Cult Brands And Branding – Deepika Mallyk, IIM Bangalore

There are cult brands that play in the niche areas such as Harley Davidson or Royal Enfield and some are mass cult brands such as Apple with the world literally divided into Apple owners and non-owners. One such example from the FMCG space is Dove with its distinctive proposition of ‘Real Beauty’ and featuring real women. During its launches when women were asked to participate, it is written in news articles that they poured as a flood on Dove office gates. Other brands which attained near mass cult status include twitter, Starbucks, Nike, Fastrack, Pepsi etc.

Search on the internet you will get only the long list of brand names. What about other types like, books and names? Here are some of them apart from products and services:

  1. Swamijis – J Krishnamurthy, Sri sri Ravi shankar, Jaggi Vasudev, Rajneesh
  2. Gods – Allah, Brahma, Jehova
  3. Film stars – Rajanikant, Amitabh Bachchan, SalmanKhan etc. This list even includes villains such as The Joker, Darth Vader etc.
  4. Prophets – Jesus, Buddha, Mohammad, Zaruthastra
  5. Movies – (Starwars, Mission Impossible series, James Bond – popular), (Battleship Potemkin, Citizen Kane – critics) etc.
  6. TV shows – TVF play, AIB, East India Comedy, The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, TED talks etc.
  7. Books – Sherlock Holmes, Harry Potter, The Hunger games, The Lord of the rings, Twilight, Ramayana etc.
  8. Thought leaders – Gandhi, Einstein, Stephen Hawking…
  9. Clubs – Manchester United, Real Madrid, Barcelona etc.
  10. Sports – cricket in India, soccer in South America and Europe
  11. TV series – Friends, House of Cards, Game of Thrones, How I met your mother etc.
  12. Singers (includes all performing artists) – Beatles, Michael Jackson, Beyonce, Lady Gaga, Adele etc.
  13. Historical figures – Chanakya, Julius Ceaser, Abraham Lincoln, Mother Teresa etc.
  14. Writers – Firaq Gorakhpuri (Hindi/Urdu), D R Bendre (Kannada), Jayakantan (Tamil), Sri Sri (Telugu), Tukaram (Marathi), K M MUnshi (Gujarati), Thakkali Shiva Shankara Pillai (Malayalam), Shakespeare (English), Dante (Italian), Thomas Mann, Goethe (German) etc.
  15. Institutes and Organizations – MIT, Harvard, IIMs, IITs, Cambridge, NASA etc.

Marketing by Cult brands: To keep their products in the minds and hearts of consumer, cult brands try constantly to do viral marketing so that their customers hit on something unique and great that they can’t help but share with others. An example I would give is the bellyjelly campaign, for young women to love their body by using fitness and physical movement as a primary platform for social change. The ‘embrace it’ attitude and the videos released is something everyone will remember.

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Most of these brands set-up rituals such as “a true bullet customer can identify it by the sound of its exhaust”; Fascination for vintage Enfields; Driving rallys in mountains (indie thumpers) etc. They set up communities to support like “Brotherhood of Bulleteers Motorcycling Consortium”, which counts 82 Bullet clubs with each club having its logos, badges and T-shirts. Apple has its community for developers and customers.

Case study on Royal Enfield: It offers self-expressive benefits to the customer as it symbolises power, individuality, “you look cool in the city”, “it confers status”. When Enfield entered India, it built its own ecosystem. And once one owns Bullet they build fostering relationships with local legendary mechanics. Mechanic Bullet Mani is famous in Kerala, In Mumbai, it is O.A. Anthony, Bangalore built its own road called Bullet Lane in Shivajinagar that has a row of mechanic shops. Then comes the customization (you can co-create the bike you need) with variants like the fastest 600cc bike, the bike with a shoe car etc.  Added it has its own club culture with their own favourite hang-outs and rituals giving rise to more branches of the eco-system. Here is an article that talks about 10 reasons why Royal Enfield and you can find many more.

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About the Author: 

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Deepika Mallyk is currently doing her MBA from IIM Bangalore. At IIMB, her major interests lie in Marketing and Strategy. Prior to this, she graduated from IIT Kharagpur. She is a passionate dancer. Besides this, she loves oil painting and likes to take a shot at writing in her free time.

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