Certain brands have managed to assiduously refute William Shakespeare’s much reiterated statement, “What's in a name?”. More than the brand's offering, it’s the underlying essence and the association that they personify that sets them apart from the rest of the multitude. What we popularly refer to as “The brand image', the much talked about parlance on which the advertising industry rests itself. Decades ago, advertising stalwarts strongly believed that creative positioning can’t take your brand to the next level of glory unless and until your product speaks for itself. Without a dreg of doubt, the statement is as true as truth can be, even to this day, but there is a paradigm shift as far as related constants are concerned.
At this day and age, the tangible benefits of the product alone cannot catapult your brand beyond a certain point, simply because of numbers. The “me too” just don't strike the deal in this market landscape anymore, unless and until its “me too but I am unique- because I am what I am - that no one else is”. Rightfully, some brands do manage to break out of the clutter, notwithstanding the product that they offer, but also by bundling with it a hoard of other icings, just too hard to resist- the streak of being different and unique! That's how they acquire the so-called 'cult' identity. It's all about forging the so-called sustainable connect. Cult brands offer their customers love, attention, and to many of their consumers, they are a living surrogate family with likeminded individuals.
Let’s take the colas as a case in point. Historically colas have been the all-time favorite thirst quencher for the young crowd. There are a few viable buying triggers that explain the stand. Firstly, it acts as an inexpensive and tastier substitute for water, the youth love the fact that they can pick up a bottle of their favourite cola while on the go, and that it is easily available — restaurants, college canteens or even the corner shop. In addition to it, the youngsters can also easily identify with the youthful ‘cool’ attitude associated with aerated cola beverage. We tend to inadvertently recall Coca Cola, whenever we think of buying a soft drink. It’s become synonymous. Sprite is another example. Marketers now have to pack an incredible amount of excitement within a bottle to get the much needed edge over others.
Thus certain brands, it can be said, take popularity to a different level. These are the so-called cult brands: Coca Cola, Harley-Davidson, Star Trek, Volkswagen, Apple Computers, ESPN, Marlboro, Levis and others which may also include celebrities like Ophra Winfrey and David Gilmour of Pink Floyd. Some of the Indian cult brands include the likes of Colgate, Old Monk, Enfield Bullet, Thumbs UP and Khadi. Cult brands sell lifestyles, not just a product or service. These brands became cult brands because customers could find a sense of belonging within that product category and wear it as a badge of honor.
Lucky Strike Cigarettes is one of the newest entrants to join this coveted group of honorary brands. Volkswagen's Beetle has a similar tale to tell. Back in 1948 it was unknown in the U.S., and many sales types believed no one would ever buy, partly because of its association with Nazi Germany—being dubbed “the people’s car” by Adolph Hitler—still fresh in the public’s mind. But today, the brand has a cult status. Shrewd marketing acted as a catalyst to its success. In contrast to the advertising of the Detroit automakers which were full of slick copy and boastful claims, Volkswagen’s ads for the Beetle were frank, direct, and honest. Some of the more memorable early print ads included “Think small,” “Some shapes are hard to improve on,” and the cult-branding clincher, “Do you earn too much to afford one?” Unique design elements and honest advertising became a lethal combination. Beetle became a thinking person's car- The idea of being different. Instead of saying, look how much I paid for my car, it was - look how much I didn’t pay!”
Thus it won’t be a rational disaster to conclude that, human needs are the mother of cult branding. It’s evident that physiological, safety, belonging-ness and love, esteem and self-actualization needs as a gradually narrowing group of human needs with self-actualization being at the peak. Cult brands primarily fulfill the higher level of human needs of esteem, social interaction, and self-actualization. Once a brand fulfills the higher needs, it becomes irreplaceable in the mind of the consumer.
Manager, IMPRIMIS Delhi