No Apologies: What’s Interesting About Pepsi’s New Logo

Pepsi is celebrating 125 years in business with a new logo. It’s good to keep the visual identity fresh – always a challenge with a legacy brand – but what I think is especially interesting is the language Pepsi leadership is using to describe the change. 

“Unapologetic” is the word that keeps cropping up. For a while, the brand was playing with the “Is Pepsi OK?” phenomenon experienced in restaurants, but now the tone is different. Mauro Porcini, PepsiCo’s chief design officer, explained that the new logo takes everything people love about Pepsi’s past to create a bold, confident look for the future. 

Classic elements of Pepsi’s identity are presented in a nostalgia-inspired red, white and blue round with a newer darker color scheme – all the surrounding black is a nod to Pepsi Zero Sugar, the current star beverage – with the logo centered in black. The font is much bolder and more aggressive than the previous version: this is a soft drink not ashamed to command your attention.

I think it will be successful. It’s never a bad time to be proud of who you are – and that’s a message Pepsi’s target market of teens and young adults understands and appreciates. But I’d love to hear your thoughts – do you like the new logo & the storytelling behind it? What would you do differently if you were in charge of this decision? Let me know!

With over 20 years of experience as The Cult Branding Company, we’ve honed our strategies and methods to help companies identify their brand’s DNA, gain deep consumer insights, and understand the marketplace ecosystem. We are an independent agency that creates strong and provocative relationships between good companies and their customers.

IBM: What if you could remaster The Master’s fan experience?

IBM’s “What If?” campaign highlights the importance of asking big questions and exploring the possibilities of technology solutions. IBM invites its customers to challenge the status quo that drives innovation within its organization. In addition, the visually appealing and playful design communicates a complex concept engaging and comprehensibly to its intended audience.

You Might Just Be a Cult Brand…

The idea that a Texas grandma planned a fun family vacation for her grandkids is hardly newsworthy – but the idea that the theme for this trip was to visit every Buc-ee’s in the state made the pages of Southern Living.

One week, five grandchildren, 36 Buc-ee’s: it was certainly an event. Judy Martin took the kids -ages 3 to 8 – 1,600 miles in a mini-van she’d decorated with a special vinyl checklist decal documenting which Buc-ees they’d been to; there was an entire Facebook group of family and friends following the adventure online. Souvenir group photos were taken at each stop. And when the power went out at one Buc-ee’s, according to Martin, it just added to the adventure. 

I think it is fair to say Martin is a Brand Lover – the passionate, devoted fan that has a stronger-than-average connection with the brand they care about. Did I mention that her vacation also included a stop at Buc-ee’s corporate headquarters?

Would Someone Plan An Epic Family Trip Around Your Brand?

Maybe you love Beaver Nuggets, maybe you don’t – but it’s hard to argue with the idea that Buc-ee’s is definitely a Cult Brand. Any organization can create events for its customers, but customers crafting events to celebrate a brand is another level entirely.

Do you have customers who would love to see your corporate headquarters? So much so that they consider it a highlight of their precious family vacation time?

We see tourists doing exactly that at the Googleplex and Apple Park; Harley-Davidson offers factory tours at three facilities, including a Steel Toe factory floor tool that must be booked in advance. Brand Lovers are drawn to the source. They’ve been to where the magic happens; now they want to see where it originates. 

This is one of those odd-but-useful metrics brand builders should keep an eye on. Are your customers exerting special efforts to interact with your brand? How often does this happen? If you are getting visitors, what is that experience like for them? 

If you take the time to read the Southern Living story about Judy Martin, you’ll see she describes the Buc-ee’s headquarters as being unassuming and like a big house – terms that have meaningful positive associations with southern Living’s readership, which beautifully overlaps Buc-ee’s target market. 

I’d love to hear your thoughts, both about what it’s like having customers visit your offices and what facilities or headquarters you yourself would like to visit. Any point where there’s a desire to deepen the connection and better understand the people behind the brand is a demonstration of Cult Brand potential.

With over 20 years of experience as The Cult Branding Company, we’ve honed our strategies and methods to help companies identify their brand’s DNA, gain deep consumer insights, and understand the marketplace ecosystem. We are an independent agency that creates strong and provocative relationships between good companies and their customers.

The Cult Brand Mindset: Focus on Being the Best Version of Your Brand

In today’s highly competitive business environment, brands are constantly looking for ways to stand out from the crowd. One strategy that has proven successful for some brands is to become a “cult brand.” Cult brands are those that have a dedicated and loyal following of customers who are not only repeat buyers but also advocates for the brand.

However, in the pursuit of becoming a cult brand, many companies make the mistake of focusing on trying to be the next “iPhone killer” or “Tesla killer.” They want to take down the top dogs in their industry and become the new leader. While this may seem like a good strategy, it can be a recipe for disaster. Instead of focusing on becoming the next big thing, brands should focus on becoming the best version of themselves.

What does it mean to be the best version of your brand? It means focusing on what makes your brand unique and valuable to your customers. It means identifying your strengths and weaknesses and working to improve them. It means constantly listening to your customers and striving to meet their needs and exceed their expectations.

One example of a brand that has successfully become the best version of itself is Patagonia.

Patagonia is a clothing and outdoor gear brand that has a strong commitment to environmental and social responsibility. Instead of trying to take down other outdoor gear brands, Patagonia focuses on being the best at what they do: creating high-quality products that are sustainable and ethically made. This commitment to their values has helped them build a loyal following of customers who appreciate their brand and what it stands for.

Another example is Zappos. Instead of trying to beat out other retailers like Walmart, Zappos focuses on creating an outstanding customer experience. They offer free shipping and returns, a 365-day return policy, and a customer service team that is available 24/7. This dedication to customer service has helped them build a loyal following of customers who trust and appreciate the brand.

Becoming a cult brand is a goal for many companies, but it’s important to approach it in the right way. Instead of trying to be the next big thing, brands should focus on becoming the best version of themselves. This means identifying their strengths and weaknesses, listening to their customers, and committing to their values. By doing so, brands can build a loyal following of customers who appreciate and advocate for their brand, which is ultimately what makes a brand successful.

With over 20 years of experience as The Cult Branding Company, we’ve honed our strategies and methods to help companies identify their brand’s DNA, gain deep consumer insights, and understand the marketplace ecosystem. We are an independent agency that creates strong and provocative relationships between good companies and their customers.

Don’t Look Down! Macpac’s Ad Leaves You Trembling With Laughter

The ad by Macpac showcases a humorous and absurd situation with a deadpan delivery that captures attention and creates a memorable impression. The ad also does a great job of showcasing the features and benefits of the product they are offering. Learn to develop creative and engaging brand stories that resonate with your target audience and showcase the benefits of your products in a fun, creative way.

Don’t forget about the power of creative storytelling.

Life is too short to worry about miles per gallon…Cult Brands & Classic Car Insurance

Hagerty might not be the auto insurance company for you. For example, if you’ve got a great brand-new car that you drive every single day, you’re not going to be interested in what Hagerty offers. But among classic car collectors, Hagerty’s is a top choice – in fact, Craig Fitzgerald, the editor-in-chief at Car Talk says that even though there are some limits on what the policies cover, the benefits offered by Hagerty makes it difficult to look elsewhere. 

What are these benefits? Fitzgerald calls out the Hagerty’s Driver’s Club magazine specifically as beautiful and entertaining. Additionally, Hagerty’s Driver’s Club is actually a full suite of services, including unlimited classified ads and vehicle valuation lookup – hugely important to people who are continually buying and selling vehicles and vehicle parts as their primary form of recreation. There’s also a robust roadside assistance program with flatbed towing – that’s the only kind of towing acceptable for many classic cars. And Driver’s Club members get early access to exclusive automotive events.

So is Hagerty a Cult Brand? 

While definitely not for everyone, Hagerty does demonstrate a deep understanding of their specific customer. By specializing in collectible vehicles, Hagerty is able to offer their customers lower premiums. They also offer a very different approach to compensation, in which the vehicle owner and insurance company come to an agreed-upon value for the vehicle that’s much higher than traditional insurance companies would offer. 

Additionally, and this is the benefit that really demonstrates the deeper level of customer understanding going on here, in the event of a claim, Hagerty will pay for you to do your own repairs. 

If you’re not a recreational knuckle-buster, that may not seem like a big deal. But if you know you know – it’s bad enough that your car is damaged, never mind finding someone you trust enough to work on it! Car people generally strongly prefer to do their own work, and Hagerty knows that. 

So yes, I’d say they’re on their way to becoming a Cult Brand. Other factors that caught my eye include:  

The Attention to Detail

One of the first things you see when you visit Hagerty’s website is the data collection pop-up – the typical notice letting you know that cookies are collected, yadda, yadda, yadda. But Hagerty’s pop-up doesn’t include the typical cut-and-paste text you’ve seen a million times. Instead, it’s been customized to appeal to the classic car enthusiast Haggerty is trying to attract, referencing how the site has been built to function like a finely-built motor. It’s a small detail, but only the first of many examples of how Hagerty continually reinforces the idea that they’re for car people. 

The Merch 

Where do Hagerty’s customers go when they want to have fun? To classic car shows and other events where they can show off all the work they’ve done on their car. Hagerty has a merch shop full of smile-provoking apparel for this setting. Where else are you going to get a T-shirt that says Shift Happens?

The Support of Driver Education

Hagerty isn’t just about cars, it’s about classic cars. A strongly nostalgic story, the world of classic cars often talks about the freedom and independence these drivers experienced upon getting their license and first cars. Hagerty puts a portion of the proceeds from their sales into Driver Education programming, helping their current customers feel like they’re doing something to help the next generation feel the same joy they feel. 

Will Hagerty ever have the broad, mass-market appeal we see in Cult Brands like Apple and Ikea? Probably not. They by definition are in a limited arena – but in that space, they are a dominant brand. If the Cult Brand status hasn’t yet been fully realized, Hagerty is well on the way there. 

What do you think? I’d love to hear your thoughts. And if there are brands you’d like me to take a look at in terms of Cult Brand potential, just drop their names in the comment below. As time allows, it would be my pleasure!

From Breakout Star to Cult Brand: Lizzo’s Journey to Intellectual Property Success

Never give up. 

Because branding is about persisting.

After her 8th attempt, Lizzo an artist with a Cult Brand following successfully trademarks her popular catchphrase ‘100% That Bitch’. 

As leaders, we can learn several important lessons from Lizzo. 

Persistence pays off: Lizzo failed to secure the trademark for her catchphrase on eight occasions before ultimately succeeding. Despite setbacks, she continued to pursue her goal until she achieved it. 

Be proactive: Lizzo recognized the value of her catchphrase and took steps to protect it. Leaders can learn from this example by being proactive in identifying and safeguarding their brands, trademarks, and copyrights before others can infringe upon them.

Consistency is key: Lizzo’s catchphrase was associated with her and her music by consumers because of her consistent use of it. Branding leaders can learn from this example by being consistent in their branding and messaging, which helps to establish a strong connection with customers and reinforce their brand identity.

Stay up-to-date: Lizzo’s trademark was granted in part because there was no evidence of prior use of the catchphrase before she popularized it. Executives can learn from this example by staying up-to-date on industry trends and changes in intellectual property laws to ensure that they are not infringing upon the rights of others or allowing others to infringe upon their rights.

The persistence, proactivity, consistency, and vigilance that Lizzo displays in protecting her brand and intellectual property rights offer valuable lessons for organizations to safeguard their own brand. Remember when Harley Davidson went to court to protect their sound? What elements of your brand are worth protecting? This is something your cult branding playbook should always have in sight.

How successful have you and your teams been in protecting your brand? We would love to know your story.

The Secret Ingredient in Honest Eggs Co.’s Recipe for Transparency and Happy Hens

This ad is so clever! 

We love how it uses technology and humor to create a unique selling proposition for the brand. 

By placing fitness trackers on their free-range chickens and printing their step counts on the eggs, Honest Eggs Co. is not only promoting transparency but also engaging with consumers who are conscious of the environmental impact of their shopping habits. 

The use of humor in the product name “FitChix” and the campaign slogan “chooks on the move” adds a playful element that resonates with consumers and makes them remember the brand. 

Want help finding innovative and creative ways to showcase your unique selling propositions and engage with your target audience? Reply here and tell us your big idea.

Is Amazon a Cult Brand: Making the Case

In our ongoing conversation about identifying existing and emerging Cult Brands, it’s impossible to ignore the giant in the room: Amazon. 

Founded in 1994 as an online bookstore, Amazon quickly became the world’s largest retailer. Since then they have expanded exponentially in many directions. Amazon Prime was launched in 2005, changing the way Americans thought about online shopping and delivery charges. Subsequent other brand extensions include streaming video, grocery, pharmacy, and health care services, and most recently, a newer, better web browser. 

But are they a Cult Brand? Are people passionate about Amazon, or are they just so omnipresent that shoppers choose them out of habit? 89% of Americans report they will buy from Amazon before any other e-commerce site; is this love?

Is Amazon a Cult Brand? The Signs That Make Us Say Yes

Named for all-powerful, ever-conquering warriors, Amazon has positioned itself to capture a dominant place in the world of business and in the public’s imagination. Key to achieving Cult Brand status is conveying a story that the public can understand and identify with. Amazon chose the narrative that they’re unstoppable in every field – and they then set out to make this true. 

From a branding perspective, the smile-emblazoned cardboard box is brilliant. It clearly articulates the emotional experience Amazon wants its customers to have – even if they’ve just ordered some toothpaste and new socks. 

Amazon has gathered tremendous amounts of data and creates its offerings based on meeting real customer needs. Their expansions into grocery, healthcare and banking speak to their commitment to meeting consumer needs at the bottom of Maslow’s pyramid. Watch this recent ad – ( directed by Olivia Wilde and debuted during the Oscars – to see how Amazon strives to show its customers it can help them meet their higher order needs for love and self-acceptance. 

Perhaps one of the strongest signs that Amazon is a Cult Brand was the ease with which they established Prime Day as a major shopping holiday for the average consumer. In two days in 2022, Prime Day sales topped $12 billion. People plan their purchases knowing Prime Day is coming, in an effort to save money. There’s also a great deal of excitement associated with Lightning Deals and other timed discounts. 

Is Amazon a Cult Brand? The Signs That Make Us Say No

While Cult Brands certainly don’t do everything perfectly all of the time, they generally do exhibit a high degree of transparency regarding their operations. Amazon is engaged in long-term disputes about the working conditions in their facilities, and there are many credible allegations about Amazon’s efforts to prevent workers from unionizing. 

Amazon also gets a side-eye for its use of anti-competitive practices; poor policing of counterfeit and dangerous goods; and other environmental and social concerns. While some of these issues are addressed on a case-by-case basis, overall, Amazon tends to protect their own interests rather than putting customers first in these scenarios. 

What Do You Think?

If you’ve been reading my work for a while now, you probably have your own idea of what a Cult Brand is and isn’t. Under your definition, would Amazon qualify? I’d love to hear what you think!

The Newest Cult Brands: The Organizations We’ve Been Keeping an Eye On

Over the years that we’ve been researching and assisting Cult Brands – companies like Apple, Coca-Cola, and Kohl’s – it’s become clear that there’s a reliable process for identifying organizations that have the potential to achieve Cult Brand status. 

It’s this process – illustrated with examples drawn from the current class of emerging Cult Brands – that I’ll be writing about over the course of the next few weeks.  I’m doing this because while it’s relatively easy to spot Cult Brands when they’re on top, it can be challenging to discover them before that. 

Additionally, I think it’s important for leaders and brand managers to understand that Cult Brands are deliberately created. There’s a series of decisions that Cult Brands have to make and consistently implement in order to achieve and maintain strong customer relationships. Cult Brands don’t just spontaneously happen – they choose to exist. 

Then, Now, Forever, Together: The WWE’s 40-Year Legacy as a Cult Brand

Two years ago, the WWE updated its tagline. They changed “Then, Now, Forever” to “Then, Now, Forever, Together”. In Chief Brand Officer Stephanie McMahon’s statement about the change at the time, we find the following language:

“WWE has always been about inclusivity. … We are all about bringing people together, putting smiles on people’s faces, and creating moments and memories that last a lifetime.” …  “No matter who they are, no matter what they do for a living, no matter where they live, no matter how much money they make, they belong, they are a part of WWE and that’s the inclusive nature of our community and the bigger WWE family.”

This focus on the customer relationship is at the heart of every Cult Brand. Without this aspect, achieving Cult Brand status is impossible. However, the WWE has over the years done many other innovative things to continually attract new customer interest & render their competitors irrelevant.

Are You Ready to Rumble: Wrestlemania & the Customer Experience

Prior to Vince McMahon founding the WWE – then called the WWF – watching professional wrestling was a somewhat fringe experience, held in cheap venues not generally of the sort you’d bring your family to. 

McMahon was the first promoter to put the event focus on the customer experience. Everything became much more theatrical. Entrance music, pyrotechnics, and a consistently high caliber of ring talent delivered an exciting experience people wanted to be part of. The first Wrestlemania was revolutionary, putting the fun right in the middle of Madison Square Garden.

Pay Per View was another innovation the WWE made good use of. Giving the fans a way to access the fun while removing the need to travel a great distance or spend lots of money was very smart. Fan groups gathered to watch PPV matches, strengthening their bond to each other and the brand.

Flash forward twenty years, and the WWE still has a loyal, strong fanbase. After launching a fairly successful independent WWE network, they’ve recently made the migration to Peacock, one of the largest streaming platforms. The fanbase is now global – India in particular has many fans – and a widely reported yet currently uncompleted sale to the Saudi government is in the works. 

What’s next for the WWE remains to be seen, but if they maintain their focus on the customer relationship, providing a superior level of entertainment, and remaining flexible and adaptable as new technology becomes available, we see no reason why they shouldn’t be considered fully as a Cult Brand. 

What do you think? Do you consider the WWE a Cult Brand? Can you name any of their competitors? How would you explain the multi-generational nature of their fans? I’d love to hear your thoughts.