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What is a cult brand? For that matter, what is a cult? One of the most contextually appropriate meanings of it is “a small group of very devoted supporters or fans”. Let’s go through this definition once again – a “small group” of “very devoted supporters or fans”. Translating that in terms of branding, cult brands are those unorthodox brands that have a limited but extremely loyal fan base, or should I say customer base who engage with these brands not only on the basis of products/services but for the personalized and memorable customer experience at each and every interaction point.
Any Brand which can boast of a very high customer fidelity rate, whose customers are mostly hardcore evangelists and look to bring in new customers to the community, can be called as a Cult Brand. A cult brand doesn’t sell products or services. It sells a lifestyle. It sells an image to its customers and connects with them at an emotional level.
It does so by creating an eco-system of products, services and experiences keeping its customers at the centre of its universe. Every action the brand undertakes is not transaction-driven, rather the only aim is to delight customers and keep them happy. Brands that have loyal customers promote the brand name through extremely positive word-of-mouth and attract others into the brand community and this is how business grows exponentially and the brand turns into a Cult.
1) Differentiate – Differentiate your products/services from competition. Create a communication strategy to make this differentiation very clear in the minds of your target customers. And most importantly, take the effort to sustain this differentiation. Mere repackaging of existing products would never earn you loyalty. Invest in R&D for innovation and create a substantially different and superior line of products or services which cannot be replicated by me-too players in the market.
Apple is the most profitable company in the world. This can be attributed to its consistent focus on differentiating themselves from the crowd. Even its tagline says Think Different!
2) Sell Experiences – Good companies sell products. Great companies sell experiences. Efforts should not be restricted to creating differentiated products or services rather to provide a differentiated experience which none of your competition can provide. Develop a one-eyed focus on providing a superior Customer Experience. Customers don’t just seek a superior product or service, they look for a superior experience at every interaction with your brand.
Disney’s obsession with providing magical Customer Experience has earned it a Cult following from an audience across all age groups – be it a 5-year-old or a 75-year-old! .
3) Listen to your Customers – This point cannot be emphasized enough. The Voice of the Customer (VoC) is supreme in its own way, in letting you in on a different perspective and also the perspective that matters the most. Because, without customers, there’s no business. And without listening to them and taking action on their feedback, your brand would find it difficult to even stay mediocre, let alone become a cult. Put in place a system which facilitates a two-way communication between your brand and your customers. A system that allows you to take feedback from your customers on an ongoing and consistent basis. Be present wherever your customers are present. In today’s era, Omni-channel presence is not an option but a necessity.
A recent report on The State of Voice Of The Customer Programs by Timkin Group revealed that only 3% of the large firms have mastered the art of listening to its customers.
According to a another report by Mckinsey, companies which have a Customer Feedback System in place typically see their NPS jump up by 25 points in the first year.
4) Create Customer Communities – Invest in creating an ecosystem around your products or services which facilitates the creation of customer communities. Provide platforms to your customers where they can meet each other and share their love for your brand. Use these platforms to engage your customers and gather valuable feedback which no amount of Market Research studies can provide. Organize yearly events and invite your loyal customers to share with them upcoming products. This will give a sense of ownership to your customers and reinforce their belief in your brand.
Harley Owners Group (H.O.G) is best example of how creating an ecosystem around products and services and providing a platform for customers to interact with each other, can build a Cult following for a brand.
5) Guard every Customer Touchpoint – Invest time and effort in drawing your customers’ journey map. Put in place a system which allows your employees to provide a seamless and consistent experience to your customers at each and every touchpoint along the customer journey. Every interaction across each and every touchpoint should reinforce the emotional benefit your customers derive from your brand.
In a Harvard Business Review article, Mr. Adam Richardson explained in detail how Apple decided to open up its own stores to have more control over all the touchpoints to demonstrate the Mac Experience to its customers exactly the same way Steve Jobs wanted its customers to experience.
Elevating your brand to a Cult status is the ultimate dream of every marketer. Many brands have achieved it by strategically planning and implementing what is required to become a Cult brand. They have taken substantial amount of efforts in creating a customer-centric culture within their organizations and educating their employees on the importance of listening to the Voice of the Customer (VoC) and delivering a great customer experience.
Companies today need a holistic Customer Experience Management system in place to monitor Customer Feedback from all their engagement channels in Real-time. This data can then be analysed to derive interesting insight into customer behaviour, customer likes/dislikes and so on. Finally, closing the loop on customer feedback is what will help create a customer-centric culture at every level in your organization. And it won’t be long before customers start queuing up to be a part of your cult brand community.
Your journey towards becoming a CULT BRAND starts here!