… and used it to make hundreds of thousands of dollars.
That’s what the title should have been. But ‘How I created a cult and used it to make hundreds of thousands of dollars’ doesn’t have the same ring to it.
None the less, it’s true.
If you don’t already know by now, I approach marketing in a different way to almost all others. I rarely spend money, an ‘impression’ is worthless in my eyes and my only metric is ROI. Return on investment.
My goal is to guarantee that for every dollar, pound, euro or drop of blood I spend, i’ll ensure I get my money back, with a handsome profit.
It’s how all businesses want to conduct their… um, business, but few ever really master it.
Business is seen as a dirty word, a devious or manipulative practice that schemes the money from it’s buyers. That is only true if you give no value.
I don’t mean discounts, or financial compensation. I mean value.
Giving the customer an experience, a feeling and a product that transcends their expectations is where businesses excel. Only then can you get away with what i’m about to tell you.
For those that remember this phrase “I Am A Hellion” you’ll be shocked to hear this. For those that don’t, you’ll feel the same way.
I see inspiration in everything.
Creativity is an organic process where your conscious dips into your sub-conscious for 1 moment to join the dots.
After walking into the living room one night, whilst my girlfriend was watching ‘The Following starring Kevin Bacon’ I started to think about the intense willingness for Joe Carroll’s supporters to do his bidding. They wanted to help him, they enjoyed it.
I began to think, what if I could apply that to a campaign. A way to gain a small following of loyal patrons to spread the word for us about a new product.
Apple’s customers are described as a cult all the time. I’m one of them. I’m writing this on my Macbook Pro right now. When it’s live i’ll happily share it on social media via my iPhone… They have me by the balls.
But I put myself in this position and I paid for the privilege of being here. Sound familiar? Who among you have done the same? With Apple? Android? Pepsi? Coke?
As humans we’re incredibly tribal and I think as the population grows, those lines are only ever going to become more distinct.
You can see it with the increasing marginalisation of certain activists and political groups. Majorities are splitting to form ever sharper defined minorities.
Black Lives Matter, feminists, the left, the right, libertarians, LGBTQIA+ (they add a new letter every time I check) etc. It seems like the older I get, the more people are putting themselves into groups.
These defining causes are gaining traction in this social media age. It’s now even easier to show your support to any ideals you choose. Good or bad… and that can be exploited.
This natural behaviour is utilised all the time by brand evangelists to keep you loyal to one particular brand.
I used it to create my own cult.
THE FIGURE HEAD
Every religion needs its deity. Every brand needs its spokesperson.
The UFC have Dana White, Apple had Steve Jobs and the brand I was promoting had Daniel Madison.
He’s more than a man. He’s a title.
A character with such strong core values, that he’s become an icon.
Brands often use celebrity endorsement to give their products a higher perceived value. A social status they didn’t earn, but more often than not, your brand will be using someone who’s been hand-reared by your niche.
I knew, with a strong character such as Daniel Madison, I’d be able to give the product plausible deniability. If it works, it will really work. If it doesn’t, he can be distanced from the brand in order to keep it’s integrity.
The funny thing is, using this man… it ALWAYS works.
He’s been my partner in crime for countless campaigns over the course of 3 years. Always best-sellers.
He has no ego, trusts in the process, does whatever I ask of him and shares the rewards.
Most assume that it’s a happy accident. They underestimate his cunning. He’s loved because he planned it. He gives his fans a piece of himself, without fear of vulnerability.
That’s the right man for the job.
JOINING THE CULT
Applicants were asked to leave their email address and consent to a series of challenges. An initiation of sorts.
By signing, they voluntarily gave their time to the ‘Hellions’, a fictional cult where they had an identity. Those who joined proudly used the hashtag #IAmAHellion on social media.
They had an identity.
Those email addresses were put into a special mailing list, kept for only very special occasions:
- When a challenge was issued.
- When winners were announced
- When the product were ready for pre-sale.
The beauty was, everyone was so invested in the game, that it was near impossible to ignore the news of an early surprise release of this product.
The first run of these playing cards sold out before their scheduled release date to the general public. In the days that followed, another 10,000 print run was put on sale and almost all of that sold too.
The Hellions playing cards were bought up by the rightful heirs, the Hellions people.
WHY IT ISN’T A BAD THING
But isn’t creating a cult of buyers a bad thing? The answer is no.
Sometimes, just because you’re secure in yourself, you take for granted that others aren’t.
Just because you belong, you assume everyone else feels like they do too.
This isn’t always the case. People needed to be reminded they’re a part of something if they want to be. That religion, movement or group can feel like home.
“But aren’t you using that feeling to sell a product?”
People know that we are, it’s transparent. It’s a company that’s invented that process. But much like Apple fans they are complicit in the transaction. Our product for their loyalty. Because it’s a good product.
It’s fun for them, for me, for us.
Life isn’t always an event, and transactions are tedious for the most part. A campaign for most companies is the idea of running a contest on Facebook for a chance to win their new product.
Not many people would think to put their customers through a series of challenges for the right to buy the decks early, and those customers appreciate the effort. It’s escapism.
I would rather buy from a company that missed the mark, then those who aren’t brave enough to take the shot.
If you don’t put 110% into your product, then you can’t expect your customers to truly get behind it. If you don’t love the process, they can’t love the outcome.
The secret to selling isn’t simplicity, it’s substance.
Making a buyer feel something, even hate, is better than making them feel ambivalent towards your product.
Perhaps I was too dramatic when I said it was a cult. Creating a cult is the arrogant way of saying I created a family.
One that i’m proud to be part of.