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  1. 1. The Culting of Brands by Douglas Atkin A Social Media Knowledge Benchmark Richard Rabkin MKTG 6900A Fall 2009
  2. 2. Summary <ul><li>Companies should learn from cults </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Cult: &quot;group exhibiting a great devotion or dedication to some person, idea, or thing.“ </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>A cult brand: when a group or community is built around a brand. </li></ul></ul><ul><li>“ Cults” </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Mormon Church, Catholic Church, Moonies, Marines </li></ul></ul><ul><li>“ Cult Brands” </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Apple, Ebay, JetBlue, Mary Kay, Saturn, Harley-Davidson </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Why do people join cults? </li></ul><ul><ul><li>They feel different, thus search for a community of like minded people where they can belong </li></ul></ul>
  3. 3. Summary <ul><li>The same can be said for cult brands - Apple </li></ul><ul><ul><li>A person feels different (everyone has a PC) so he seeks out a community of like minded people, buys a Mac and joins the Apple community </li></ul></ul><ul><li>To start a cult brand… </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Be different enough but the same enough </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Mormon Church was only successful when it emphasized its similarity to Christianity; Kazaa was more successful than Napster because it was more open to “playing by the rules” </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Piggyback on a pre-existing social community </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>i.e. the Body Shop with the “hippies” ; Ben & Jerry’s </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Never Lie </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>i.e. the Body Shop wasn’t “all natural” </li></ul></ul></ul>
  4. 4. Summary <ul><li>To start a cult brand (con’t)… </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Leverage “Symbology” </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>i.e. Apple store’s church like feel, Steve Jobs as the prophet with the apple store staff as the disciples dispensing the “gospel” </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>“ Nurture” your brand, don’t “control” it </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Salomon was “humble” when it entered the snowboarding market </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><li>People are looking for a connection </li></ul><ul><ul><li>“ As long as traditional institutions fail, and marketers remain sophisticated, then brands can become credible sources of community and meaning.” </li></ul></ul>
  5. 5. General Review <ul><li>Strengths: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Compelling read </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Cult is a powerful metaphor </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Good insight into the envied “cult brands” (i.e. Apple) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>People are indeed yearning for some sort of connection </li></ul></ul>
  6. 6. General Review <ul><li>Weaknesses: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Not all brands can become cult brands (i.e. toothpaste? Salad dressing?) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>The cult brand “formula” is oversimplified – so many factors go into a successful brand </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Sometimes the cult metaphor goes too far i.e. &quot;Demonise and persecute those on the outside!” </li></ul></ul>
  7. 7. SMM Focused Takeaways <ul><li>It is an innate human desire to belong to a community that believes in something – sometimes a brand community can suffice </li></ul><ul><li>Online social brand communities should be “nurtured” rather than “controlled” </li></ul><ul><ul><li>i.e. Backlash when BMW deleted comments from angry user on their web community service </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>This can be challenging as you are not in control </li></ul></ul><ul><li>To be a cult brand you must have “values” </li></ul><ul><ul><li>i.e. Body Shop, Ben & Jerry’s, Snapple </li></ul></ul>
  8. 8. SMM Focused Takeaways <ul><li>Social media is a tool to mobilize these communities faster, easier, and better etc. </li></ul><ul><li>Must feel authentic, can’t be controlled (BMW) and can’t be “creepy” </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Involve the consumers in the conversation </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Not all companies can use social media to create cult brands; but they can all use social media to make connections with consumers and improve their “social brand equity” </li></ul>