Cult Personalities

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Sometimes it’s good to be different. No, scratch that. It’s always good to be a little different, a little edgy, a little bit kooky and a lot bit silly. After all, it wasn’t the straight-line thinkers who developed the best fan following. Harley-Davidson is a shining example. So are brands like Apple, Jones Cream Soda and Krispy Kreme donuts. They may be mainstream now, but takes a certain chutzpah to develop the fan following that these brands have.
In the lives of all cult classics, however, comes a tipping point when the core group of followers must be abandoned for higher profit margins. It’s when they risk losing their edginess to go mainstream because early adopters have paved the way for widespread acceptance.
Perhaps we can’t recreate the precise magic – or the endless lines of customers who camped out in front of their stores and wrapped around blocks – that these brands came with, but we decided to delve a little deeper into their workings and see what made them tick.
The lessons we learned?
1. Quality is Everything What would Apple be without stellar design or products that worked on a sub-par level? Possibly not the cult classic many people have grown to know and love.
2. Keep it Simple, Son Imagine, if you will, the simplest of life’s pleasures – a light and puffy donut fresh out of the fryer, drizzled with the simplest syrup and served to you while it’s still warm.
Do you know why, when Krispy Kreme announces the opening of a new location, lines of customers wrap around a few blocks?
That’s why.
3. Reach for the Early Adopters A true measure of success is when the brand’s name becomes a verb. The people who catapulted Google out of the stratosphere were the early adopters who preferred simple design over Yahoo’s “everything and the kitchen sink” home page. Here we are years later and we’ve swapped “look it up online” for “Google it.”
4. Don’t Mass Produce If you’ve ever had yourself a bottle of Jones Soda, you know you can’t find it on grocery store shelves everywhere. This Seattle-based company began catering, with limited production, to a very discerning audience in its early days and has tried very hard to keep itself from going mainstream. The result is legions of followers who swear by the drink and refuse to imbibe anything else.
And there you have it. Simple ingredients, high quality, niche audience and early adopters who think you’re too cool for school. It’s a winning recipe, really. What are your favorite cult classics?
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