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September 10, 2019

The Cult Brand Promise and How to Make Yours

Tony Treadway

Owning a market with a cult-like following begins by defining your company’s position uniquely. If you are proactive in that definition, it can be powerful in telling buyers why you are unique and meaningful to them. You begin by determining your brand promise.

Your promise is something that consumers must believe in, share, respect and come back for time and time again. There are three components of a promise, your brand’s positioning, personality and affiliation.

Reis and Trout’s book, The Battle for Your Mind defined positioning as “an organized system for finding a window in the mind. It is based on the concept that communication can only take place at the right time and under the right circumstances.”

Our own brand workshops are helping companies define their position within their market niche. These one to two-day workshops that gather key leaders within a company to hone their message.

Winning brand positioning statements use a common approach in their birth. The process identifies a company’s current position and those of their competitors within a niche. The statement summarizes who your brand will target, then offers a promise that your brand will stand for and a reason to believe that it is true.

The structure of the statement will look something like this, “For [target customers], [company name] is the [market definition] that delivers [your brand promise] because only [company name] is [reason to believe].”

From the brand promise a corporate tagline (that mental hook expressed in less than nine words) is much easier to define and be meaningful to your target customers.

A great example is the brand positioning and tagline for Walt Disney World whose target is those young at heart. Here is Disney World’s brand promise: For the young and young-at-heartWalt Disney World is the theme park that best delivers on an immersive and magical experience because Walt Disney World, and only Walt Disney Worldconnects you to the characters and worlds you most desire.  Tagline: “Where Dreams Come True”.

Your brand personality is another key element. It establishes human characteristics to your brand that establishes expectations for your target customers. Are you playful? A joker? Trustworthy? Identifying the perfect archetype defines a personality trait for your brand that can resonate with a consumer for a lifetime. We typically recommend no more than three or four characteristics that your brand can live by in your behaviors and messaging.

Your brand’s affiliation helps your targets understand who your brand is and what it stands for. What are the characteristics and rituals that are shared only by those who are true to your brand. For one of our cult brands that is in the fast food business, the ritual is to create joy by paying it forward. A common ritual by brand lovers is to pay for the order of the person behind them in a drive through line. For a hot sauce cult brand, it is to share their path to flavor as a flavor maestro.

Your brand’s vision must be your company’s highest calling. This timeless statement will inspire leaders over time and allow them to instruct their teams through generations. The vision must be specific enough to impact behaviors within the organization and influence your internal culture.

For Creative Energy, our vision is to have, “the courage to inspire brands with a purpose.” It perfectly inspires everyone in our organization to help us build cult brands. What is your vision that will drive your company toward growth? What is your brand promise that will inspire millions of life-long loyalists? If your goal is marketing success through cult brand status and need some help, send me an email

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