Cult brands often develop their own vocabulary to drive personal connections between the brand and customers to make them feel like they’re part of something exclusive.
The second law of cult branding is to develop a unique and distinctive vocabulary or language for the brand and its customers.
Brands build cult followings by forging connections between customers and the brand’s products or services using identity and positioning as we explored in the previous post. Language, or the unique vocabulary a brand uses, takes a brand’s cult following to the next level.
1. Your brand’s vocabulary is like an exclusive foreign language.
Have you ever gone into a Starbucks and ordered a “medium” coffee? You’ll no doubt get a blank stare from the person taking your order. Starbucks’ sizes are Short, Tall, Grande, Venti, and Trenta thank you very much. The unique vocabulary used by Starbucks was developed early in the company’s history by Howard Schultz to make Starbucks sound exotic and to mimic the heritage of Italian coffeehouses. It’s also a way to engage its high-value customers and make them feel like they are “in the know.”
Ordering a custom beverage at Starbucks – crafted by a barista – has become a way to separate the real brand advocates from infrequent customers. Having brand advocates isn’t only about driving business, it’s about developing a robust fanbase that will be your brand evangelists to everyone they encounter. That’s a lifetime value you can’t beat!
2. Creating a unique language leads to brand loyalism.
Another company that has developed its own unique vocabulary is the cult brand, White Castle. They have a loyal band of evangelists called Cravers who do everything from book their weddings at The Castle to reserving a table each year on Valentine’s Day. Check out the Craver’s Hall of Fame which highlights the extreme lengths the restaurants’ loyalists will go to satisfy their cravings, like driving from LA to Vegas on a whim just to get their hands on a White Castle burger.
These Cravers have their own terminology – from ordering steamed square burgers, known as sliders, to buying sliders by the sack, the crave case (30), or the crave crate (100 sliders). Oh, and the 99-year-old family-run business is run by third-generation CEO Lisa Ingram, aka, The Slider Queen.
White Castle teaches us a great lesson in the importance of a brand’s unique vocabulary to drive brand loyalism. Its unique identifiers set White Castle apart from other fast-food burger chains because White Castle has established an aura of exclusivity with its proprietary terms and its Cravers community.
3. Use language to carve out your brand’s territory.
Apple, the king of cult brands, has aligned its brand with a set of unique terms. The iMac, iPods, iPhone, iPad, and iTunes are all part of the naming architecture, originally from the idea that you can quickly and easily get on the internet. Its portable computers are not called something mundane like a personal computer or laptop, they are called MacBooks. Apple has established its brand territory relative to competitors with its unique language. It addresses consumers’ needs for portable, wearable, and superior tech with its terminology. Apple has carved its niche, and its following, on the basis of language. The loyalty, fanbase, and community developed around this language is second to none.
Brands like Apple, Starbucks, and White Castle understand the importance of uniqueness and community, two of the clear benefits of creating a special vocabulary for your brand. A unique vocabulary is a great way to build clarity and impact by carving out territory that your brand can own.
Unique vocabulary also helps your brand evangelists feel in the know and part of a special club. Without even digging into the interesting possibilities around the rise of voice search to carve a niche for your brand, building a unique vocabulary is just one more way to create brand loyalty among your fans. Now, that’s something all brands can and should aim to deliver.