"Cult brand leaders…refuse to settle for good enough and, more importantly, their biggest professional desire isn’t to get people to buy, but to buy into their cause."
Do you ever feel like you keep reading the same old stuff about branding, the death of advertising, the new marketing, cult brands, and creating consumer loyalty? Fret not! Fix: Break the Addiction that’s Killing Brands is not just another book about branding. Sure, the authors address those things but they do it in a fresh and concise manner. They cover a variety of ways that brands can create loyal followings. And they aren’t just preaching. They cite a variety of mini-case studies. Plus, they are living it through their company called Cult Collective, which is what they call a marketing engagement firm, rather than a traditional advertising firm. They want the reader to consider this book an intervention to “fix” your brand. So get to reading!
Six elements of a cult brand
"Consumers are in the driver’s seat and no longer dependent upon ads to tell them what, or when, or from whom to buy."
It’s not news that consumers no longer believe traditional advertising. However, for some reason the quote above really resonated with me. There was a time when advertisers “controlled” consumers. Now, consumers are in total control. They have more information and exposure than ever before. Marketing departments can certainly influence consumers but it’s no longer about “tricking” customers into buying. Consumers want to know who your brand really is at its core and believe in the brand, the product or service, and the people behind it. Fix does a great job of telling us what consumers look for in order to latch onto a brand and become a cult follower. And let’s face it. We ALL want cult followers.
Fix identifies six key elements (plus some bonus items) that cult brands possess. Here’s a quick rundown. Brands should be remarkable; they should be so fantastic that they spark conversation. They should have purpose. Brands should stand for something. Brands should inspire from the inside out by empowering their employees as their biggest fans and followers. They should be relatable. Brands should be able to display human attributes and emotions so that they feel approachable. Brands should involve their fans. They should listen, celebrate their fans, and give their fans ownership of the brand. And brands should be pervasive. They should be everywhere consumers want them and do more than their competitors.
"At the end of the day, all business is personal (and can be very emotional)."
I’ve read many books and articles that recommend that brands be more human so that consumers can feel a connection to the brand. In Fix the concept finally really seemed to stick with me. The authors say that people look for brands that make it easy to interact with them, which helps to make them more human. We sometimes think of literally making the act of reaching out to us easier but Fix offers a few more ideas. Think of ways that you can help customers or fans more comfortable reaching out to the people that represent the brand, like wearing name tags and answering the phone in an energetic and personable manner. These are easy fixes, but there are larger ideas in the book to consider as well.
Fix encourages brands to “show off their human side.” My company recruits tens of thousands of sales reps each year. The recruiting process can easily feel like our applicants are being herded through the early part of the process. One idea that I would love to implement is including in the interview confirmation email a headshot of the manager that our applicants will meet with for their interview. Our managers are very personable once we get applicants in front of them, but some applicants self-select out before they get a handshake and face-to-face human point of contact in the office. Maybe if they can “see” who they will be meeting with via email, the recruiting process becomes more human and more real much earlier in the process.
Part of my daily routine is responding to comments and messages on Facebook. We want to be concise in the way that we answer questions. No one wants to read a really long monologue from the company. Nor do they want to read the language that the legal team approves. In my experience, legal speak lacks a human element. However, I have recently fallen into the habit of very concise but dry, generic responses. After reading this chapter, I’ve begun to inject a little more of my personal experience and personality into my responses. After all, I started in the sales rep position! I can speak first hand to answer many of their questions and I have no need for generic responses. I AM the human on the other end of the keyboard!
Inspire from the inside out
"Cult followings don’t randomly materialize. No, companies aspiring to have an engaged fan base must first turn their attention inwards."
One of the best ways to create a cult brand is to inspire your existing team to continue inspiring others on the team and outside the team. You have to multiply your following. Panera Bread has a strong culture of giving back to the communities where its stores are. They have created a culture of employees that go the extra mile. Fix tells the story of a Panera employee that delivered soup that wasn’t on the menu to a terminally ill customer, simply because it was the right thing to do.
I oversee our social media (among other things). Last week I had a manager reach out for help about creating a social media contest for a local conference using a hashtag. We offered suggestions and guidance for his contest and event, along with our reasoning to teach him how we think about social media strategy. We also offered him free product to give away in addition to the prize in his budget. I encouraged him to tell his peers that he got free product for helping to support the mission of our department and create positive stories for the overall brand. His team is creating positive (social) media and chatter about the company. PLUS, the manager will tell his peers that we rewarded him for the hashtag contest, which promotes working with our department and putting on similar contests locally in other parts of North America. He said I made his day by sending him the email about free product! I know that I can talk until I’m blue in the face about what managers can do to help us improve the online brand and positively impact recruiting. But if our managers are promoting it to each other, the culture grows exponentially faster.
As always, I can’t fit all my great “ah ha moments” into one summary. Fix is a quick read and easy to navigate so it will be easy to go back to for inspiration. What thoughts will you use to “fix” or improve your brand? One? Some? All? Let me know in the comments below!