A cult is a group of people whose beliefs or practices are considered abnormal or bizarre – usually refers to a new religious movement. Although “cult members” seem few and far between, there are an estimated 5 to 7 million Americans who have been involved in cults, or cult-like groups. The total number of these groups ranges from 3,000 to 5,000 people.
Although, cults are not just restrained to religious groups but can be found within marketing as well. Apple has a group of users that are considered to be “cult” like. There are over 66 million Mac users, over 200 million iTunes accounts, and 1 in 10 cell phone users has an iPhone. Also, 1 in 4 iPad buyers is a new Apple customer.
When it comes to marketing communication, cult brands communicate with the market in unusually scarce, deliberate and very targeted marketing PR and promotions. This adds mystique to the brand and rewards on the inside. However, the boundaries within a cult is unlike most modern social phenomena, they have a closed boundary. You’re either in or out – this creates passionate solidarity.
So, how exactly do you join a cult? Cult brands are an exclusive club which deliberately sacrifices a larger market for a smaller inner circle that is taken through an elaborate “initiation” process to create committed solidarity. With cults, it’s not so easy getting in – you can’t just “walk” in and join. There is a definite process to joining which converts a person’s whole outlook.
In marketing, there is a passionate community. A cult brand’s loyal usership is bound to the brand’s mission. It is a community with its own rituals, vocabulary, and often hierarchy. They become not mere users, but crucial ambassadors for the brand – in effect, unpaid employees. Cults, however, are a parallel social universe with their own rituals, relationship structures and experiences. This binds individuals to the cause.
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Lastly, each brand in marketing acts like it is “on a mission from God.” With a strong, central ideology and leadership. This gives the brand much larger meaning. The cult has an ideology and programs what each member thinks and does. They have strong central ideology and leadership. This fosters alignment and clarity.
To learn more about the psychology of cults and marketing check out the infographic below presented by ChristianDegrees.net.