How to start a cult for fun and profit

Okay, you don’t actually want to start a cult. 

But how could your brand skyrocket engagement with your community? 

Committed fans help fuel your mission whether that mission is to sell, or teach, or inspire. By applying a few cult-ish principles to your own marketing, you become impossible to resist.

Here are six tips for building a “cult” following for your brand:

  1. Establish a set of beliefs that are different from the norm: Initiate unexpected or counterculture set of beliefs to rally hardcore fans.
  2. Set the rules: Give followers very specific rules to follow, in order to increase their rank. Think like CrossFit, and create intense ways to push the limits in order to increase status and commitment.
  3. Establish one alpha leader: Apple had Steve Jobs. Virgin has Richard Branson. Ben & Jerry’s have, well… Ben and Jerry. Find a leader (or be the leader!) as the celebrity spokesperson to attract followers.
  4. Identify potential “recruits”: Target exactly which types of consumers you want to reach. Peloton launched with a very specific target: early adopters who were also fitness enthusiasts, who wanted premium at-home workouts. (How’s that for specific?) That niche group was the beginning of a burgeoning fitness category.
  5. Reinforce that newcomers have made the right choice: For instance, randomly sends flower bouquets to its best customers.
  6. Serve Kool-Aid: Find symbolic ways to reinforce the connection between brand and customer. What is your brand’s signature? The Jimmy Buffet cult has margaritas as their icon. What can your brand offer that becomes your ultimate symbol? Margarita-flavored Kool-Aid?

Like cults, fascinating brands don’t try to speak to everyone.

They narrowly target and recruit a specific type of person and mindset, even to the point of polarizing outsiders. Is that so different from being a fervid devotee of a certain brand?

At my alma mater, Duke University, students would camp out in tents for a week in order to snag seats at Final Four basketball games. Is that a cult? 

How about Swifties earning points for the chance to get a prize?

NFL fans during playoffs? 

Or any Brazilian during the World Cup?  


One man’s cult is another man’s brand. 

What can you learn from all this in order to lead people in an inspiring direction?  

Don’t miss a single fascinating tip!

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