Post Date: 7/18/2017
Publication: ANA Magazine
The fondest wish of many marketers is to see the brand they represent somehow achieve cult status, complete with passionate followers that sing the brand's praises and go out of their way to convince others to buy in. Harley-Davidson, Apple, and Starbucks are among the fortunate few that have managed to achieve and maintain that status even as their core businesses evolved and grew. But as tempting as it is to single out a clever tag line, logo, or campaign as the reason for a brand instantly reaching cult levels of adoration, the reality is that it's the consumer that makes the cult brand, not the marketer.
Marketers fortunate enough to work on a cult brand need to first understand the gut feeling consumers have about the product or service, and then figure out ways to amplify that feeling to a broader audience — while also resisting the temptation to rest on the brand's laurels.
"There is that perception that if your product is that great, or your service is outstanding, you can connect your brand to people quickly and you don't have to advertise," says Britton Upham, general manager at McGarrah Jessee, an Austin, Texas–based brand development and integrated marketing agency.
McGarrah Jessee works with several brands with cult followings, including cooler maker YETI, Costa Del Mar sunglasses, and Texas-based Whataburger, whose acolytes have been known to drive hundreds of miles to eat at one of its locations.
Upham suggests the best role marketers can play is figuring out ways to expand a cult brand's appeal to a wider audience. "One tactic that's really effective with cult brands is to determine who your customer is and then model around that psychologically and demographically," he says. "The psychology profile is becoming very useful with look-alike targeting, finding consumers that might be hiding in different places, but actually look a lot like your existing customers."
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