One of the first steps to creating a cult-like following around your brand or business is to initiate your customers.
Creating and celebrating initiation ceremonies is a natural part of human culture and has been practised since we lived in caves. Classic examples are birthdays, weddings, christenings, graduation ceremonies and the Jewish bar mitzvah.
Two key principles to initiation ceremonies
1 They draw a line in the sand.
They say ‘this has ended’ and ‘this is your new beginning’. That’s why they’re memorable. They’re designed to be turning points and significant markers of transition from one part of life to another. When the priest or celebrant declares ‘You are now husband and wife’ it signals the end of single life and the birth of a new union. It’s about crossing a threshold. And it’s about turning a vague and transparent event into a real and concrete memory.
2 They are performed in public.
When we do it with other people we let them share the experience and it is the shared experience that bonds us to the initiation. It’s like saying ‘We did this together’ for a team result at work or sport, like saying ‘I was there’ after witnessing a rock concert or ‘I know that experience’ when proud parents get together. This creates belonging and it creates community.
Here’s three examples that you can draw upon to create an initiation ceremony around your brand.
1 Unveil Me!
Most companies merely put their product in a box and ship it off. Missed opportunity! In contrast, Apple design their packaging as if they’re creating a birthday surprise. The act of opening your new computer, new phone or magic mouse is an act of ritual and reverence. The packaging is as beautiful as the thing inside it. And, this is so special for some they’ve even taken video of themselves opening their latest purchase and posted it on YouTube.
Consider how you can make the delivery of your product more special. Even if it’s as simple as a personal handwritten note in each numbered box. Perhaps a special gift of champagne or chocolates to go with your new car. Or maybe, a digital photo of you looking stunning in your new haircut.
2 Create an Experience We Can Share
When you join the army the first thing that happens is you go on Boot Camp. You’re thrown into the deep end with a bunch of people you’ve never met before. And usually you’re pushed to your physical, mental and emotional limits. At times you might be thinking, ‘I’m not going to make it’. And you do! And this major emotional experience binds you together and becomes a demarcation line: “We’re not recruits anymore, we’re now part of the army.”
Consider how you can unite your customers into a joint experience. Ask yourself what is the threshold your customer have to cross? And, how can we help them do this together?
3 Let Me Meet Like Minds
When we first buy a product, there is a natural period of learning. ‘What does this button do?’ ‘How do I do this…’ What happens when I…’ You can assist this in a public way by running a seminar for new customers. Where Boot Camp unites people by a common experience, this meeting is to unite people who have already expressed a similar interest – they’re already bought your product. And, if you can get the right group of people in the room, and people start to get a sense of, “Hey, I like hanging out with this group of people,” then you could be on your way to building a following around what you’re doing.