Cult Branding: A Badge Of Honor

Posted in Marketing & Strategy Articles, Total Reads: 2598 , Published on 15 December 2011

Can a brand be so popular that it attracts customers like a magnet? Can a loyal customer be so mesmerized by a brand that owning it can be an achievement for him? If the answer is yes, than the Brand has created an indentation in the market and has evolved to be a Cult Brand. A cult brand is not just a brand that is looked upon by a customer with reverence, but possessed as a badge of honour. The brand is an identity for the customer and ownership a matter of pride. In this article, let us analyse the “Cult Brand”.

Cult branding


Is the conventional theory of segmentation, targeting and positioning sufficient for creating a brand? The answer would be in negation if the brand being talked about is a Cult Brand. A Cult is referred to a group of people who are devotees of a particular brand. They have the intense desire to belong to an entity. Owning a Harley Davidson is not only a possession, but an enthralling pride of belonging to something larger than life.

Such an infatuation may not necessarily inculcate for any intensely marketed product or product with slashed prices. Promoting a brand across various channels may not always facilitate creation of a cult brand. What are the ingredients for establishing a cult brand? To create a cult brand, one primarily needs the mettle to carve out a niche by traversing a path less trodden. APPLE had the valour to adopt the theory of Disruptive Innovation. Profit being lesser priority than Innovation, APPLE had abetted the Brand to be recognized as Cult brand. Under the charismatic leadership of Steve Jobs, continuous innovations in products and offerings created an image in customer cognizance which led APPLE to transform into a Cult Brand. So, determining differentiators for a product or service and adhering to it is the first brick in constructing a Cult brand.


A Cult brand is not necessarily looked upon as a cult brand initially. The early adopters of innovation or new products comprise of lesser proportion of the society. Many of the brands have not been able to appeal the most potential customers. Moreover, the current market scenario is rapidly fluctuating. Taking into consideration the Indian perspective, the media relishes ample liberty when it comes to evaluating any brand or new launch product. Under such circumstances, it is impossible to whittle out a flawless strategy to uplift a brand as a cult brand.

In this case, one reason for a brand evolving as a cult brand can be the economic theory of “Informational cascades”. A brand rapidly gains popularity among masses because of a right chord struck. It can be because of media or word of mouth. Moreover, when a brand is introduced with an intention to craft a cult brand, the brand is presented as an unconventional brand. It is equally important to adhere to the initial features and characteristics associated with the brand as time elapses. Because most of the potential cult brand customers, observe very keenly an emerging brand before inculcating a severe passion for it. Quoting an example, Harley Davidson is a Cult Brand popular among High end customers and it captures 62% of market share of Motor bikes in the category above 850 cc.

Creation of Surrogate families

The Owners of verystylish Italian scooter Vespa gather every Sunday and organize expedition for a unique experience. Similarly, Harley-Davidson Owners Group is very popularly knownHOG which comprises of proud owners of Harley Davidson bikes. The members get lots of benefits along with a pride of association.

Another famous example is that of MacWorld Expo. For the APPLE zealots this expo is like a pilgrimage. They have the opportunity to acquire knowledge of various APPLE products. The MacWorld expo is the annual four-day event at San Francisco's Moscone Centre.

The Brand Market provides ample of such examples where one single Cult Brand has been successful in creating massive groups or communities.

The CULTBrand customer

Once the brand has been established as a Cult Brand, to retain the customers is one massive challenge. The customers are not willing to compromise at any cost when their revered brand has any flaw in it. The hate mails which the organizations owning the Cult brand receive are sufficient for any manager to lose temper. But, as a responsible “Brand Parent”, the manager is expected to reply to any query with patience. Some Cult Brands have been so affective, that the Brand followers can be described as fanatics.

This fanaticism can be dangerous. The most loyal fans can hijack a brand and make serious trouble for a company. The customers can be responsible for the blossom as well as the doom of the brand. If the customers discover a virtue of dissatisfaction, they can cause a tornado for the brand reputation.

In case of iPoD, the Apple product was successful in achieving unprecedented success. But, when the loyal customers discovered the short span of battery and its irreplaceability, a movie (iPod’s Dirty Secret) was created and protest site was also constructed.  Hence, A Cult Brand can be dethroned by the same loyalists who furnished the same status. The Cult Brand customers need specific attention and they cannot be treated as just another customer.


In Conclusion, it can be said that Brand is like a plant which needs to be gardened with care and affection. Building a massive fan following for a brand is not just enough. Cultivating it is equally significant. Such well cultivated Brands have evolved into Cult Brands and have carved a niche in world brand market, embossing some golden Brand Names in the history of brands.

This article has been authored by Umang Trivedi from Goa Institute of Management.


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