As I look out my office window in the Arena District in Columbus, more than 15,000 women are streaming out of Nationwide Arena. They are part of the annual national convention of a company called Thirty-One Gifts.
Thirty-One Gifts is a super-fast growing direct-sales company that has achieved explosive growth – and cult brand status. It began modestly in 2003 in the basement of founder and CEO Cindy Monroe.
Cult Marketing was engaged in 2010 to develop a deep understanding of the 31 Gifts “Consultant” as they call their independent sales representatives. At that time, the company had 23,000 consultants – now they have over 120,000.
Sales are projected to reach $1 billion in 2015. So, how has 31 Gifts done it? What are their secrets? Cult Marketing’s 13 Laws of Cult Branding can shed light on some of the keys to this phenomenal growth. Here are a few that apply:
Cult Law #1:
The Point Of View: Based on a strong story/rigid ideals and beliefs, often in opposition to some other “enemy”
The company was based on one immutable goal: to empower women. Even the name Thirty-One Gifts is based on a biblical proverb that “celebrates hard-working women who are compassionate, gracious and inspiring to their families and the people around them.”
The target consultant for Thirty-One is a woman who wants to improve her life and the lives of her family, while having the flexibility to maintain her traditional family role as mom and wife.
Who is the enemy here? During our interviews, the consultants told us that Thirty-One has given them a sense of self-worth, achievement, and the pride that comes with financial contribution and business success. The Thirty-One enemy is lack of self respect, low confidence and a diminished sense of personal value.
Cult Law #3:
The Community: Strong sense of belonging within the group. Members define themselves by this association.
Founder Cindy Monroe cites that Thirty-One provides two key benefits to consultants: community and relationships. These are powerful drivers in creating strong emotional connections to an organization.
Cult Law #4:
The Visionary: Defined leadership/Prophet/Visionary/Hierarchical structure
Many cult brands (think Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, Walt Disney) are based on the vision, power and personality of its leader. Cindy Monroe is the highly visible founder and vision-keeper of Thirty-One. She has deflected offers from financial investors because she wants the purity of her vision to remain intact, not to be influenced by ROI and other objectives. She claims she did not do this for the money – and she and her claim are authentic and believable.
Cindy is also the front person on the website and at their events, and has almost legendary status with the consultants.
Cult Law #7:
Love Bombing: A network that is supportive, uplifting, and forgiving
Celebrate. Encourage. Reward. These are the core values that Thirty-One embraces. These three words are critical in delivering the company mission to empower women. These values have helped develop a strong culture that supports and encourages women to achieve their dreams.
During the annual convention this cult law is seen in full force. Achievements are wildly applauded, consultants are encouraged to succeed, and prizes and awards are publicly given for special recognition.
Cult Law #11:
The Buzz: Built virally, largely on word of mouth
For many years, cult brands like Starbuck’s and Harley-Davidson never advertised. They grew organically through the most credible of all marketing techniques – word of mouth. This is not surprising when you consider that cult brands create brand evangelists who are passionate about their affiliations and want to spread the word to others. Thirty-One is a perfect example of a brand that is spreading virally.
How can your company use some of the Laws of Cult Marketing to grow the business? We’d relish the opportunity to help you figure that out. Contact Cult now.