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22 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Core Values Which Affirm "The Primacy of the Person"
Atkin is quite correct when suggesting that a cult brand is one "for which a group of customers exhibit a great devotion or dedication. Its ideology is distinctive and it has a well-defined and committed community. It enjoys exclusive devotion (that is, not shared with another brand in the same category), and its members often become voluntary advocates." A cult brand...
Published on September 10, 2004 by Robert Morris

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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Meh...
This book is out of print. I don't even recall where I heard about it. As a whole it's an interesting look at brand loyalty. Saturn, Nike, Harley -- they have cult followings that rival few others. It was interesting to read the interviews with Marines and religious cult members to see how similar the sentiments are from faith to brand loyalty. But, I didn't get much of...
Published on May 5, 2008 by P. McCormack


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22 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Core Values Which Affirm "The Primacy of the Person", September 10, 2004
This review is from: The Culting of Brands: When Customers Become True Believers (Hardcover)
Atkin is quite correct when suggesting that a cult brand is one "for which a group of customers exhibit a great devotion or dedication. Its ideology is distinctive and it has a well-defined and committed community. It enjoys exclusive devotion (that is, not shared with another brand in the same category), and its members often become voluntary advocates." A cult brand attracts certain customers for a variety of reasons and rewards them in a variety of ways but it is important to keep in mind that few brands possess the power to do so. Also, that a cult brand is not necessarily a consumer product nor even a physical object. It can also be a uniquely enjoyable experience (e.g. Starbucks) or even a way of life (Harley-Davidson). Atkin is convinced (and I agree) that the same dynamics are at play behind the attraction to brands and cults: Both offer membership in a community of shared values and interests, both give unique and satisfying personal identify, and both inspire uncommon loyalty.

According to Atkin, what he characterizes as the "cult paradox dynamic" is best understood in terms of a four-step process:

"1. An individual might have a feeling of [in italics] difference, even [in italics] alienation from the world around them.

2. This leads to [in italics] openness or to [in italics] searching for a more compatible environment.

3. They are likely to feel a sense of [in italics] or [in italics] safety in a place where one's difference from the outside world is seen as a virtue, not a handicap.

4. This presents the circumstances for [in italics] self-actualization within a group of like-minded others who celebrate the individual for being himself."

Atkin asserts that the same paradox can be found at the heart of cult brands. Rather than joining others inorder to conform, people do so to express, indeed to affirm their individuality. Apple is only one of several companies which have cleverly leveraged the feelings associated with the cult paradox to elevate its brand to cult status: alienation and rejection, followed by validation that in turn sets the stage for self-actualization.

If your organization does not now have a cult brand or one which has the potential to become one, why read this book? Good question. Here are three reasons which I presume to offer. First, Atkin can help you to increase your understanding of human motivation. Who among those (non-customers) who purchase what you sell now feel alienated? Why? To which of their unmet needs can you respond? Second, Atkin can help you to develop a marketing plan which creates or increases market demand for what you offer. How can you position your brand so as to differentiate it from its competition? Of equal importance, how can you differentiate a customer's relationship with you from relationships with your competitors? Third and finally, Atkin can help you to formulate and then implement a cohesive, comprehensive, and cost-effective plan by which to develop a sense of evangelism throughout as well as beyond your organization.

To this third point, Atkin identifies and then rigorously examines what he calls "Principles of the Primacy of the Person" in Chapter Three. In this context, I am reminded of what Herb Kelleher once said during a conversation with David Neeleman, then working for Southwest Airlines and currently CEO of JetBlue. "I don't care about my shareholders." Neeleman was shocked. What did he mean? Was Kelleher really serious? "Because I just take care of my employees. I know if I take care of my employees, they'll take care of my customers, and my customers will take care of my shareholders." Long before Neeleman went to work for Southwest Airlines, Kelleher once observed "You can get the same airplane. You can get the same ticket counters.  You can get the same computers. But the hardest thing for a competitor to match is your culture and the spirit of your people and their focus on customer service because that isn't something you can do overnight and it isn't something you can do without a great deal of attention every day in a thousand different ways. That is why I say that our employees are our competitive protection." This is precisely what Atkin has in mind when explaining each of the "Principles of the Primacy of the Person."

In the final chapter of this book, he reviews the most important principles of cult formation which, in my opinion, are relevant to literally any human community, whatever its size and nature may be. I conclude these brief remarks with a few observations of my own. Warren Buffet once said that price is what you charge for what you sell but value is what the customer thinks it's worth. Only the marketplace can determine which are cult brands and which are not. Beware of the "Field of Dreams Syndrome." Be prepared to accept and (yes) celebrate the fact that your organization -- rather than any product or service it offers -- may well prove to be your most powerful brand. Finally, if you are not a "true believer" in the integrity of your own enterprise, find another.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A fascinating expression of brands, September 9, 2006
I must admit, I was at first immensely intimidated by the concept of this book and would not typically have picked it up were it not for my sacrificial duties towards work. I was fortunate enough to have heard Douglas Atkins speak, and was immediately intrigued by the power of his language in referencing consumers devotion towards certain brands. This book sheds an incredible amount of light on modern day cults and the brands you would never imagine would reside beneath that category.

Kudos to Atkins for a well researched book. He draws very compelling parallels between typical cults and brands. The book is very easy to follow and is extremely engaging especially because a lot of the examples he uses are common to our everyday lives, and draw from classic human needs and behaviors. This is definitely an interesting book for anyone inhabiting the marketing/branding bubble although I must say; I did not find his philosophies and recommendations to be a far throw from rudimentary loyalty/CRM principles. It is the perspective and not the solution that wins the four stars.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The "new" marketing takes on an intriguing face., November 3, 2006
By 
Craig Jennings "Business Coach" (Port Washington, NY United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
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Doug Atkin reveals what "cultism" really is (not funny Kool-aid for the mind-numbed) and why we should aspire to having our customers "cult our brand."

He points out the massive changes which have taken place since the Attraction Principle replaced a lot of Spot TV, and helps us evaluate lower-cost options which get big results.

The point of view is valuable and well-presented, the supporting evidence and other argumants are equally well-handled.

If you have customers, and are anything from a sole propriator on up, this book is challenging and valuable.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars not just another brand book, August 13, 2004
This review is from: The Culting of Brands: When Customers Become True Believers (Hardcover)
first an admission: i not only know the author, but bear a striking similarity to a certain "shaved-head (bald) mid (late) thirties (motorcycle) rider in the media business" mentioned on p. 91.

what i love about the book, having read tons of them over the years, is 1) it talks to you, not at you and 2) it's not just an idea, it's evidence based. on the first point, so many latter day brand experts are brilliant but also have brilliant egos. they write dogmatically as if they love their own ideas more than their readers. this book is written in almost a conversational style that makes you part of the dialogue not a prisoner to it.

to the second point, this book is based in research, not just a new paradigm or metaphor for much of the same old thinking. the author spent several years studying and interviewing his subjects. hearing (reading) cult members talk in their own words, makes them less scary and more relevant than i could have thought.
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15 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars imitation is the most sincere form of flattery..., October 8, 2004
This review is from: The Culting of Brands: When Customers Become True Believers (Hardcover)
the truth be told, author Atkin began his research on cults and brands more than seven years ago. then his premise was discovered by Forbes about four years ago and eventually became the COVER STORY (in which he is cited) of Forbes on April 16, 2001.

Then later, a grad student did a thesis on the same topic and published it as a book.

Stick to the real deal: The Culting of Brands: When Customers Become True Believers by Douglas Atkin

Not a diluted, "borrowed" grad student thesis.

"My Professors would failed me for plagiarism." ?? Your professors should have failed you for more than just that...diction, grammar, etc.

Perhaps this is one reason Atkin's book was reviewed by the Wall Street Journal and the grad student thesis was not.
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5.0 out of 5 stars The Culting of Brands Will Change Your Business, March 4, 2013
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This might be the most helpful book I have ever read for my business. I especially liked the ideas that the Mormons use to make new converts feel included. The other thing I will use in my business is the Mary Kay model. That organization has used different methods to make the women in the organization feel supported, celebrating their success.

I liked this book so much that I sent a copy to a friend. I hope Douglas Atkins will update this book at some point.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Great reading for marketers and consumers alike, August 10, 2009
You know all about cults: They are these manic groups of easily-led people who fall under the spell of a charismatic but demented leader. Right? Not so, according to Douglas Atkin in this book. In it, he argues that organisations need to embrace the principles of cults in their marketing, moving their brands away from just advertising to zealous cult-like affinity.

This is a controversial approach - and Atkin himself admits he doesn't always meet with enthusiastic approval when he brings up the subject. But his point is not to praise the behaviour of cults, but to encourage businesses to select the strong points of cults and apply them (presumably more benignly) to their brands.

Some of this might sound doubtful, unethical and even downright frightening (for example, "Demonise and persecute those on the outside!"). For cults that take over a person's life, this can certainly be the case. However, Atkin argues that when these principles are applied in an organisational context, they create a safe, secure sense of community that enhances your customer's life.

Whether you agree or not, it's a compelling read.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Better as a set of case studies than a "how-to," but good overall., January 21, 2008
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The title of this book makes it sound creepier and more duplicitous than it is. First of all, forget all the negative connotations you have when you hear the word "cult." Atkins broadly defines a cult as a "group exhibiting a great devotion or dedication to some person, idea, or thing." A cult brand, then is when the group or community is built around a brand.

This, of course, is not a new idea. Marketers have always tried to get people to love their products with religious devotion. But Atkins articulates the similarity between brand cults and traditional cults and does extensive research into both, with the end goal being that marketers can apply the techniques of traditional cults to build brand cults. The traditional cults he uses (again, remember he has a broad definition) include the Catholic Church, Mormon Church, Unification Church, Hell's Angels, and a few more. On the brand side of things are the usual suspects: Apple, Ebay, JetBlue, Mary Kay, Saturn, Harley-Davidson--brands that have communities built around them.

The comparisons are interesting, but there is nothing shocking in his findings. People gain some of their identity from the groups, social or otherwise, to which they belong. Groups are formed around shared causes, interests, or philosophies. Therefore, it is only natural that as brands have come to create their own stories, characters, and philosophy (oftentimes independent of the functional benefit of their products), groups start to form around them.

I always find the case studies to be the most interesting part of these kinds of books. There's a lot to learn from brands that have done it right. Where the book falls a little short for me is when Atkins tries to define the rules for creating a cult brand. Sure, there are some guidelines to follow (e.g. don't alienate your consumer, don't lie to people, etc.), but most of them are just guidelines for creating good brands in general. I would argue that not every brand in every category can become a cult brand. And even a brand that has existing cultural cache and follows all the "how to cult your brand" rules is not guaranteed to become a cult brand. There are too many factors, too many stars that must line up. Sure you can try to encourage a cult brand (who wouldn't want to), but the implication that you can control the factors that lead to a brand becoming "culted" seems a bit of a stretch.

That all aside, this is a good read, and a deeper examination of a concept that first piqued my interest when I read Alex Wipperfurth's book, BRAND HIJACK.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Getting underneath brands, October 13, 2007
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Douglas Atkin is revered as a brilliant account planner for a reason - he is one of the sharpest minds in marketing. I teach this book in my branding class at NYU because I believe Douglas is onto something - in an age where most Americans have been uprooted and lack communal identity, consumers are latching onto brands as a means of self-identification. Sometimes this leads them into classic cult behavior. The nice thing about this book is that Douglas has really done his homework - he's gone inside classic cults like the Moonies as well as religions (the Mormons), the armed forces (the Marines) all the way into brand cults like Apple, Harley Davidson and JetBlue.
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Meh..., May 5, 2008
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This book is out of print. I don't even recall where I heard about it. As a whole it's an interesting look at brand loyalty. Saturn, Nike, Harley -- they have cult followings that rival few others. It was interesting to read the interviews with Marines and religious cult members to see how similar the sentiments are from faith to brand loyalty. But, I didn't get much of an education from it on building cult status for a brand. If you can find it, maybe it's worth the read. But don't go out of your way for it.
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The Culting of Brands: When Customers Become True Believers
The Culting of Brands: When Customers Become True Believers by Douglas Atkin (Hardcover - June 3, 2004)
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