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Wanna Start a Cult?

Emerged in Social Media?

Your answer is probably yes.  While individual goals and intent differ, you may wonder how to replicate the kind of success or following of seemingly “regular” folks that have embraced the Internets and social media a la Gary V.  The question may not be how to do it, but, is it possible for agents.

WTH is a Cult Brand?

Many brands are popular. Toothpaste can be popular, so can cereal.   But would you passionately discuss cereal with your friends?  Or, would you join a toothpaste community, as Aaron Strout recently asked.

Some brands can evoke that sort of passion – these are often referred to as “cult brands”.  Think: Apple and Harley-Davidson.  Even people can be a cult brand.  Look at Barak and Oprah, and seemingly ‘regular’ people like Guy Kawasaki, Scott Monty and Robert Scoble.  Bear in mind, they are leveraging other media – TV and print included. 

How does it happen?

There are factors that go into building such a following I don’t believe a service provider can replicate, including that feeling of belonging to a special group, movement or cause.  When people go through something together, it’s like there’s mutual suffering together, or a mutual unique situation they share. 

People that join actual cults join not to conform, but to become more individual.  People that join the cult-like following of “real” people get the same feeling of community and meaning.   

People that join actual cults join not to conform, but to become more individual.  They feel if they are among others with the same off-beat desires, and within an environment of respect and ‘safety’, they can confidently express themselves.

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People that join the cult-like following of “real” people get the same feeling of community and meaning.  Through their personal branding efforts and transparency we feel connected to them at a meaningful level, so we are passionate about their success.  We are sharing their life, going through their ups and downs with them, creating a strong bond.  We feel responsible for their success as if they are a family member.  Plus, they are the “cool kids” so we are special by association.

Popularity does not equal cult brand

Can a cult brand be dethroned?  Absolutely.  If it becomes too predictable, or safe and stops pushing the edge it (or he/she) could be considered a sell-out, and lose its authenticity, despite its following.

Can agents build a cult brand?

You decide.  Do buyers & sellers of homes consider themselves part of a highly unique movement that those outside of their group don’t understand?  Is it a lifelong association?  Not so much, IMHO.

That said, you can build a followingIt may not be cult-like, but it can be meaningful.   Agents are definitely in business for themselves, but can have an amazing network of agents all over the country.  Like a brotherhood/sisterhood and a feeling of belonging and doing and taking care of each other.

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Written By

Brandie is an unapologetically candid marketing professional who was recently mentioned on BusinessWeek as a Top Young Female Entrepreneur. She recently co-founded consulting firm MarketingTBD. She's held senior level positions with GE and Fidelity, as well as with entrepreneurial start-ups. Raised by a real estate Broker, Brandie is passionate about real estate and is an avid investor. Follow her on Twitter.

5 Comments

5 Comments

  1. Mark Eckenrode

    March 31, 2009 at 11:27 am

    there’s a very cool and interesting book called “The Culting of Brands” that discusses how companies like Apple, Jet Blue, and Harley create environments that are cult-worthy. folks interested in gathering followers might want to check it out.

  2. Aaron Strout

    March 31, 2009 at 11:57 am

    Brandie – great post (and thanks for the shout out). This is an increasingly important topic as companies try and figure out whether their brands are “community” worthy. My argument is that all brands are worthy, it’s more a matter of whether or not they are willing to ratchet the focus up to more of a “lifestyle” or “industry” level vs. trying to get people excited about their individual products.

    Best,
    Aaron | @aaronstrout

  3. Missy Caulk

    March 31, 2009 at 8:19 pm

    You said, “don’t believe a service provider can replicate, including that feeling of belonging to a special group, movement or cause. When people go through something together, it’s like there’s mutual suffering together, or a mutual unique situation they share.”

    …and this is a community. Good or bad.

  4. Barry Cunningham

    March 31, 2009 at 9:49 pm

    brandie,

    we decided we wanted to create a brand both nationally and locally. We felt that real estate was comprised of so many who were faceless by their decision to be a group rather than individuals.

    What built our brand was the decision to take a stand, regardless of what people thought, and staying true to our core beliefs.

    You know from your background what I am talking about when so many to this day in real estate don’t understand this.

    There has to be something unique about whatever brand you are desiring to stamp out otherwise you’re just another generic box of cereal on the shelf.

    We are finding on a daily basis, by continuing to push the envelope and be different that the consumer WANTS to be associated with something different.

    One of the amazing byproducts of social media is that we can be Coke, we can be Nike…but we can choose to compete by being ourselves.

  5. Brandie Young

    April 2, 2009 at 9:50 am

    Mark – Thanks for the recommendation on the read.

    Aaron – I appreciate your visiting and insightful comments. (Little does he know, but Aaron is one of my fav marketers)

    Missy – I agree, AG is a fantastic community – of which I am honored to be a part. That said, I don’t think it can be consudered a cult brand…

    Barry – Where have you been hiding? I love reading that your focus is consumer-centric. That will be a strong differentiator. Keep it up!

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