Are manufacturers the brand new faith?

Being desired by customers is a dream come true for many brands. While a successful brand will have a decent ­following, it takes a special kind of something to cultivate a dedicated, ­‘religious following’, where ­consumers follow every launch, every update, every move a brand makes.

So what does it take to whip up this kind of frenzy? Are there certain elements a brand must have? For Katie Mackay-Sinclair, partner at ad ­agency Mother, which works with brands including KFC and Ikea, it’s ­relatively straightforward. “It’s two simple things that are easier said than done: a product that doesn’t let you down, and a business that knows who the brand truly is and doesn’t do or say anything other than live up to that,” she says.

Tarik Fontenelle, chief research officer at strategic insight agency On Road, believes there’s something in sparking conversation and creating culture. “There’s this thing around cultural capital with brands. The ability for a brand to give you the tools to talk about culture in a fluid way, and I think the best kind of cultish brands do that,” he says. “They have signifiers or iconography that allows someone to very quickly pick up and realise they’re on the same plane as someone else.”

Fontenelle, who’s worked with the likes of Nike, Converse and Sports Direct, also believes building global subcultures is another key way of broadening that following. “Global subcultures are led by individuals or groups who might be on one side of the world, but it reaches all the way across. Things aren’t bound by geography anymore,” he says.

Top: Customers waiting in line at Apple retail stores around the world for iPhone 11, 11 Pro, and 11 Pro Max, New York, 2019. Image: Shutterstock/Heerapix; Above: Behind the Mac campaign for Apple

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