How Cult Brands Create Loyal Customers

The relationship between Cult Brands and their Brand Lovers is mutually beneficial.

Brand Lovers enjoy a real sense of satisfaction, accomplishment, and belonging from the relationship. Their self-image is enhanced significantly: these customers feel better about themselves—and they feel strongly that others view them more positively—because of the brands they openly embrace.

Cult Brands Build Self-Esteem

Every decision we make is made in response to a need. When we’re hungry, we need to eat: so we have a sandwich. When we’re cold, we need to warm up: so we put on a coat. When we’re lonely, we need companionship: so we go out to a club to meet some people.

We have all kinds of needs. Some of our needs are physical, such as the need for food, water, and shelter. Other needs are emotional, such as the need for companionship or a positive self-image. Other needs are more philosophical, such as a need for beauty or the need to help other people enjoy better lives.

Cult Brands are successful because they meet their customers’ needs on several levels. Particularly important are the esteem needs: these needs focus on how our customers see themselves and how they think other people see them.

People need to see themselves as good people, and they need to believe other people think they’re good.

The definition of “good” varies significantly from person to person, based on a range of factors including culture, gender, and social connections. Cult Brands make it easy for people to see themselves as good. They’re welcomed and recognized by other Brand Lovers as one of the in-group, a member of the community. 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.

Cult Brands Provide a Sense of Belonging

Fitting in is very important to human beings. From the moment we are born, we are partially defined by the communities we belong to. Even the smallest baby is part of multiple communities: she is part of a family, an ethnic group, and even a nation. We partly identify ourselves by the communities we associate with.

The original elements of our identity are provided for us. We can’t choose what family we’re born into, our ethnic heritage, or our country of origin. However, as we grow and develop, we can and do make choices that expand our identity. We do this by joining communities.

We can join communities by our actions. Playing soccer, for example, gains us entry to the community of soccer players and, by extension, the larger community of athletes.

We can join communities by sharing a common belief: the conviction that one must make planet-friendly choices brings one into the community of environmentalists.

We can join communities by making purchases. That’s the big secret behind Cult Branding: Cult Brands give their customers the sense that they belong.

Cult Branding Cultivates Customer Loyalty

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, Life is good, and WWE aren’t shy about sharing their enthusiasm for their favorite brands.

These customers do far more than purchase the merchandise or services of their beloved Cult Brands. They wear apparel with the Cult Brand’s logo. They make pilgrimages—sometimes thousands of miles—to attend store openings or biker rallies. More than a few have even tattooed their favorite brand’s logo.

This doesn’t just happen. Our research and study of Cult Brands makes it obvious that Cult Brands don’t happen by accident. And, more importantly, they aren’t sustained by accident. Unequivocal customer loyalty—to be chosen over and over by a core group of customers who choose you first—takes conscious effort.

Legions of Loyal Customers

Watch this presentation to learn how Apple created a mass movement and your brand can too:

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