each piece of content should track back to your brand.

The first step for retailers is to define key brand and product messages. After that, you can apply concepts like social currency, triggers, and Trojan horses to make those ideas stick. At every step of the way, authenticity is essential. Consumers can always tell when a brand is faking it. The trick is to be your best, most remarkable self.

Examples of Cult Brands using Word of Mouth

Word of mouth is the most powerful medium in marketing. Many brands try to tap into the power of word of mouth but only few achieve great results. Cult Brands are constantly using tactics to acquire positive word of mouth.

Here are 21 of the most powerful Cult Brands and how Word of Mouth has grown their business.

Want to learn more? Read more in Why We Talk a book about Word of Mouth and Word of Mouth Marketing.


Why We Talk: Seven Reasons Your Customers Will—Or Will Not—Talk About Your Brand

In Why We Talk, gifted marketing strategist and professional listener Bolivar J. Bueno dissects the evolution of word-of-mouth in the digital age and the unmistakable power shift that has taken place between marketer and consumer. Sharing one of the most insightful, organic concepts of this decade, Bueno bridges the monumental gap between the results business people want and the frustration they often get. (Also available in Kindle and audio.)

Cult Branding Examples

21 Brands That Have Fanatics and Cult Followers

Cult Branding is the art and science of creating human experiences that lead to a feeling of belonging. This feeling provides a sense of shared consciousness with others, supported by ritualistic behavior.

Cult Branding is so effective that many loyal customers convince their friends and family to choose one company over another based on their deep love and connection to the these brands. Companies with cult branding strategies enjoy additional purchases from friends and family that are excited and ready to get into the group and share the ritual of the brand.

There are many ways to create a Cult Brand, from giving consumers a sense of belonging to simple acts of kindness that create long-term bonds with the consumer. Cult Branding is the the result of a superior understanding of the customer where consumer insights (big data) and humanities (human needs) come together.

There are many weak brands and Average Joe brands in the marketplace. There are even numerous iconic brands in the world, which most other companies aspire to emulate. But few brands ever develop a deep, penetrating relationship with their customers. Few brands truly win the heart’s of their customers, which breeds authentic customer loyalty. Few brands ever adhere to the Seven Rules of Cult Brands that produce unfettered customer loyalty.

Here are 21 of the most powerful Cult Brands and how Cult Branding has shaped their relationship with their customers and Brand Lovers.



Starting in 1994, focused on creating an online shopping experience that anyone could fall in love with. Allowing customer feedback in reviews, fast shipping with free returns, and letting the customer know they are always right, helped Amazon slowly grow into the largest online retailer. Over the last decade, Amazon has developed a customer base of around 30 million people and they are more focused on their customer than ever before. CEO Jeff Bezos, consistently ranked as the #1 outperforming CEO by Harvard Business Review, is the quintessential customer-obsessed business leader.

Bezos examples, “If you’re customer-focused, you’re always waking up wondering, how can we make that customer say, wow? We want to impress our customers—we want them to say, wow. That kind of divine discontent comes from observing customers and noticing that things can always be better.”




Apple is the epitome of self-empowerment and self-fulfillment combined into one brand. How else to describe a Cult Brand whose original slogan for the Macintosh was, “the computer for the rest of us”?

Apple doesn’t just build products, they build products that their faithful fans want. And, they have a variety of interesting ways of preaching and listening to the choir. For starters, Apple hosts a User Group University at Macworld expo where leaders from Mac User Groups—those essentially independent clubs started by Apple aficionados—meet with each other for a full day of workshops and conversations about Apple’s latest products. Apple showers all attendees with free logo merchandise, as well as employee discounts at the company store. Not only does Apple come away with invaluable feedback from a great group of customers, but it re-energizes its faithfuls.

Apple also asks individuals who run successful Mac User Groups in their communities to participate and to help Apple work with less successful user groups in the region. They continually gather feedback for Apple and look for Mac success stories to share. By following this game plan, Apple is able to give its customers the product enhancements they really want and a community to which they want to belong.

Visit the official Cult Brand profile for Apple.





It’s hardly an accident that Oprah Winfrey has maintained such a fervently steadfast and devoted fan base during her career. She has used her talk show as a daily platform for holding heart-to-heart discussions with her audience. Some TV personalities seem distant and removed from the general public, but Oprah has never shied away from sharing intimate, personal details about her life with her audience. Oprah shows her viewers that when the lights and cameras are off, she faces many of the same problems as they do. She is indeed an ordinary person with ordinary problems to overcome. It’s her seeming vulnerability and fragility that make her that much more inclusive of a brand.

Whether you like or dislike Oprah, you can’t argue with the fact that she really does care for people that are, “improving the lives of others.” The halo effect the Oprah brand receives from these community activities is very real. We all feel a certain warmth and quiet joy from helping others. Brands that bring about these feelings in us will almost always hold a special place in our hearts.

Visit the official Cult Brand profile for Oprah.

Harley Davidson

Given financial constraints, Harley couldn’t engage in a traditional advertising campaign to win over customers. In 1983, CEO Vaughn Beals announced the launch of the Harley Owners Group (H.O.G.), which he saw as a grassroots way to reconnect Harley’s brand and lifestyle with its most faithful customers.

The spread of these groups was guerilla marketing at its best: membership was generated primarily from inexpensive promotions at dealerships and word-of-mouth. H.O.G. groups gave enthusiasts a structured way to meet, swap stories, and schedule rides with other evangelists.

They didn’t stop with creating members groups. They started sponsoring rallies around the country. In doing so, not only did they solidify their communities, but they also used the rallies as a killer sales tool. They bring motorcycles to the rallies for people to tryout. This concept reaches its apex each year at Bike Week in Daytona Beach and the Sturgis Rally and Races in South Dakota. Collectively, the events attract over half a million Harley enthusiasts.

In creating these events, and paying attention to its customers, what Harley is ultimately selling through its motorcycles is the opportunity to experience the feelings of raw freedom and empowerment that one receives from strapping on some leather and riding a bike down the open road. These are feelings common to Americans of all ages, races, and backgrounds.

Visit the official Cult Brand profile for Harley-Davidson.

Jimmy Buffett

When an unknown Jimmy Buffett moved to Nashville in 1969 to take his shot at making it in the music business, success didn’t come quickly.

It wasn’t until 1977 and the release of “Margaritaville” that he enjoyed his first, and only, Top Ten hit. But the wait was worth it: almost twenty-five years later, anything even remotely sounding like “Margaritaville” is still referred to as “Jimmy Buffett music.” Buffett owns his category of music in the minds of millions. Whether or not you like Buffett’s music, it’s hard not to break into a big smile and have a heck of a good time at a Buffett concert.

Most musicians focus their attention on making and selling albums and videos, but Buffett aims higher, selling his fan the opportunity for a temporary escape into the land of fun. This lifestyle is what Parrot Heads around the world are really buying. They are purchasing the opportunity to fulfill their passions with like-minded individuals through various activities, be it a road trip to a Buffett concert, meeting with local Parrot Heads for drinks at happy hour, or volunteering with other Parrot Heads to help a nonprofit organization.

Today, Jimmy Buffett earns $100 million each year with his tours, restaurant sales, and albums. The key to his success? Creating and embracing a lifestyle a legion of loyal fans love.

Visit the official Jimmy Buffet Cult Brand profile.
Ikea Cult Brand


People are camping outside. Traffic jams are so severe that highway exits must be shut down. Traffic lights are rendered useless requiring police to direct traffic. Is it a new Star Wars film? No, it’s the opening of a new Ikea store.

Functionality differs between regions, and IKEA takes it into account when designing their products. They don’t just have people complete surveys to figure out what they want. They go into their homes and see the ways they live. Visiting people’s houses in Italy and the United States led to the understanding that Americans store more clothing in drawers. The result: deeper drawers for their American products. This attention to incorporating what their customers want is not lost on the customers. In one forum message, a user identified as bcbaird commented, “I like the IKEA cabinets because the money you spend goes towards the things that count … and not the things that don’t.” And, the attention has paid off: from 1997 to 2005 IKEA doubled its market share and tripled its sales from $600 million to $1.7 billion to become the seventh largest furniture store in the United States.

Visit the official IKEA Cult Brand profile.


In 1991, Linus Torvalds, a twenty-one-year-old college student, set out to change this picture and develop a “cheap alternative” to UNIX.

By 1996, lively discussion had begun among open-source developers that the new operating system clearly needed to have its own mascot and logo. Ferocious animals like sharks, eagles, hawks, and foxes came up, but Torvalds hopped into the discussion and casually said to the open source community that he was rather fond of penguins. A fun-loving penguin was the antithesis of the logos of other tech products: they were cold and corporate. The penguin screamed: We’re different! But Torvalds didn’t want just any penguin for the logo, he wanted one that “looked happy, as if it had just polished off a pitcher of beer and then had the best sex of its life.”

Today, Linux has millions of users around the world, and Torvalds is treated as a near-religious figure responsible for freeing a nation of engineers from their chains to sub-par operating systems. The open source development process doesn’t discriminate. The best code always wins in the Linux nation, whether it comes from a fourteen-year-old kid in Buenos Aires or a fifty-year-old veteran programmer working for a major corporation. They know they will be judged by their peers by the quality of their work and their ideas, and not by their age, job title, background, or work experience.

The Linux Penguin now appears in everything from IBM’s high profile campaigns to Linux T-Shirts, toys, and product packaging. The open source community has given the plump penguin its own name, Tux. The imaginary penguin is truly a star.

Visit the official Linux Cult Brand profile.

Southwest Airlines

Southwest’s company is built on the idea that loyalty begins with the employees. In fact, their ability to be profitable depends entirely on them. Flying short distance flights is, according to conventional wisdom, an unprofitable approach, as planes are forced to spend a greater portion of time on the ground than the air. Rather than cutting labor costs and buying cheap equipment, Southwest relies on their employees to create profit by putting more planes in the air through quick turnarounds.

Everyone who is working for Southwest really wants to work at Southwest Airlines. There’s no hierarchy between pilots and baggage handlers. Everyone is working together to best serve the customer and they’re happy to do it. Not only does their state of mind create a positive atmosphere for the customers, but their efficient, communication-focused approach has resulted in fewer lost bags, fewer delays, and, inevitably, fewer complaints.

Herb Kelleher, ex-CEO of Southwest, demonstrated the understanding that customer loyalty began with the employees, when he claimed profit to be a byproduct of customer service. This driving concept has led Southwest to 33 years of profitability without any layoffs, figures that seem impossible in the airline industry.

Visit the official Southwest Airlines Cult Brand profile.

Star Trek

Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry couldn’t have been further away from fitting the mold of the typical Hollywood director. He wasn’t born into a Hollywood family, and he didn’t have any connections in the film industry.

In 1960, he began pitching the idea of Star Trek to the major studios. As wacky as it sounds today, it took Roddenberry six years of hustling and pitching before NBC finally bit on Star Trek. Even then, Roddenberry’s real challenges were only beginning. The original Star Trek pulled only mediocre ratings and lasted only three short seasons before NBC cancelled it in 1969. In fact, the show barely made it into a third season. In 1967, when the cancellation after a second season seemed highly likely, word quickly spread among sci-fi fans that Star Trek was being cancelled. That’s when the husband and wife team of Bjo and John Trimble entered the picture. The two buffs quickly reacted to the news by developing a “Save Star Trek” letter-writing campaign. Gene Roddenberry got down in the trenches with the Trimbles and helped drum up support. The result of their tireless efforts was that NBC received a barrage of letters from fans begging the network to bring the show back. NBC agreed and Trekkers got to see a third season of their beloved series.

Nine motion pictures, five television series, dozens of books, and endless amounts of merchandise later, Star Trek has grossed hundreds of millions of dollars for Paramount. None of this would ever have come to fruition if it had not been for Roddenberry pleading for support from his fans, and the Trek nation’s wholehearted response. When Roddenberry passed away in 1991, he died knowing that his crazy idea had evolved into an important and lasting mainstay of American pop culture.

Visit the official Star Trek Cult Brand profile.


While Vans is today known as a symbol of alternative sports like skateboarding and snowboarding, the company didn’t start out this way.

In the mid-seventies, Southern California skateboarders started wearing Vans shoes. Unlike any other shoe manufacturer at the time, Vans accepted these customers and began catering to the desires and needs of the, then, renegade skateboarding crowd. In fact, Vans was the first shoe company to start paying well-known skateboarders to wear its shoes. Vans took skateboarders—consumers that in the seventies were treated like lepers by the rest of corporate America—and celebrated them as champions. Vans preached to the choir and listened to the response.

It’s no accident that Vans sponsors and organizes dozens of extreme sports events each year. It knows that this is the best way to connect with customers. For many teenagers and young adults, an activity like skateboarding is their passion.

In addition to developing high-profile events for its customers like the Vans Triple Crown and the Vans Warped Tour, Vans has also begun building and operating its own skateboard parks, each filled with thousands of square feet of space for both skateboards and BMX bikers of all skill levels. Vans uses the parks to continue to build an environment of collaboration and openness: Vans takes input from its customers about what it’s doing right, what it’s doing wrong, and how it can improve. Of course, each Vans-branded park also includes a retail shop with Vans shoes and merchandise. These parks give the people at Vans a unique way to weave their products into the regular activities of their customers.

Visit the official Vans Cult Brand profile.

Volkswagen Beetle

Today the Beetle is regarded as arguably the best-selling car of all time, but back in 1948 it was unknown in the U.S., and many sales types believed no one would ever buy, partly because of its association with Nazi Germany.

Despite initial failures at introducing the Beetle into America, Volkswagen remained undeterred. They brought twenty Beetles to the U.S. to a private showing in New York City and then to the First U.S. International Trade Fair in Chicago. It wasn’t an overnight success, but it started to get attention from the press and generated word-of-mouth buzz.

In addition to developing a unique design (the look), Volkswagen focused on developing a unique marketing message (the say and the feel) for the Beetle. In contrast to the advertising of the Detroit automakers of the 1950s and 1960s, which was full of slick copy and boastful claims, Volkswagen’s ads for the Beetle were frank, direct, and honest. Some of the more memorable early print ads included “Think small,” “Some shapes are hard to improve on,” and the cult-branding clincher, “Do you earn too much to afford one?”

The combination of unique design elements and honest advertising became a killer combination. By the early 1960s, the Beetle became a magnet for legions of Americans who saw themselves as being different. As Bug Talesauthor Paul Klebahn summed up: “The Beetle tended to appeal to freethinkers. This was the thinking person’s car. Instead of saying, look how much I paid for my car, it was look how much I didn’t pay!”

When Volkswagen launched the New Beetle in 1998, they made a conscious decision not to show any drivers in its ads. They wanted their funky-shaped and lovable car to be the center of attention, not an actor or actress. “In the New Beetle’s initial advertising, we never included people in the ads because we didn’t want a person to say, ‘Oh, that’s who drives a Beetle,’” explained Steve Keys, Director of Corporate Communications. “We wanted you to be able to say, ‘I can see myself in that car.’” It was a good move: everyone from teenagers buying their first car to aging baby boomers hoping to recapture their youth purchased the car. Volkswagen benefited from not shrinking its potential audience of buyers: No one had trouble seeing themselves behind the wheel of a New Beetle.

Visit the official VW Beetle Cult Brand profile.



World Wrestling Entertainment

World Wrestling Entertainment’s (WWE) Vince and Linda McMahon are both masters at challenging and shattering conventional wisdom. They prove that anyone can build a Cult Brand.

Despite the current size of WWE, the McMahons still understand the importance of listening to the choir. “You really have to be listening and providing them with what they want to see,” says Lind McMahon.

WWE’s live matches give the company a unique opportunity to see what its most loyal fans like or dislike about a show on any given night. Introduce a new wrestler or storyline twist the crowd doesn’t like, and chants of, “Booring! Booring!” will soon follow. By the same token, if WWE hits upon a great new gimmick or introduces a cool new wrestler, their always vocal fans will let them know about it. Scripts aren’t fully set until the day of the show, and WWE will sometimes even change a script in mid-show based upon a positive or negative reaction. Today, WWE is the only international brand of any consequence in professional wrestling. Taking huge risks and always keeping the fans alive allowed Vince and Lind McMahon to build from scratch an entertainment empire that generates over $400 million in sales annually.

Visit the official WWE Cult Brand profile.


Like the Volkswagen beetle, MINI embraced the Golden Rule of Courage and stood out as something different. In the heyday of the gas-guzzling SUVs, the roads were congested with Escalades, Navigators, and the almighty Hummer. With bigger is better sensibility, drivers could preen their feathers and strut their egos by way of their vehicles. Yet when all of the cars were getting bigger, MINI prided itself on being smaller, much smaller. When MINI wiggled its way onto the scene, it became the little engine that could.

It has been more than fuel efficiency that makes MINI a smart choice. Like other Cult Brands that follow the Golden Rule of Freedom, MINI celebrates each individual driver and encourages him or her to “you-ify your MINI.” MINI explains, “Everybody wants their car to say something different about them. Fortunately, the MINI can say anything.”

MINI proudly fosters a solid network of customer communities—the MINI Family, as it’s called—connected throughout the world. MINI explains, “Dating back to its birth in the UK, there’s a long-standing tradition of MINI owners acknowledging each other when they pass on the streets … So when you pass another MINI, don’t be shy. Give them a wave. It could be as subtle as raising an index finger off the steering wheel or as enthusiastic as two hands out the sunroof (although it would probably be best if these were passenger hands).” You’ll also hear MINI drivers acknowledging one another by flicking their headlights, and even giving high-fives out the window while passing each other by.

Visit the official MINI Cult Brand profile.


Founded in 1999, was the product of Internet entrepreneur Tony Hsieh’s Venture Frogs venture capital firm. In 2003 seeing that the only reason the company made it this far was the direct result of customer satisfaction, through repeat business and word-of-mouth, Hsieh focused every aspect of the company on delivering great service and WOWing the current customers.

Hsiesh’s long-term, customer-based strategy paid out, bringing Zappos to $1 billion in sales in 2008, two years ahead of schedule. Zappos now operates as an independent entity and maintains its unique culture. Rather than focus on buzz and major marketing schemes, Zappos continues to focus their efforts on what made them successful and made their customers love them: building long term customer relationships by continuing to WOW them with every interaction.

Visit the Official Zappos Cult Brand profile.

The Motley Fool

Brothers Tom and David Gardner started writing a 16-page investment newsletter for their family and parents’ friends. In August of 1993, The Motley Fool was born. Embracing the power of the Web to harness a community, the Fools quickly established the largest financial community—first on AOL in 1994 and then on their own website in 1997.

One of the best qualities of The Motley Fool is that they’ve found a way to make investing and other financial matters fun. In fact, it’s part of their mission and even their tagline: to educate, amuse and enrich. Through witty commentary, playful jabs at each other, and comical writing, The Motley Fools is committed to helping their Brand Lovers save for retirement and entertaining them in the process. And, of course, the The Motley Fool internal culture propagates a similar level of freedom and fun: In a land of political bureaucracy, the Virginia-based headquarters was listed as one of the “Great Places to Work” by Washingtonian magazine.

The doors at The Motley Fools are always open: Anyone is welcome to join the Foolish Community. The only criterion is the desire to take control of your own finances and to have some fun in the process. Over 50 The Motley Fool staffers monitor the forums, offerings insights and data not just as financial “experts,” but as additional members of the community.

Dos Equis

Dos Equis beer has created a fictional character that all men envy and strive to emulate, a modern day James Bond, if you will.

The Most Interesting Man in the World commercials are inspirational.

The agency describes the Dos Equis spokesperson “He is a man rich in stories and experiences, much the way the audience hopes to be in the future. Rather than an embodiment of the brand, The Most Interesting Man is a voluntary brand spokesperson: he and Dos Equis share a point of view on life that it should be lived interestingly.”

“Stay thirsty, my friends”


Coca-Cola is a leading its loyal fans into making the world a happier place. This give fans a place to belong to something more than just a product.

“Throughout its history Coca-Cola has always had a role in bringing simple moments of happiness to people around the world every day,” said Joe Tripodi, chief marketing and commercial leadership officer, The Coca-Cola Company. “Today we have an engaged global community more than 50 million strong connected through Facebook. This provides an opportunity to engage our most supportive and enthusiastic fans in a quest to find ways to make the world a happier place.”


In 1995, a renegade cow, paintbrush in mouth, painted the three words “EAT MOR CHIKIN” on a billboard. From that day forward, the burger-eating landscape would forever be changed. These fearless cows, acting in enlightened self-interest, realized that when people eat chicken, they don’t eat them. Today, the cows’ herds have increased and their message reaches millions – on television, radio, the internet, and the occasional water tower. Needless to say, Chick-fil-A fully endorses and appreciates the monumental efforts made by our most beloved bovine friends.


The history of The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, originates with The Ritz-Carlton, Boston. The standards of service, dining and facilities of this Boston landmark serve as a benchmark for all Ritz-Carlton hotels and resorts worldwide.

The legacy of The Ritz-Carlton, Boston begins with the celebrated hotelier Cesar Ritz, the “king of hoteliers and hotelier to kings.” His philosophy of service and innovations redefined the luxury hotel experience in Europe through his management of The Ritz Paris and The Carlton in London.
The Ritz-Carlton, Boston revolutionized hospitality in America by creating luxury in a hotel setting:

  • Private bath in each guest room
  • Lighter fabrics in the guest room to allow for more thorough washing
  • White tie and apron uniforms for the waitstaff, black tie for the Maitre d’ and morning suits for all other staff, conducive to a formal, professional appearance
  • Extensive fresh flowers throughout the public areas
  • A la carte dining, providing choices for diners
  • Gourmet cuisine, utilizing the genius and cooking methods of Auguste Escoffier
  • Intimate, smaller lobbies for a more personalized guest experience

Cesar Ritz died in 1918 but his wife Marie continued the expansion of hotels bearing his name. In the United States, The Ritz-Carlton Investing Company was established by Albert Keller who bought and franchised the name. In 1927 The Ritz-Carlton, Boston, opened and other hotels followed in New York (at Madison and 54th), Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Atlantic City and Boca Raton. However, by 1940 none of the hotels were operating except The Ritz-Carlton, Boston. The hotel embodies the vision of Cesar Ritz, Yankee ingenuity and Boston social sensibilities.

Ben & Jerry’s

From a renovated gas station in Burlington, Vermont, to far-off places with names we sometimes mispronounce, what began over 30 years ago with 2 guys creating otherworldly ice cream flavors has turned into a tastebud-boggling odyssey of Ben & Jerry’s desserts served around the world.

Using an old-fashioned ice cream freezer, they began churning out all the rich & creamy, fun & chunky ice cream flavors they’d always dreamed about, flavors loaded with all their favorite chunks of fruits, nuts, candies, and cookies.

Soon there were long lines stretching out the door of the old gas station, as more and more folks clamored for a taste of Ben & Jerry’s flavor creations. Their ice cream was such a hit, it wasn’t long before they began selling it to local restaurants, then grocery stores and supermarkets throughout Vermont and beyond. Way beyond.


Football has become the most popular sport in the United States.

Millions tune in on Super Bowl Sunday to watch the big game. Whether they are diehard fans or people who only watch one football game a year, NFL has a huge fan base from coast to coast.

Every Sunday, an average of 65,000 people attend each game, and even more watch on television. Cities close down and people stop whatever it is they are doing to cheer on their favorite team.

The NFL has 32 teams spread out across the country, each with their own rituals, stadiums, chants, and fans. Through good times and bad, there are certain fan bases who continue to show their loyalty.

Browse Cult Brands

Cult Brand

‘Cult Brand’ Defined

1: A product or service that is in a class of their own as they have mastered the art of building lasting and meaningful relationships with their customers. In the world of Cult Brands, the customer is not only king, but is part of the family. When you buy a Harley Davidson motorcycle, you are not just getting a bike—you’re getting a membership into The Club.

These brands have no competition. They rule their customer-defined category. There are no substitutes for Oprah, Vans, Linux, Southwest Airlines, IKEA, Harley-Davidson, Apple, Star Trek, Jimmy Buffett, and Volkswagen Beetle. (Read profiles of these Cult Brands here.) These brands are profitable even in the most adverse market conditions because of the powerful relationships they’ve forged with their customers.

2: Cult Brands understand that their brands belong to the customers. Only the customer’s voice counts. A successful Cult Brand embraces its customers by anticipating their basic human and spiritual needs. As a consequence, Cult Brands achieve a level of customer loyalty unprecedented in traditional business.

3: A cult following is a term used to refer to a group of fans who are highly dedicated to a specific area of pop culture. A film, book, band, or video game, among other things, will be said to have a cult following when it has a small but very passionate fan base.

4: A product or service that has an energetic and loyal customer base. A cult brand, unlike others, has customers who can be described as near-fanatical, true believers in the brand and may feel a sense of ownership or vested interest in the brand’s popularity and success. Cult brands have achieved a unique connection with customers, and are able to create a consumer culture that people want to be a part of.


Cult Brand Meaning

Cult Brands always give back. They are adamant about continually finding new ways to show love and appreciation for the passion and devotion of their customers. Unlike faceless corporations, Cult Brands are humble and personable. They never take their customers for granted.

Cult Brands build strong, ongoing relationships with their customers by developing and supporting customer communities.Cult Brands aren’t afraid to use today’s profits to create customer communities for generating powerful long-term goodwill for their business and their brands.



Cult Branding Company explains ‘Cult Brand’

Cult Branding is the art and science of creating human experiences that lead to feelings of belonging, a sense of shared consciousness with others and engagement in ritualistic behavior.

Cult Branding is so effective that many loyal customers convince their friends and family to choose one company over another based on their deep love and connection to the these brands. Companies with cult branding strategies enjoy additional purchases from friends and family that are excited and ready to get into the group and share the ritual of the brand.

There are many ways to create a Cult Brand. From giving consumers a sense of belonging to simple acts of kindness that create long term bonds with the consumer. Cult Branding is the the result of a superior understanding of the customer where consumer insights (Big Data) and humanities (Human Needs) come together.


Cult Brand Examples

There are many weak brands and Average Joe brands out there. There are even numerous iconic brands in the world, which most other companies aspire to be. But few brands ever develop a deep, penetrating relationship with their customers. Few brands truly win the heart’s of their customers, which breeds authentic customer loyalty. Few brands ever adhere to the rules – knowingly or not — that define a Cult Brand.

Here are 20 of the most powerful Cult Brands and how Cult Branding has shaped their relationship with their customers and Brand Lovers.

Brand Lover Go To Market Strategy


Marketing used to be fairly straightforward: Throw money at advertising in order to influence people to buy your products and services. If your advertising campaign was decent, the resulting sales outweighed the cost of advertising. If your campaign was excellent, your business grew like a wildflower.

Fast forward to today: The customer is now in control. Media fragmentation from hundreds of cable networks, millions of websites, social media, and mobile applications make it more difficult to reach the general market. And even if you do reach your potential customers, they don’t have to listen, and probably won’t. What’s an intelligent marketer to do?

Savvy businesses from successful boutique businesses to major retailers utilize what we call the Brand Lover Marketing Strategy, a powerful go to market strategy that seeks to build long-term profitability and sales growth.

Understand What Branding Is Really All About

Management guru Peter Drucker explained that the purpose of business is to create a customer. In contemporary marketing, your job is to create a repeat customer who is likely to build a relationship with you and buy from you year after year. (This approach is sometimes called relational marketing in contrast to transactional marketing, which is exclusively focused on selling the next product.)

In order to accomplish this magnificent feat, you must develop what’s called a brand. A brand is an association that a customer has with certain feelings and images represented by a company, not simply a company name or a logo. You cannot create a brand by yourself because branding is a co-authored experience between you and your customers.

When a group of customers has strong associations between your brand and a desired feeling, the brand has “equity” it can leverage in order to grow. Southwest Airlines offers warm, friendly service to its passengers in an industry notorious for a ubiquitous subpar customer experience. Southwest Airlines’ brand has become the “heart of the sky,” symbolized by a heart on the belly of its airplanes. In an industry where most airlines go bankrupt, Southwest remained profitable for over 30 years.

Focus On Your Best Customers

The secret ingredient to Southwest’s profitability and that of any sustainable enterprise is called Brand Lovers: The customers who love you the most. Brand Lovers emotionally connect with what you do and want to celebrate who you are. Their connection with your brand is so strong that they often don’t consider doing business with anyone else. Apple’s Mac users, for example, don’t consider purchasing a PC. To them, there is no alternative.

At the very least, your Brand Lovers choose you more often than your competitors. For many companies, the best customers drive over 80 percent of the business’s profitability and yet, the business generally knows very little about them. Basic market research does not offer you insights into your best customers. The true drivers of choice for your best customers are emotional connections to your brand.

Certain brands have a legion of Brand Lovers—we call them Cult Brands. In a Cult Brand like Apple, Steve Jobs always knew he was selling a unique way of life that’s intelligent, creative and special—Apple never not just sold computers, digital music players, and smartphones. The executives of Harley-Davidson know they are selling freedom of the open road and a special kind of family, not just a motorcycle. Oprah is far more than just another talk show host: Real, honest and loving, Oprah radiates hope and promise for a better tomorrow.


Identify Your Brand Lovers

Perhaps your business doesn’t have Brand Lovers like Apple, Harley or Oprah, but you do have your best customers—customers who give you repeat business and who may tell their friends and colleagues about your brand.

So how do you find your best customers? Actually, they often find you. They congregate at your stores. They send you e-mails and call from time to time to tell you how great you’re doing. Some customers might even blog about your products or services, or create videos and post them on YouTube. These special customers might mention you on their personal Web pages on Facebook or Twitter.

On the financial side, if you maintain a customer database, you can sift through and determine who purchases from you with the greatest frequency and for the longest time span.

What if none of the above helps you locate them? Then get creative. Carefully crafted surveys might point you in the right direction or you may need to hire a firm to help you identify who your best customers are.

Get To Know Your Brand Lovers

Talk to them. Find out why they keep doing business with you. Don’t be afraid to ask. But listen carefully.

Conducting online surveys can be helpful, but if you have a physical storefront, meet your customers face to face. Sam Walton would often tell his executives: “If you don’t know what to do, go ask the customer. If it’s not happening in the store, it is not important.”

Look for the intangible clues that make you unique in your customers’ eyes. Uncover the emotional effect you have on them.

The Key To This Powerful Go To Market Strategy

There are always ways to grow your business by embracing your best customers. Once you understand why your best customers enjoy doing business with you, you will be better prepared to serve them. The answers don’t have to be complex.

How can you recognize your Brand Lovers—and show them that you honestly care about them? For World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE), offering free meatball subs before the show increased the love among participants.

What problem are you helping your best customers solve? What need are you helping them fill? Skaters were ostracized by most businesses, but Vans listened to its customers and developed products aligned with the skaters’ lifestyle.

What are meaningful ways to celebrate their loyalty? Harley-Davidson developed leather jackets for its riders. Apple, listening to its Mac User Groups, through a long string of failures and innovations, created the iPhone specifically for its customers.

Are you grateful for your best customers? Do they know it? What are some ways to acknowledge your appreciation for their business? You don’t necessarily have to give them a gift; sometimes a simple “Thank you” will work wonders.

The role of marketing is to create the future today, which requires you to know what your customers will want tomorrow. The only way to anticipate the future needs of your customers is to understand who they are, talk to them and listen. Then, you can create the future together with this unbeatable go to market strategy.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Human Needs


Abraham Maslow postulated that humans have an ascending order of needs and used a hierarchal pyramid to prioritize them. At the bottom levels of the pyramid are our physiological needs—like food, shelter, and clothing—that we need to survive. As these needs are met, progressively higher needs present themselves: safety and security, social interaction, and self-esteem, all topped by self-actualization, a term Maslow used to describe the ultimate human need to learn, grow, and reach one’s full potential.

Physiological Needs

These needs can be divided into two categories:

1.The first category is made up of needs that are homeostatic—the need to maintain an internal, biological balance—and include such things as salt concentration, sugar concentration, and water concentration in the blood. If a substance is out of balance, there will be a desire to consume foods that bring these levels back into balance.

2.The second category includes those needs that are not homeostatic, such as sleep and sex.

Both of these categories are deeply rooted in the biological systems of the body. More importantly, if one were to strip a person of material possessions and psychological identity, physiological needs would be the primary driver of that person’s behavior. All actions would be directed at satisfying basic needs, and the person would seek an environment to satisfy these needs. Near a large bike rally, Wal-Mart noticed that for temperatures above 88 degrees, beer sales went down and water sales went up.

In modern societies, it is rare for anyone to experience this level of physiological-driven motivation. It would be even rarer to find an individual who is completely dissatisfied for an extended duration of time.

Safety Needs

Once physiological needs are satisfied, safety needs emerge. These include the need for security and stability. If you were to strip someone of everything but his or her physiological needs, safety needs would become the primary motivator, but not with the same sense of urgency as physiological needs.

As with physiological needs, modern society ensures that safety needs are sufficiently satisfied for the vast majority of adults. Safety needs occur on smaller scales and are seen in people’s desires for certainty: job stability and insurance policies—a general preference for the known over the unknown.

Belongingness and Love Needs

When physiological and safety needs are met, belonging needs emerge. These include the need for affection, relationships, and belongingness, as to a group. In daily life, people exhibit these needs in their desire to marry, have a family, be a part of a community, a member of a church, a brother in a fraternity, a member of a gang, or a member of a bowling club. Belonging is also a part of what they look for in a career.

It is at this level that the support and social structure of modern society becomes insufficient to fulfill a person’s needs. Modern society shows its fragmentation in the breakdown of traditional groups. Increased mobility has left many feeling disconnected and unfulfilled. The importance of neighborhoods and families to an individual’s well-being has been overlooked. Moreover, there’s no indication this fragmentation is going to slow down. Maslow cited these unmet needs as being the primary cause for mental disorders. He commented, “We have largely forgotten our deep animal tendencies to herd, to flock, to join, to belong.” This need reveals why consumers choose to be part of brands that offer them connection and belonging, such as Jimmy Buffett’s Parrotheads or Harley-Davidson’s H.O.G.

Esteem Needs

Maslow divided the next level in the hierarchy into two categories: the need for esteem from others and the need for self-esteem. The need for esteem from others is met externally and includes the desire for status and dominance, while the need for self-esteem is met internally and includes the want of independence and mastery.

Maslow believed the healthiest way to satisfy esteem needs was to have both internal and external esteem needs met as a result of a person’s authentic nature, so that any respect gained would be merited rather than derived from the presentation of a false self.


At the top of the hierarchy is the need for self-actualization. By this, Maslow meant the need to be what one has the potential to become. In Motivation and Personality, Maslow wrote, “Musicians must make music, artists must paint, poets must write if they are ultimately to be at peace with themselves. What humans can be they must be. They must be true to their own nature. This need we may call self-actualization … It refers to people’s desire for self-fulfillment, namely, the tendency for them to become actualized in what they are potentially.”

At this level, the needs lower in the hierarchy are satisfied, and, therefore, cease to motivate the individual. However, the need for self-actualization cannot be satisfied, and any satisfaction that is gained only serves to further motivate the individual.

10 Strategies for Creating a Magnetic Brand that Attracts Loyal Customers

Brand loyalty doesn’t happen by accident. Brands that cultivate loyalty find ways to emotionally connect with their customers; these brands stand for something meaningful in their customers’ eyes.

How do you create and establish a successful brand that brings loyal, profitable customers to your door?

1) Build your business around your best customers instead of trying to aimlessly drive sales. Over time, your return on marketing and innovation efforts will rise. Apple is masterful at creating products especially for customers who love style, creativity, and simplicity.

2) Listen to what your best customers are telling you. Don’t be a transaction-making machine. Be a real person and build a business to serve real people. This is the key to cultivating customer loyalty. Southwest Airlines isn’t just another airline to its loyal customers who perceive Southwest as the “heart of the sky.”

3) Focus on what your brand does best. If you try to be all things to all people you’ll end up being nothing to everyone. Be bold. Be unique. Differentiate your brand around your strengths. Ritz Carlton is a hotel of ladies and gentleman serving ladies and gentleman. Volkswagen Beetle has built a distinctive brand around a special little car.

4) Understand what makes your customers tick. Learn how they think, feel, and behave towards your brand. This isn’t easy, but if you can decode these drivers, you’ll be better positioned to create long-term customers. Talk to your customers. Read their comments about you and your products on the web. Read blog posts related to your brand. Most of all, truly listen to what your customers are saying.

5) Identify your customers’ drivers of choice. Why are your current customers buying from you instead of your competitors? Knowing the answer to this question can define the future of your enterprise. Understanding drivers of choice isn’t easy because you need to decode the conscious and unconscious motivators influencing your customers’ buying decisions.

6) Be relentless in serving your best customers better than anyone else. Give them plenty of reasons to stay with you and no reasons to leave. Push your business to continually find ways to make your customers’ lives easier and better. Brands like and Netflix are constantly finding ways to enhance the customer experience by refining algorithms to recommend products and movies the customer will enjoy.

7) Find ways to wow and surprise your best customers. Do something extraordinary and unexpected for them. Instead of playing with “word-of-mouth marketing” programs, focus on better serving your customers and word of mouth will happen naturally. Online retailer Zappos is masterful at producing the wow factor by providing free, surprise upgrades to overnight delivery, random gifts, and hand-written notes to their customers.

8) Determine what your brand stands for and deliver on your promise. You must become relentless in your dedication to deliver on your brand promise each and every day. Harley-Davidson customers love the freedom of the open road and the brand promises that freedom. Oprah stands for empowerment, hope, and the promise of a better tomorrow.

9) Build a brand model that identifies the psychological motivators, key characteristics, and emotional connections your customers have with you. An effective brand model will describe your customers’ mindsets, attitudes, and behaviors toward your brand. Every successful brand has some form of a brand model. Major brands go through formal processes to construct their brand models.

10) Use your brand model to make all business decisions. An effective brand model accurately predicts customer behavior because the model takes into account the psychological drivers of your customers. If your new ad doesn’t hit on what’s important to your customers, don’t run it. If you’re innovating in a direction that isn’t relevant to your brand lovers, change directions. An effective brand model removes the guesswork in building a magnetic brand that attracts more loyal customers.

Most businesses struggle because they don’t identify whom their business is especially for. Market research and focus groups don’t provide the answers because ninety percent of consumer behavior is unconscious. Customers rarely articulate their true motivations even when directly questioned—people simply cannot describe why they really do what they do. Your job as an entrepreneur, brand manager or chief marketing executive is to figure out what motivates your best customers. You need psychological insights into the motivations behind your customers’ behaviors—how they think and feel about your brand. These consumer insights will provide the business lens needed to evaluate marketing strategies, advertising campaigns, and product innovations.

Where to go from here

The Power of Cult Branding

Some called them brave—others, crazy. The American motorcycle manufacturer born in a Milwaukee shed in 1903 drifted out of greatness in 1965. Japanese motorcycle makers began churning out less expensive, superior quality bikes. Worse yet, unreliable engines were plaguing this great American legacy—the curse of any manufacturer.

Led by CEO Vaughn Beals on February 26, 1981, thirteen brave Harley-Davidson Motor Company executives decided to buyback their failing business in an $81.5-million leveraged buyout. Now, these thirteen strong had no choice: turnaround the company or let it die.

The Merchant Mindset

Most businesses focus primarily on generating the next transaction. Customer loyalty is perceived as unattainable to merchants who figure, “We might as well try to squeeze one more sale out of them.” But if you’re battling for the next transaction, over time, you’re destined to lose. Customers who choose you based on price will leave you for the same reason.

Businesses with passion and heart build relationships with their customers. There are decision-making factors that far exceed price, selection and location. A company like Wal-Mart is masterful at connecting with customers and offering them an intangible benefit they can’t get anywhere else. Do you think millions of people shop at Wal-Mart everyday because of price alone? If so, why do you think people drove 20 miles past their local K-Mart to shop at Wal-Mart? Both retailers had similar products with comparable prices. Wal-Mart made the customer its boss, an approach heralded by founder Sam Walton himself, and Walton’s loyal patrons felt it.

Cult Branding Defined

A rare few businesses go a monumental step further. A Cult Brand is born when a benign group of individuals rally around a brand’s lifestyle. Psychiatrist Carl Jung called it the participation mystique. These brands spark a magical participation with their customers; they embrace a certain way of being, aligned to a specific set of beliefs.

You can be a corporate attorney running frantically from meeting to meeting, but when you enter a Jimmy Buffett concert you morph into a Parrothead. Litigation, conference calls and the stress of daily life slide into shadow. Now, you’re all about burgers, cocktails and connecting with friends in the paradise of Margaritaville.

Cult Brands embrace what psychologist Abraham Maslow called B-values—values that inspire humans to grow and reach their potential. B-values include truth, goodness, beauty, wholeness, aliveness, uniqueness, perfection, completion, justice, simplicity, richness, effortless, playfulness and self-sufficiency. Within any Cult Brand you’ll find B-values being awakened in their beloved customers. Trekkie conventions and Mac User Groups embrace the value of uniqueness. Margaritaville personifies the values of aliveness and playfulness.

Unlike destructive cults that damage people and their surrounding communities, members of Cult Brands behave in constructive ways towards their communities. Here, people fulfill deeply-rooted human needs and enjoy the lifestyle the brand offers. Within these coveted communities, you get to be who you really are—you are allowed to be happy, to be yourself, to be weird together and feel weird no more.

Few authentic Cult Brands grace the business world, but we know who they are. Their customers make sure we do: Apple, Harley-Davidson, Oprah, Ikea, Southwest Airlines, Linux, Vans, Star Trek, Jimmy Buffett, WWE and VW Beetle—the list isn’t very long. Cult Brands have been in business for an average of over forty years, fueled by the people who love them the most.

Our decade of research and study of Cult Brands shows that great brands don’t happen by accident. Unequivocal customer loyalty—to be chosen over and over by a core group of customers who refuse to shop at your competitors—takes conscious effort.

Embracing Your Brand Lovers

Cult Brands don’t just foster casual relationships with their customers; they find ways to play an integral part in their lives. They embrace their customers like members of a loving family, providing a safe community for them to be who they really are. These brands are bold and courageous — often disliked by many, but loved by a precious few. We call these special few Brand Lovers.

These customers love their brand for reasons they probably don’t fully understand, but they love their brand nonetheless. A small legion of Brand Lovers will do more for the growth and sustainability of your business than all the transactional customers in the world. Not convinced? We’ve found that Pareto’s Law (the 80/20 Principle) holds: a small percentage of customers can drive over 80 percent of profitability. It costs five times more to acquire a new customer than keep an old one. Most importantly, the customers who love you the most—your Brand Lovers—spread the word and create new customers for you (just ask anyone who owns a Mac, an iPod, or an iPhone).

Are all of your customers contributing equally to your profits? It’s unlikely. There are certain customers who choose you more often. These precious few are the lifeblood of your business.

Do you know who your best customers are? Without this knowledge, you will take yourself out of business or your competitors will do it for you.

  • Does your company really listen to the feedback and suggestions of its most loyal followers? What are these customers saying?
  • Customers want to be appreciated. They want their suggestions to be heard and used. How do you reward your best customers? If you haven’t been rewarding them, do it quickly before someone else does.
  • Every company can do more to show its customers appreciation for their business. What are new ways you can show your customers that you “listen” and that you appreciate them?

Oh, and in case you’re wondering, those thirteen Harley-Davidson executives listened intently to their Brand Lovers the way only Cult Brands do. In 1984, they released a new engine called the Evolution that extinguished many of their quality concerns. More importantly, they worked hard to strengthen their relationship with their customers, forming the Harley Owners Group (HOG) in 1983 — an international customer club with over one million devoted owners. Did their $81.5-million buyout pay off? A $10 billion company valuation seems to answer that question quite nicely.

The Loyalty Continuum

Most companies try to build brands that no one will hate instead of brands some people will love. Most marketers live in a world where they are constantly searching for the flashy, the splashy—in short, the trivial, often-meaningless brouhaha that has very little to do with the core of the brand.

Cult Brands understand that their brands belong to the customers. Only the customer’s voice counts. A successful Cult Brand embraces its customers by anticipating their basic human and spiritual needs. As a consequence, Cult Brands achieve a level of customer loyalty unprecedented in traditional business.

To help illustrate, let’s map various brands on The Loyalty Continuum:

No Brand Land: No Brand Land is wrought with challenges, and this is a place most small businesses find themselves. Companies in No Brand Land are often stuck working in their business rather than on their business, and they don’t ever develop a solid idea of who they are, what they offer or stand for, or how they can improve their customer experience. These companies tend to change what they offer—and who they are—at the first sniff of a new or different (often perceived as “better”) opportunity, and they don’t have any goals related to the customer relationship; their business is typically “all about them”—their service offering, the “extra buck” they can make, or the new challenge they want to conquer (without regard for how it affects their niche in the marketplace.

Leaky Brand: These companies have set up the basic identifiers: they have a name, a recognizable logo, a tagline, and perhaps a few other pieces of business collateral (brochures, etc.), but ultimately, they haven’t discovered ways of being distinct, memorable, or necessary to their customers.

Average Joe Brand: Here we enter the world of large companies who have marketing departments that actively advertise and sell to their customers. They often take their brand messages in too many directions, which dilutes their brands because of inconsistency and confusion to their customers.

Iconic Brands: Iconic brands are all around us. We shop them and love them—they are part of our culture. They’re easily recognized by their logo. These brands usually spend a lot of marketing money and are constantly monitoring their image and public perception. These iconic brands are top of mind brands and often dominate market share of a category: McDonalds, Microsoft, Dell, Coke, Pepsi, and American Airlines. Many national retail chains have loyal customers, but they don’t occupy an irreplaceable position in the consumers’ hearts.

Cult Brands: Cult Brands are in class of their own as they have mastered the art of building lasting and meaningful relationships with their customers. In the world of Cult Brands, the customer is not only king, but is part of the family. When you buy a Harley Davidson motorcycle, you are not just getting a bike—you’re getting a membership into The Club. These brands have no competition. They rule their customer-defined category. There are no substitutes for Oprah, Vans, Linux, Southwest Airlines, IKEA, Harley-Davidson, Apple, Star Trek, Jimmy Buffett, and Volkswagen Beetle. These brands are profitable even in the most adverse market conditions because of the powerful relationships they’ve forged with their customers.

Why Brand Models Are Important

You have a big family reunion at your home next week. Big decision: Do you set up for a BBQ outdoors or plan for an in-house venue? An outdoors event makes life easier, but what if it rains? Should you invest the money in an outdoor canopy?

Although we don’t have crystal balls to predict the future, we have meteorological modeling to predict the weather. Looks like clear skies on Saturday. Does that mean it won’t rain? Of course not. Models are predictive, but they are not 100% accurate. The more advanced and effective the model, the more accurate its predictive capabilities.

Most mega-brands have their own way of modeling their brands. The purpose of a brand model is to predict consumer behavior. Without a brand model you’re left with major uncertainty on how your present decisions will affect your customers in the future.

There’s a staggering amount of information that crosses the average executive’s desk each day. A brand model helps you focus on what’s most important to the growth of your business, screening out the noise.

What does an effective brand model give you?

An effective brand model is a representation of the most important elements that drive your business. Modeling the brand offers your business four important benefits:

  • An effective brand model describes the consumer’s mindset, attitudes and behaviors toward your brand.
  • An effective brand model predicts the future, turning “what if” questions into observations to consider for future action.
  • An effective brand model provides you with information about what is needed to reach your goals with consistent standards.
  • An effective brand model offers a synthesis of everything your brand does and a quintessential framework for evaluating decisions.

If your chief competitor models their brand and you don’t, you will lose to your competitor over time. Alternatively, if you have a more effective model than your competitor, you will likely gain market share over time.

The benefits of an effective brand model

An effective brand model helps your leadership team:

  • Make better decisions. Better decisions leads to financial results.
  • Quickly pinpoint changes in trends and your “consumer ecosystem” and adjust your strategies in order to stay ahead of your competitors.
  • Uncover emerging consumer needs and highlight where to innovate.
  • Identify what strategic actions will have the greatest impact on your brand (based on the model’s descriptive and predictive power).
  • Solve challenging industry problems. Data without context leads to white noise. A brand model filters erroneous data to help you clarify the problem.
  • Clarify the role marketing, advertising, innovation and the rest of your brand’s assets play in the mind of the customer.
  • Organize and structure information that CEOs, CMOs and brand managers need right away.

The benefits of modeling your brand are plentiful. The potential drawback is that your model isn’t always going to be right. Plus, if your model doesn’t address the human element of your business you’ll end up making decisions that may produce short-term revenue by sacrificing long-term, sustainable profitability.

Of course, not all brand models are created equal.

A solid brand model provides five important advantages in growing your business:

  • Accurate predictions. A solid model gives you accurate predictions of consumer behavior. For example, Harley-Davidson tries to produce only one more motorcycle than they expect to sell—talk about tight inventory!
  • Details on execution. A solid brand model provides a description of the essential details needed to serve your best customers. Harley-Davidson’s brand model provides a structure of how Harley Owners Groups (HOGs) can best operate their chapters.
  • Solution indicators. A solid model provides accurate descriptions of the solution when the problem is solved. Because HOG has a model of what their groups look like at their best, they have a model to measure other groups against.
  • Clarity and direction. A customer-centric model shows you what actions will have the greatest impact on your core customers. If you know the emotional outcome that customers get from doing business with you, you can eliminate anything that doesn’t ladder up to that outcome.
  • Customer-centric innovations. An effective model decodes what your customers want. It will track how people feel about your brand and provide the insights necessary for new product and service innovations. If an auto parts shop knows that time is a major factor for its customers, it can focus on ways to make shopping faster and easier.

Executives often make up what they want to hear. Brand modeling helps you determine if what you’re doing is actually working. Instead of going exclusively with gut emotions—or with just doing what you’ve always done—an effective model can more accurately tell you what’s really going on with your business, with your customers, and in your industry.

Brand Model 3.0

The exclusive focus of the Cult Branding Company is the on-going development of the Brand Model 3.0 for major enterprises committed to serving their customers.

Brand Model 3.0 is the only brand model that focuses exclusively on the importance of decoding the psychological drivers of a brand’s best customers. Our research and experiences working with major corporations demonstrates that focusing on your best customers—your Brand Lovers—is the best way to drive long-term profitability, growth and sustainability for ANY business.

Learn more about Brand Model 3.0 here.