The seventh Law of cult branding is defined here as:
Keystone Events and Traditions
Many cult brands create excitement, community, and connection through keystone events that become highly anticipated and ingrained traditions with their customers.
Every year since 1979, the Berkshire Hathaway annual shareholder meeting has taken place in Omaha. It started with 20 people in a lunchroom and has grown to 40,000 attendees. The “Woodstock for Capitalists,” which features Warren Buffet – who is also known as the “Oracle of Omaha” – and his partner Charlie Munger is a true cult event. Attendees will even line up at 4:00 AM to get a preferred seat.
Based in the Columbus area, 31 Gifts has used keystone events to generate brand excitement, get their consultants fired up, celebrate the top sales producers, and introduce new merchandise. Founded in 2003 by Cindy Monroe, the company was at one time the fastest-growing woman-owned company in the world. In 2018, 11,000 direct sales consultants attended its annual 31 Gifts conference at Nationwide Arena. Women come from all over the United States with their team members and can be seen throughout the city with matching outfits and team badges.
In 1924, then known as the Christmas Parade, Macy’s department store promised parade-goers “a marathon of mirth” in its full-page newspaper advertisements. To match the nursery-rhyme theme in Macy’s Christmas window displays, floats featured Mother Goose favorites such as the Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe, Little Miss Muffet, and Little Red Riding Hood. Macy’s employees dressed as clowns, cowboys, and sword-wielding knights. A menagerie of animals on loan from the Central Park Zoo—including bears, elephants, camels, and monkeys—offered a circus-like atmosphere as four bands provided the soundtrack to the festive march. Bringing up the rear of the parade was a float bearing the guest of honor – Santa Claus – sitting in his reindeer-driven sleigh on top of a mountain of ice. Today, 3.5 million people attend the festivities and another 50 million watch live on TV.
Red Bull has also developed its own milestone events – starting in 1989 – that align with its mission of “giving wings to people and ideas.” One of Red Bull’s most valuable and well-known event series has been their involvement within Extreme Sports, supporting and creating high-octane events such as the Red Bull Air Race, Red Box Soap Box Racing, as well as motor-cross events, snowboarding and cliff-diving. Not only have Red Bull invested heavily in creating events, but they’ve played a major role in supporting extreme sports from youth levels, enabling extreme sports to become increasingly accessible. Red Bull has been able to connect with young audiences all over the world, sharing its brand identity as an enabler of thrilling events, sponsoring and being involved with over 500 extreme sports.
One of the keys to success in developing milestone events and traditions centers around the alignment to a company’s mission, values, and target audiences. Whether it’s designed for people that desire to create wealth, women that want to be independent and successful, families enjoying fun and wholesome holiday entertainment, or thrill-seekers engaging in extreme sporting events, these brands have created milestone events that become long-standing traditions and build cult followings and communities.