A Crash Course in Social Marketing

THE BIG IDEA: The study of Cult Brands reveals a wealth of information about human behavior and the mechanisms behind effective social marketing. Today’s article is a launchpad for chief executives interested in expanding their understanding of this discipline.


Do you sell products or experiences?

Do you focus exclusively on profits or inclusively as a community?

Do you try to copy your competitors or demonstrate courage and dare to be different?

These are some of the questions that assess if your company is moving closer to your customers or further away.

The topic of social marketing is important to chief executives because it puts a magnifying glass on the companies that most excel at moving toward their customers. This specialized study brings meaning to concepts like “customer loyalty” and “brand loyalty.”

Some of the most successful social marketers are Cult Brands because they draw from the power of humanity. If you’re new to this topic or interested in deepening your knowledge, here are a selection of past articles that will give you the competitive edge:

Social Marketing Fundamentals

A host of defining principles enable businesses to tap into the social and psychological lives of their customers:

What Are Cult Brands

A closer look at what Cult Brands are (and what they are not).

Seven Rules of Cult Brands

All Cult Brands knowingly or unconsciously adhere to these seven powerful principles.

How to Start a Cult

Explores five psychological reasons people join groups and seven steps to creating a cult, tribe, movement—whatever you’d like to call it.

Why Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is Crucial for your Business

Psychologist Abraham Maslow has greatly influenced our understanding of Cult Brands. His categories of human needs help explain both consumer motivation and organizational behavior. Psychologist Clayton Alderfer’s adjustments to Maslow’s theory of motivation are insightful too.

What Social Marketers Do Differently

Customer-centric businesses harness the social forces of their customers in specific ways:

A Big Mistake Most Retailers Make

Cult Brands sell experiences and lifestyles, not products.

How Cult Brands Tap into Higher Values

Cult Brands go beyond just helping customers meet basic human needs to helping them realize higher level needs as well.

How to Draw Power From Your Enemies

Cult Brands sell freedom.

How Cult Brands Create Loyal Customers

Cult Brands give their customers a sense of belonging and more positive self-esteem.

How Cult Brands Create Magical Experiences for Customers

Many Cult Brands set up the conditions for “participation mystique” that enables customers to express a deeper part of themselves and forge strong bonds with each other.

A Masters Degree in Human Nature

In the final analysis, the study of Cult Brands is a study of human beings: their needs, tensions, desires, dreams, motivations, and values.

Reading the above articles won’t win you any business degrees, but it will profoundly alter how you perceive your customers.

It may even alter your organization’s approach to serving your fellow human beings who graciously give you their business (thereby fueling your business).

When this relationship between company and customers is fostered consciously, it forms a symbiotic exchange of value. Both company and customer are elevated. Everyone wins.


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