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Enter New Markets and Win New Audiences
Through a Customer-Centric Ideology

Would you like to be a Cult Brand? Well then, you have to see the world through the lens of your audience. The industry buzzwords are customer-centricity or customer-first – yawn, I know. So sit tight, I’m about to give you a real-life, practical example of how a Cult Brand uses this approach to win; hint, if you spend most of your time as a marketing group thinking about impressions, conversion rate optimization or improving your net promoter score, then you’re probably not as customer-centric as you may think. To be clear, those things have their place and importance; they’re just not customer-centric ways of operating.

Let’s get into what being customer-centric even means. It means making every decision through the lens of your audience- like, every decision. That’s not just the features you build into a product or the channels you choose to show up in. It means living and breathing through their lives, becoming intimately familiar with it, endearing yourself to it, and then finding a way to integrate your brand into it.

Through our enlightenment at The Gathering and the Inside the Glass Podcast, YETI provides us with a great example of a brand that is doing this spectacularly well. Let’s learn how.



Does your brand have a head of community marketing? Do you know what community marketing is? Bill Neff, VP of Bags and Apparel at YETI, describes it as “trying to get ingrained in the culture of a pursuit we actively communicate with.” For YETI, the focus is on hunting, fishing, outdoor, ranch & rodeo and beer & BBQ. They also dabble in music but aren’t jumping into that space too hastily because they want to make sure they’re doing it right (more on that to come).

Community marketing requires authenticity to be successful, which is why YETI’s marketing team consists of people who wake up every morning thinking about fishing, BBQ, or hunting – people who are as passionate about these categories as the audience they hope to align themselves with. YETI commits to showing up genuinely for these groups with a strategy that is more about sharing interests and passions with audiences than pitching a 10×10 tent, hanging a banner and distributing some SWAG.

“We are trying to get ingrained in the culture of a pursuit we actively communicate with.”

Most brands have personas for their customers, and those usually involve some type of behaviour triggers or media consumption analyses. Still, most people don’t wake up every morning thinking about how much they love scrolling Facebook or LinkedIn ads, nor do they fantasize about driving down the main thoroughfare looking at billboards. A marketing department must be built around this understanding, and remember that their customers are human beings that love real sports, hobbies and pastimes. This type of structure must be genuinely considered if you’re serious about being audience-centric.



Ok, so you have a person or team dedicated to community marketing – awesome! Now, before you unleash these people onto every sub-culture under the sun, take with you a few wise guiding principles from YETI.

Bill explains, “It’s about how do we figure out a way to just fuel the pursuit. It isn’t about getting in front of it; it’s about supporting it.” For YETI, that manifests itself as conservation or hosting events or sponsoring existing ones. He elaborates, “we’re looking to support things that the community is really passionate about.”

The point is, you have to really live and breathe these communities, be part of them, be authentic to them (sigh, another buzzword), be in tune with them, and they’ll let you in. You can’t just show up with a bag of money (no matter how big it is) and expect people to care about you.

“It’s about how do we figure out a way to just fuel the pursuit. It isn’t about getting in front of it; it’s about supporting it.”

Imagine the thing you love most dearly, like the thing you spend most of your time daydreaming about; let’s say it’s football. Well, imagine any time you log into Instagram or watch a game on TV or open theScore app on your phone, you see a bank with a ridiculous pun for a headline like “You’re our MVP. Score a touchdown with a new low-interest loan.” How annoyed would you be? Or even worse, how fast would you scan right past it. Sadly, this is a real example; I’m not going to tell you what bank I’m referring to (public creative-shaming isn’t my thing), but you get my point.



Say it with me – LISTEN TO YOUR CUSTOMERS! What do they care about? What are they passionate about? What do they struggle with? Answer these questions, get out and really learn about these things. Learn about what the relevant communities value, what excites them, even what pisses them off. Then, allow yourself to get involved in a way that is right for them. Do it slowly and do it meaningfully, the right way. You can do it!

You can watch Bill’s session from The Gathering HERE and listen to his podcast HERE – he goes into more detail and tells some great stories.

You can also reach out to me at [email protected] if you want to understand how this can apply to your brand. I’ll even tell you what bank used the “You’re our MVP” line. – Thanks for reading.



YETI has earned its Cult Brand status due to its relatability. They have perfected how they personify human attributes and consistently bring their relatable persona to life.


Have you ever wondered how relatable your brand is? Find out in less than 5 minutes with our BRAND ASSESSMENT TOOL.

Further Reading
The CULT of Customer Experience
FIX: A new prescription to cure disengaged customers, prospects or staff
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