I’m about to return from what I believe must surely be the world’s largest, and most impressive, cult. Perhaps nowhere else on our small, blue marble will you find a group of people whose way of life is so fervently believed in and protected. I refer of course to the United States of America.
The beautiful, the brave, the strong and the free.
It has all six of the hallmarks that we at Big “C” Cult believe identify a cult brand, as demonstrated by our findings outlined in The Anatomy of a Cult Brand. It is remarkable (like when it went to the moon), it has a purpose (justice, freedom and the American Way), it is involved (Team America: World Police), it is relatable and personified (Uncle Sam among other pseudonyms), it is pervasive (hooray for Hollywood), and it is inspirational (the American Dream). And let’s not forget swearing fealty to God and country is at the top of the to-do list for the majority of its, uh, members.
Our neighbours to the south have managed to hit each and every element that a cult brand is comprised of, something some of the best brands haven’t even managed to do. This is no easy feat and one that many brands can stand to learn from.
On top of that, it shares a lot of traits with actual cults. You know, all that gun carrying, secret classifying and nation building. All of which puts it in stark contrast with the country of Canada, the place I choose to call home.
I have long called my countrymen in Canada “English people with big cars” because, while we share many elements of the American lifestyle (the big cars for example), we are frightfully British in our outlook. We’re self-effacing, underdog-rooting, welfare-state upholding, and loath to exhibit anything like the same level of national pride as do our southern neighbours. Frankly, I’m not sure why, because, as a people, we have so much of which to be proud. But we’re just not chest-beating, flag-waving, gun-carrying, moon-travelling, Bud-drinking, win-at-all-costs folks up here. It’s just not in our DNA. Heck, we never even went to the trouble of having a war of independence.
And we are definitely not the cultural melting pot that is the USA. The majority of Canadian immigrants I have met think of themselves as their original nationality first. Whereas in my experience, Americans are always American first—and oh so proud of it. An attitude I do so wish we had more of in Canada. (And that actually means something coming from me, since despite being born and raised in England, I have always considered myself a Canadian after emigrating in the eighties.)
Americans are always American first—and oh so proud of it. An attitude I do so wish we had more of in Canada.
Okay, so where am I going with this?
I think some brands can learn some valuable lessons from the US of A. All too often I have heard Canadian clients of mine say “well, we can’t do that, we can’t take a stand like that, we can’t say that… we’ll upset people”.
To which I always say, and will repeat again here for those who have missed one of my sermons on the matter: “Yes, you can say that, you’re paying for this piece of communication, if you can’t say it here, then where? And yes, a few people may take umbrage at your stance, but it is worth it when considering the number of people who will relate and bond more closely with you because you’ve been brave and remarkable.” After all there’s no shortage of Apple haters out there. But isn’t that a problem most brands would be more than willing to live with?
If you can’t make a stand with your communications, why bother? Don’t be afraid to shout your purpose from the rooftops.
Don’t be afraid to shout your purpose from the rooftops. Be courageous and inspirational, even if some segment of the population isn’t going to feel it—getting everyone feeling okay about your brand tends to end up diluting the essence of who you are. No brand can afford to spend marketing dollars shooting for ambivalence.
Wish you were here.