Last month, Interbrand ranked Apple the Best Global Brand of 2013. This was particularly newsworthy because Apple finally usurped Coca-Cola, the brand that had owned the title since 2000. This comes on the heels of last year’s crowning of Apple as the most valuable company in the world.

So, why Apple?

Arguably, there are a host of other notable brands whose offerings are comparable to Apple. Smartphones, tablets, laptops, home entertainment, and software applications are all available from other makers who have, over time, closed the quality (and even the design) gap that once set Apple apart. Like Samsung, for instance (who holds the eighth spot on Interbrand’s list).

The reason is the affinity consumers around the world have developed for Apple.

The company has succeeded in figuring out the secret sauce that has earned them the irrational loyalty and devotion of customers. In his Forbes article, Robert Passikoff of BrandKeys summarizes Apple as, “A thoroughly delightful brand that consistently beats out competitors in meeting customer expectations.” He also attributes Apple’s success to the positive behaviour consumers exhibit towards the brand. “It’s axiomatic: more consumers behave well toward a brand, a brand sells more, a brand makes more money, its stock goes up.”

What About the Also-Rans?

As I reviewed Interbrand’s Best Global Brands list, I was pleased to see so many other cult-like brands on the list: BMW, Disney, Louis Vuitton, Adidas, Ikea, Pampers, Tiffany & Co., MTV, Ferrari and Caterpillar. These brands often don’t receive the recognition they deserve because they don’t employ outrageous or irreverent advertising that the marketing industry prefers to spotlight at awards shows.

These brands often don’t receive the recognition they deserve because they don’t employ outrageous or irreverent advertising that the marketing industry spotlights at awards shows.

While I applaud Interbrand for championing what I’m sure is a fairly onerous yearly undertaking, their methodology is based on financial metrics tied to short term business performance, which discriminates against other worthy contenders. They also skew heavily towards publicly traded companies; evaluate only brands with an international presence (must have operations on at least 3 major continents); and, by their own admission, typically exclude entire categories from the running, such as telecommunications, airlines, and pharmaceuticals.

For years, I’ve been a huge advocate for brands who build staunchly loyal followings through non-traditional marketing strategies. In my experience, the most cult-like brands are often smaller, regional, and often privately held businesses and organizations. Instead of buying impressions through expensive mass media buys, they endeavour to make impressions

Can you recall ever seeing a Lululemon commercial on television? (I can’t, because they rarely advertise on TV.)

Were you one of the millions of people who watched Felix Baumgartner’s supersonic free fall from the edge of space, all in the name of Red Bull? (I was. And, along with two million others, I subsequently subscribed to their email list so I could learn about their next crazy stunt.)

Point made.

The Time Has Come

At Cult, we celebrate the courageous CMOs and brand leaders who choose the road less travelled. We applaud brands (and the people behind them) who not only know how to win customers and generate revenue, but know how to foster deep emotional connections and create movements. Our aim is to emulate the behaviour and replicate success of brands who have succeeded in not only getting customers to buy, but to buy in.

And we’re doing this in a BIG way this February at The Gathering.

Sadly, the world’s leading cult brands are the unsung heroes that create tremendous brand affinity and equity, but are often overlooked by industry peers who celebrate the sizzle and not the steak.

The Gathering: Secret Marketing Conference on Cult Brands

These brands have earned cult status because of their concern and commitment for remarkable products and customer experiences instead of a concern over crafting clever ads.

Cult Brand Secrets Revealed

This inaugural event will recognize and honour those often overlooked brands that are not only achieving huge business success, but also transforming the way we think about marketing and advertising. Brands that aren’t successful because of ads, but because of how differently they think about marketing. Brands that take as much care to cultivate their own corporate culture as they do to cultivate relationships with customers.

These brands have earned cult status because of their commitment to delivering remarkable products/services and customer experiences trumps their concern over crafting clever ads. And, they quietly and humbly go about their business, doing things differently – and better – than other brands, without need for accolades from those who remain fixated with traditional marketing and advertising tactics.
The Gathering will bring all of the people behind these brands together in one place to swap secrets and share strategies they’ve used to win extreme brand affinity and customer loyalty.

So please join us at The Gathering as we celebrate the achievements of some of North America’s most alluring brands, and learn first hand from the enlightened few who have successfully stewarded these brands to cult status.

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