Creating a Cult Brand Using Marketing

By Jacqueline Leungurl-3

We are living in a world of distractions. It’s hard to get your message out there when you’re competing with social media, smartphone games, and the latest viral video. Fortunately, Prose Media has come up some pretty awesome strategies to help you navigate the increasingly cluttered online landscape. In this article and other articles part of our Marketing and Communications (MarComm) series, we’ll be discussing smart, innovative marketing solutions to help you answer the basic question underlying any communicative effort: How can I most effectively connect with my customers?

The term cult sounds suspect, but it’s every marketer’s dream to have a group of customers that will stand by a company and promote its values and products. Being a cult brand means being more than a brand; it means that your company becomes an integral part of your customers’ lives. Starbucks and Apple do exactly this: some people just can’t start the day without their cup of Starbucks, while Apple-supportive MUGs (Macintosh User Groups) scoff at the latest Android updates, betting their money on the newest iOS system.

Remember Maslow’s hierarchy of needs? Experts say Maslow is the godfather of cult brands because his theory perfectly describes the difference between an ordinary brand and a cult brand, and why becoming a cult brand is much more advantageous.

Maslow’s pyramid is founded upon a person’s daily survival needs and progresses to things and events that promote self-actualization. Normal brands may linger in the lower layers of the pyramid, but cult brands move beyond the everyday to advance more complicated products and experiences that differentiate consumers.

Many brands accept that they work just fine on the lower layers. They tell themselves people can’t move on to satisfying a higher level of needs unless they satisfy the lower levels first. That’s very true, but the major difference between the tomatoes sold in the supermarket and the iPhone in your hand is that, while the tomato is part of your daily intake of food for survival, it’s perfectly replaceable by another brand of tomatoes – and perhaps you won’t even notice the difference. The iPhone, on the other hand, can be an integral part of who you are. It constructs your image, your personality, and the beliefs that make up…you.

Cult brands have distinctive value propositions and are very persuasive, both qualities built mainly by marketing campaigns. These brands secure a group of hardcore customers who, in turn, support their favorite company and help it expand. The formation of a cult brand means being irreplaceable in your customers’ minds, but it also means conducting extensive market research and following that research up with marketing campaigns to obtain committed consumers. Your brand, in effect, needs to show exactly how and why your product is distinctive and fits your customers’ needs, and there is no reason your tomato company can’t do this as effectively as Apple.


While cult brands don’t need to be large, their marketing efforts need to make a strong impression on potential customers, taking tactics from direct-response marketing and applying them to their campaigns in creative new ways. It’s not easy, but it can be a worthy investment for a company. For customers, it all starts with marketing, from the first time they see what your business has to say.