There is something all sportswear brands wish they had, but not many do. We’re talking about creating customer loyalty and what it means to have a cult following instead of regular customers.
We all have our favorite brands that we buy from over and over again. We tell our friends and families about them, their products, we follow them on social, and we engage with the content they put out, we are up to date with what they are doing, and we feel like we are part of their community.
That type of brand is called a cult brand, and we are its loyal customers or its cult following.
What is a raving fan or a cult follower?
Well, the dictionary defines a cult as being “a person or thing that is popular or fashionable among a particular group or section of society.” Of course, we are not talking about a cult in religious terms here.
So basically, a cult follower or a raving fan is a loyal, regular customer that has found his/her tribe and just feels some sort of belonging.
It is a person that is totally in love with a brand, what it stands for, and its products. This person knows everything about the brand, follows everything the brand puts out, and has the same values as the brand. And as soon as he or she gets a chance, she talks about the brand to everybody, in detail, and with extreme passion.
Let’s take an example, a company that most of you know. Think about the outdoor brand Patagonia. They know precisely WHY they are in business. They have a very distinct mission, message, goal, and way of doing business. This way of running their business attracts a specific customer. Because they too are conscious about their choices, they also want to make an as little impact as possible on the environment, they too want to have quality, long-lasting products. They want to buy those products from passionate people. They want to buy products that have been produced ethically and responsibly. This is the type of brand we are talking about.
12 Common Nominators For Cult Brands
Let’s dive into the meaty stuff. Now that we know what a cult follower is, how do we define a cult brand? What are cult brands?
Based on the sportswear, or fashion, or apparel brands we have worked with through KrissCo, we have found some common nominators for those types of brands, and those nominators are not that crazy or outrageous as you might think. Let’s take a look at twelve of those nominators so that you can apply them to your brand.
First of all, the brand leader or leaders are different. They take risks, and they fight for what they believe in and for what they stand for. They WANT to be different, and because of this, the brand itself becomes quite unique too. Influential brand leaders use marketing to maximize the brand’s story and reason for being. They ARE the brand, they LIVE the brand, and therefore, there is an incredibly authentic story and message that people believe in.
Second, cult brands have hugely loyal advocates. Voluntary advocates that want to belong and be associated with the brand. The brand never forces or hard sells. A cult brand is so much more than its products. It’s a belief system.
Third, the brand community thinks exceptionally high of the brand and feels that it is irreplaceable. It’s almost like they swear by this brand. They put the brand above all others in that particular segment. It’s THE brand and not A brand.
Forth, the brand community swears by the brand ideology and its values, because they have the same thinking and values and this is the connector. This is the glue that makes the community stick both together and to the brand itself. This is actually the most essential thing to have in a sportswear or apparel brand, strong values, and a strong mission because this is why people develop strong bonds with a brand.
The fifth nominator, cult brands don’t just sell products, they sell lifestyles, and unique experiences to their customers. They make customers feel good, they make customers feel free and empowered. But remember, as a brand, you have to have a lifestyle worth believing in. Let’s talk a little bit about the company Outdoor Voices. Their slogan is doing things. They have cool products, for people that do things, active things and less active things, outdoor and indoor. It’s activewear for non-professional athletes. They invite to an active lifestyle, and they make you look stylish in their products. They are inclusive and welcoming, and the way they communicate with their customers is like they speak to a friend. It’s an inspiring lifestyle!
The sixth nominator, cult brands have nurtured their communities, they have never dictated or controlled them. It’s totally up to the customer to be part of the group or not. Nothing is forced!
Seven. Cult brands are inclusive and diverse. They are open to everybody, but both the brand and the community might exclude people if the person has a bad attitude and is rotten for the community. It all ties back into what we talked about earlier, about having the right values and ideology. About doing the RIGHT thing.
Eight. Cult brands also have a unique distinguished identity in the market. They are different, and the funny thing is that customers want to belong to a niche group that’s different to become more individual. Cult brands are not for everybody, they have their distinct niche positioning, and they want to stay there. They don’t want to be everything to everybody.
Nine. Cult brands have an open dialogue with its community. They ask questions, take feedback, and listen to its community in order to make their products better and also to increase the overall experience. They turn opinions and constructive criticism into solutions and ideas. They know how meaningful this open dialogue is, and they take real “advantage” of this in making the brand and its products even better. The community can also feel like they were part of the product development because the brand is open and constantly discussing with its customers.
Ten. Cult brands are personal. They never use the big corporate jargon. They talk to their customers like they speak to their friends. They build strong relationships instead of push for more sales.
Eleven. Cult brands hate “the other.” Sometimes “the other” is just an idea, sometimes it’s a company with opposite morals, ideas, and values, and sometimes it’s just a state of mind. It’s an us vs. them mentality. And everybody in the community knows exactly what the brand refers to. And what or who the other is.
Twelve. Some cult brands also have clubs or memberships. That makes the community even tighter. It’s even more exclusive. It gives those members that VIP experience that creates an even deeper connection to the brand.
Most of the time with these brands, and their cult following – it’s not a goal, it’s an effect of how they run their businesses. It’s an effect on the products they put into the world and the reason they exist in the first place. They all have a very strong authentic reason for being, a strong WHY.
Why Should You Have Loyal Customers?
OK now, let’s take a small step back and talk about WHY it’s important to have loyal customers. We mean, can’t you just be happy with recurring regular customers. They come to your brand, they buy your products, they might come back in a year or so again and buy some more stuff. Everybody is happy, and that’s it?
Why Are Loyal Customers Essential To A Thriving Sportswear Brand?
Think about it for a minute, what do you do when you sit in a conversation at a friend’s dinner party, and someone asks you about the shirt you’re wearing. And It happens to be from your favorite brand. Don’t know about you, but when we love a product we start telling them about EVERYTHING about this brand, what they stand for, how they source their materials, that they manufacture in this ethical factory, you even tell your table partner about the nice stickers that were in the box when you order your shirts online. You even pick up your phone and show how great and inspiring their Instagram account it. You see how this works? We’re sure you recognize this, and I’m sure you do this as well with some brands, no matter the product.
We know it’s not apparel, but take the Mac vs. PC groups. Either you are a Mac person or a PC person. It’s like that with apparel brands as well. It’s like that with all brands. We buy into their stories, their values, their way of running the business, and of course we love their products.
The Unpaid Sales Rep
Let us give you a personal example. One of us had a shirt issue and had a tough time finding shirts that fit. It wasn’t easy to find a shirt that had the correct arm lengths, the right body width, and at the same time with the exact right neck measure. In order to wear ties from time to time, the neck measure had to be precisely correct. The shirts that fit the neck and torso had sleeves that were a couple of centimeters or an inch too short. Or if the sleeves were the right length, it looked like wearing an oversized shirt. Basically, it was difficult to find any brand that had standard measures that were the correct size. We think many of you can resonate with not finding the right fit and that it can take a while before you find a brand that works for you.
Then he came across this brand that made tailored shirts online. He filled out his body measurements online, and then he could pick the exact fabric he wanted. He could choose between different qualities, colors, and patterns. He could even select buttons, collar shapes, sleeves, pockets, logos, etc. And all this to the same price as he would pay for the ready-to-wear shirts he had bought before. He was stoked. His problem was solved. And he didn’t have to go anywhere. If he wanted a new red shirt, he just went online and ordered one with his already filled-out measurements. And he messed up his measuring one time, and they were super helpful and gave him a new shirt for free. Wow, how come not everyone is using this brand?
So whenever the topic of shirts comes up in a conversation, He’s pretty quick to jump in and tell them about this online tailor that he’s using. He’s like their unpaid salesperson. His brother-in-law is 2 meters tall, and he had even worse problems than he did, finding clothes that fit him. Guess where he recommended him to go. Yes, that’s right, to his online tailor.
We think you get the point. He is not just telling people about a brand. He’s going deep. He’s selling it. He feels he’s helping the people that he tells. He wants them to be as happy about it as he is.
So, loyal customers tell their friends and family about your brand and your products. Because they want to support you in everything you do. They are in your community; you together become a big happy family.
Another reason why loyal customers are essential to your brand’s growth is that they do the marketing for you. And word of mouth marketing is the most powerful marketing tactic there is. Because it comes from a trusted source because there is no incentive, and therefore, it’s an authentic, honest recommendation. Because passion and excitement are contagious, and other people want to feel as strongly about a product as you do. This trumps all other types of marketing.
Again, this is what happened with the online tailor. He told his friends about his personal interest with no personal gain except trying to help. It’s more the opposite. He needs to be honest because his friends will be upset if he gives them a poor recommendation to spend their money on crap. So recommendations are gold worth in terms of marketing.
Loyal customers are also eager to give you honest and constructive feedback because they are in this together with you, they feel like they are part of your brand. They want to see you succeed and grow, and do well. They are always cheering you on. They’ve got your back as long as you truly and honestly care for them.
Another great advantage with loyal customers is that they are more tolerable with your ups and sometimes downs in your business and products. Product development has its challenges, and stuff happens all the time. For example, a product has come in with a faulty material, or the snaps come off from a cap, or the badges on the back of a jacket are crooked. They might tell you about it and discuss it with you, they will not let you off the hook, but they will not hate you for it. Your honesty will only deepen their relationship with your brand. The most important thing here is transparency and being totally honest about things and what you are going to do about them. Customers just want to know that you are working on it instead of ignoring it and them.
Loyal customers will be by your side for the long game.
One other thing is that loyal customers are also likely to spend more money than an average customer because they love everything you do, and as mentioned earlier, they want to support you. They simply love buying from you. They love the entire experience and want to have that on a regular basis.
Let’s look at Apple again or Supreme. Fans stand in line and wait to be first in line to buy products they have actually never seen. They know the products come from the brand they love and trust, and are prepared to buy it without any customer reviews or knowing much about the particular product.
They want to feel part of the tribe, the inner circle. They like you, they like what your brand stands for, they like your products, and they want to be part of it all. Loyal customers and raving fans tend to stick around for the long game. When they feel connected to you and your brand, they will be loyal for a long time. Unless the brand screws things up of course. We have seen it happen a couple of times with older brands. The CEO left, someone else came in, the values got diluted, the product offer wasn’t as good, the general experience and service got bad, and so the downward spiral motion couldn’t be stopped. That’s when customers leave, forever. Because they don’t know or trust you anymore.
All brands start at scratch, with 0 customers, 0 following. As soon as you start putting out content about what you are doing, why you are doing it, people will start to resonate with your values, and your beliefs and ways of doing things. You and your customers will find common ground.
For this reason, you should not only talk about your product. Your brand is more than just your garments. It is about you, your story behind it, your mission, your vision, your values, the people working with you, the suppliers, your engagement, etc. When you start sharing these things, you will have so many more touchpoints and chances to find common ground with your tribe.
What Does It Take From You To Create Customer Loyalty?
What is it that you have to do in order to gain customers attention and trust? The answer will surprise you a bit because when you hear it, it’s pretty basic. It’s common sense. It comes down to putting the customer first, to making the customer the hero of the story.
Nobody likes a brand that talks about how great they are and how great their brand is and how amazing their products are. Nobody likes to be sold at: hey come and buy my stuff cause it’s fantastic. Come and buy, come and buy. Would you buy? I wouldn’t!
It’s like that person at a party that you start a conversation with, and they go on and on and on and talk only about themselves, and they do not once ask you a question back. The crazy thing is that most of the time after the conversation stops, they think you were so interesting and would love to meet you another time. Eeee no thanks…..
You guys have heard the story ratio, right? 2 ears and one mouth. Listen more than you talk.
When you put your customer number one, you can’t lose.
Remember, you are the one creating the community, you are the one “dictating” the rules for your community.
And as a leader, you set the tone and vibe of your community.
When you show up for your tribe, they know you will be there, and they know they can trust you.
The way you behave in the community is the way your community will behave as well. If you make it fun, open and honest, vulnerable, and transparent, then this is the way your community will be as well. If you have 0 tolerance for big egos, mean comments and just dissing each other, your community will appreciate this and will know what rules to play by. People will, of course, have opinions and comments about your products and brand, we are humans right, but like with everything people will adapt and appreciate when you steer the ship with a steady hand and with good intentions. A strong brand needs a strong leader, and cult brands have strong leaders.
We’ve now only talked about positive things. So let’s for a second mention the haters. Because all brands have haters. Something positive has an opposite negative right. First of all, ignore them. Totally! There is no point in giving your energy and mental space to people that want to bring your business down and that have no respect for what you do. There is no point in trying to convert them because you will never succeed, you will only waste your time and heart space.
You know the saying right: hurt people, hurt people. Not everybody can be your people. So focus on your tribe.
There are no shortcuts, and like with all things, it takes time. A community with raving fans is not built overnight.
It’s worth striving for because raving fans will keep your business and brand thriving!