When Cult Marketing launched in 2004, we often presented our concept to a prospective client who thought we were speaking in a foreign language. Our ideas about branding and marketing did not mesh with the concepts that years of precedents and convention had ingrained in their minds. A completely holistic approach to the brand experience based on a deep knowledge of the consumer? Our ideas were considered to be “absurd,” our methods and goals “impractical.”
Here’s how it would go:
Client: “We have an advertising agency of record that handles our branding and marketing needs.”
Cult: “So your ad agency completely understands your consumers, develops brand insights, and manages your internet, in-store marketing, direct, customer intimacy, store design, viral, sales, special events, sponsorships, product placements, and PR strategies along with all the other brand touchpoints?”
Client: “Hell no, we have different agencies and different internal decision-makers for each of those areas.”
Cult: “So your agency of record (AOR) defined the brand and manages all those firms to ensure brand consistency?”
Client: “No way. One firm can’t do all that.”
Cult: “Then who owns the total brand experience?”
Client: “I guess our CEO is ultimately responsible for that.”
Cult: “Oh, so he works with all the firms to make sure everything is on track?”
Client: “He/she doesn’t have time for that. He/she mostly deals with financial decisions, acquisitions, Wall Street and stuff like that.”
Well times have changed haven’t they? The fact is the traditional agency model has completely fallen apart. If an agency does not propose an integrated branding and marketing model in today’s day and age, what chance would they have to get a gig? And who is the AOR anymore? Is it the media agency, advertising agency (now often separate), the digital agency, the retail design group or a brand consultancy?
At Cult Marketing, we start with the concept that your best customers own and drive all great brands. We are talking about the people who are already excited and fired up about your brand (hence the name Cult). The people are valuable because they provide insight into what aspects of your current branding are desirable and are creating a positive impact on your target audience – essentially, free market research. The 80/20 rule is still as solid as when it was identified. The point is, you might as well understand this cult customer subculture and their relationship with your brand. Once you do, you can go out and attempt to clone the behavior. Before you know it, your small cult of followers and brand warriors is growing. Make sense? We think so.