The fourth law of cult branding is defined as:

Create exclusivity. 

Famous comedian Groucho Marx was credited with the fantastic quote that humorously provides insight into human nature: “I don’t want to belong to any club that would have me as a member.” 

If something is difficult to attain, or requires a barrier to entry, it often makes people want it more. Psychologists link this to several key factors: the desire to increase self-esteem, the positive feelings of pride or accomplishment, and creating a sense of belonging with other members of the “club.”  Have you ever seen a line of people waiting to get past a bouncer and into the newest, hot music club? Exclusivity in action.

There are some great examples of brands that have used exclusivity to drive loyalty and engagement. One is American Express. You are not merely a cardholder, you are a “Member since…” and the physical card lists the year you became a member. How often do you see people comparing member dates at a bar or restaurant? Also, AmEx established various levels of exclusivity by creating a card hierarchy: Blue, Gold, Platinum, and Black. The Centurion Black Card has become a symbol of exclusivity as you can’t apply for one, you must be invited to be a Black Card member, which comes with an initiation fee of $7,500 and an annual fee of $5,000.

Check out the rest of the “11 Laws” series here. 

Another industry that has used the strategy of exclusivity with great success is airlines with their frequent flyer programs. To obtain the highest levels of the FF programs, you must fly a lot and spend a lot. Delta’s Diamond Medallion level means you fly 125,000 miles per year and spend at least $15,000 on tickets. This gives you access to the Sky Club lounges with free drinks and food, free first-class upgrades, and other perks. Delta even has a program for Diamond members in which – in case of a tight connection – you are met at the plane by a representative and taken directly to your next gate in a Porsche. The American Airlines Concierge Key program is so exclusive that a movie was made about it starring George Clooney and Anna Kendrick called “Up in the Air.” If you fly enough they will even name a plane in the fleet after you. Now that’s exclusive.

Maybe the ultimate example of exclusivity is Ferrari. So you’ve won the lottery and gotten your big check and now you’re ready to make your first purchase: the most expensive Ferrari they make. Problem is, one does not simply walk into Maranello, Italy and buy the LaFerrari supercar. There are certain requirements that must be met and certain expectations fulfilled before Ferrari will allow you to write it a check for more than a million Euros. At 950 horsepower, the LaFerrari is the most powerful street-legal Ferrari ever built. It’s also one of the most exclusive, with only 499 units made. And, rumor has it you will not be considered for the honor of buying one unless you have previously owned five other Ferraris. 

If you want to create exclusivity around your brand, follow these steps: 

  1. If you have a loyalty program you need to consider the opportunity to create a premium member opportunity for your most loyal and ardent supporters. Give them something brag-worthy or attention-getting to encourage them to achieve unique and premium member status. Putting your top customer’s name on a plane is a prime example.  
  2. Create an elite item within your portfolio that will be issued on a very limited basis. The AmEx Black Card and the LaFerrari are examples of two brands that have found ways to create and leverage brand exclusivity with products that have tight owner specifications and limited availability. Even if your brand is not premium, there is always room for seasonal offerings, limited time offers, and small scale production runs to test the viability and demand for new niches within your current portfolio. This is especially true in a year like this one where customer habits and traditional journeys have been disrupted.  

Brands should be testing new items and offerings using the technique of exclusivity to create cult customers that ultimately become raging brand evangelists.

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