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December 7, 2011

What Cults and Brands Have in Common: Devoted Followers

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Audience: SMB owners and Internet marketers
Estimated reading time: 2 minutes

Call me superficial, but I notice brands. One that’s made its way onto my Christmas wishlist this year is yoga wear Lululemon Athletica. Behind the funny name are stylish cuts and flattering fits adorning all the ladies at the gym.

Yeah, I caved to the peer pressure and bought a couple $50 tank tops whose main role will be to soak up my sweat, but I’ve got no regrets. That little logo transfers to me a status of cool, self-aware and dedicated to self-improvement. It’s usually illegal to buy that kind of sexy.

Still, I realize I’ve fallen for fancy branding magic. So when a Quora thread on why Lululemon is so popular popped up, I wanted to know. What mind tricks are happening that Lululemon’s signature silver omega sign is becoming as popular as the swoosh in some athletes’ circles?

You Say Cult, I Say Culture

Turns out Fast Company profiled Luluemon in 2009, and revealed the company founder’s secret sauce to building a coveted brand included three key ingredients:

  • The Secret, the self-help guide centered on the power of the law of attraction
  • Lessons from motivational business guru Brian Tracy
  • And the Landmark Forum immersive self-help seminars.

Ooooeeeeoooo… Although slightly suspect to much of the mainstream, you can’t deny that the above each have an impressive following marked by near fanatacism.

It was the mind-washing success of Lululemon and a few other brands that sparked one marketer to research the psychology of cults in order to see what they had in common that engendered such fierce loyalty from followers.

Excerpt from The Culting of Brands by Douglas Atkin

Excerpt from The Culting of Brands by Douglas Atkin

A peek at the table of contents of the resulting book, The Culting of Brands, hints at what’s inside. Telling chapter titles include:

  • We love you
  • You belong
  • We’re in this together
  • This is what we believe

Very interesting, indeed.

To be clear, this isn’t an admonishment. I’m just mentioning a method I think is worth emulating. I proudly belong to a few cult-like groups myself (I’m a member of the cult of CrossFit and the church of Apple) and think that reproducing the stickiness and loyalty these groups espouse is a worthwhile goal.

And in case you’re wondering what’s keeping Lululemon company on my Christmas wish list, you can bet The Culting of Brands is on there.

So the next question is, are you building a brand with cult psychology? Don’t be shy.

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One response to “What Cults and Brands Have in Common: Devoted Followers”

  1. mark rushworth writes:

    I can understand why theyve done this but personally i harken back to the days when you did a search and you got the world to choose from. First they stopped me being able to pick from a global market pace by ringfencing me by country. They they stopped me being able to pick from a national marketplace by implementing places, now theyre stopping me from finding indi shops with unusual products, instead spitting out the same old brands time and time again with this! talk about limiting consumer choice… and we were all concerned that ISP’s would kill net nutrality when google seems to be doing a perfectly good job of killing our ability to find and buy from a broad range of world wide retailers.



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