The sixth law of cult branding is: 

The Visionary Leader

Great leaders are present in every industry and category, but it is often the founding entrepreneurs and visionaries that are the ones recognized for changing entire industries or categories. The most compelling brands have been driven to exceptional heights because of the efforts of their visionary leaders to brand the company and build a cult following

One example of a Columbus-based company that built a cult following is Quantum Health. Its founder, Kara Trott, was a lawyer specializing in healthcare who saw firsthand the inefficiencies of the healthcare system. Kara realized that consumers did not know how to best navigate their healthcare journey, especially after suffering a serious healthcare incident. 

When Trott founded Quantum Health 20 years ago, the founding principle was based on this need. The company’s mission is to help its “members” navigate their healthcare journey. Today, the Quantum Health “Healthcare Warriors” relentlessly serve over 1.5 million members. Kara had the vision to create an entirely new industry and has also created an amazing company culture, consistently listed in the Best Places to Work rankings. Kara’s leadership is so compelling that if she cannot attend a meeting, associates have created a life size cutout poster that they place in the room and ask “What would Kara do?” 

Explore Cult’s work with Quantum Health. 

Another Columbus, Ohio company, Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams, was founded in 2002 by Jeni Britton Bauer who currently serves as the brand’s Chief Creative Officer. She is nationally known as the main driver of the artisan ice cream movement. Her 2011 cookbook won a James Beard Award and was hailed “the homemade-ice cream-making-Bible” by the Wall Street Journal

Jeni is possibly the most notable ice cream authority in the world. Her penchant for organic and fresh ingredients is legendary, and the company has expanded to include just under 50 scoop shops in 14 cities across the U.S.

When you talk about visionary leaders, internationally-recognized leaders like Steve Jobs come to mind for his ability to build a cult following for his brand, Apple. But, another current example of a true visionary that has changed the landscape of several industries is Elon Musk. 

Musk has started and/or funded industry-changing companies across verticals such as Tesla, SpaceX, and X.com (the predecessor to PayPal). As of mid-2020, Tesla is worth $210 billion and is valued above all other automobile companies, as well as Coke, Disney, and Exxon Mobil. Musk is known for his relentless innovation, and this quote may embody his fearless attitude more than anything, “If things are not failing,” Musk says, “you are not innovating enough.” 

From homegrown heroes like Kara Trott, to internationally-recognized Elon Musk, these leaders reveal valuable insights for you to emulate in order to maximize your brand’s impact. 

  1. Solve a pain point for customers in a “hard to copy” way
  2. Strive for continuous innovation to keep elevating your products and services
  3. Embody your brand and create a focused vision for your team 

Maximize your company’s impact with strategic leadership and thoughtful branding. 

Too many online choices

On our first usability post in December, we talked about three ways to increase usability on your website. We’re picking up where we left off, and giving you three more ideas to test, and possibly integrate into your site to encourage your customers to take action.

1. Choices: Have you ever stopped by one of the taste testing stands at the grocery store? Well, people are drawn in by options, but they don’t usually Too many online choicespurchase if there are too many options. Cult tip: apply this to your ecommerce store or landing page. Think about how many products you’re showcasing on a given page. General rule of thumb: show 3-4 products for optimal conversion. Make sure to include filters and easy-to-use search options to allow your customer to find exactly what they’re looking for. After all, in order to achieve your conversion goals, you have to give your customer exactly what they’re looking for.


2. Reciprocity & Concession: Reciprocity is considered as a strong determining factor of human behavior.  Lead generation is extremely valuable for most of you, and the forms you use on your website to generate leads directly relate to reciprocity. Cult tip: if you’re trying to get a user to fill out a form, offer them something of value. You show them what they want; they give you what you want.  It’s a win-win. This concept works well if you have free samples to give away, monthly drawings, or engaging, useful content (white papers, ebooks, etc.).


3. Similarity, Attractiveness, Association: Let’s face it; we all enjoy being around like-minded people.  Our social & professional groups, gyms, office (for the most part) all resemble people like YOU.  Our associations with people who we can relate to help us feel comfortable, and lead to taking action.  Cult tip: define exactly who your customer is that you want to take action.  Where do they live, what do they do for fun and what might they look like?  Use images that resemble your target customer, and tell stories they can relate to.  If your product or service solved a problem for someone they can relate to, likelihood is that they will want that same solution.

How do you get your customer to take action on your website? What is the most important action a customer can take, and how do you measure that? That, my Cult friends, is called usability.  The way you design the creative, and develop the functional aspects of your website, can either make or break your marketing efforts, and should be considered among the top priorities when building site infrastructure.

When designing client websites at Cult, the driving force behind them is what the public sees, and how they interact. Here are a few concepts to keep in mind when brainstorming usability tactics, taken from Susan Weinschenk’s principles of applying psychology to understand ‘what makes them click.’

    1. Social validation on your websiteSocial validation: People are very affected by what their friends are doing, which is why user reviews and ‘Jane liked this, so you should too’ types of Facebook promotions are so important. People want to be part of the ‘in-crowd’ and will jump on your bandwagon if friends are, so use this to your advantage. Cult tip: incorporate social validation through feeds, badges, testimonials and reviews. User reviews should incorporate as much info. about the reviewer and item being reviewed as possible for even more validation. A good example of reviews can be found on the Modcloth website. Overall, this aspect is a large part of what we practice, ‘cult marketing’, and is a crucial piece in your branding and marketing efforts.


    1. Fear of loss usability exampleScarcity & fear of loss: We can all relate to this one. If you think something is available for only a short amount of time, your ‘fear of loss’ instinct kicks in and makes you want it even more. Fear lives in the ‘old brain’ as Susan explains, and is the driving force behind a lot of action that a user will take. Here’s a great example from a retail store; imagine if you applied it to your online cart as Seth mentions. Cult tip: use a call to action involving numbers, setting deadlines, or limits, and add parameters to download options, events, and signups. Cult has integrated ‘fear of loss’ with white papers, webinars, and contest signups to name a few.


  1. Paint the picture with peoplePhotos & stories: “Let me tell you a story” is a great way to capture an audience and get their attention. You can do this through photos that start to tell your story. Paint users a picture that will activate the pain sensors in the brain, helps them relate to your story, and ultimately buy-in to your message. Cult tip: use faces to tell a story which has been the most effective for us, and combine photos with short messages that lead into your longer text.

Read more from Susan here: What Makes Them Click

Social media evolution

Social media is now part of our world, and not just for personal communication and sharing. The evolution of how social media has blurred the lines between work and personal life is the most fascinating to me. I can admit that our team was somewhat alarmed when clients started friending us on Facebook in 2010; and how did mom and grandma become so active this year?! Well, this is our reality now, and platforms and social efforts will continue to merge in 2012.

Social media for business will continue to be an integral part of marketing initiatives as a majority of businesses increase social and mobile marketing budgets while scaling back on print and display advertising. Whether they work in B2B or B2C marketing, marketers are very well aware that consumers are driving the shift in sales and conversions, and marketers are following suit.

So how else will social media in 2012 evolve? Here’s the opinion of Cult’s expert, Andria Trivisonno, and other expert opinions, on where we’re headed: goo.gl/HSMkP

Follow Us @followcult
Follow Andria @andriatriv