Editor's Cut: I’m going to let you in on a secret.
Almost every Monday, at noon exactly, I am perched like a crazy person in front of my computer…website open, logged in and account full. I have my mouse hovering over the modern-day digital ouroboros (i.e., the refresh button). At 11:59 a.m., I start counting down the seconds. The moment that 12:00 strikes, I madly hit refresh and pounce. If I am a minute late, I will miss it. This elevates the anxiety to a level that makes me hate the refresh button and curse anyone who gets to my end game before I do. Heaven forbid I have a call, meeting or any other life event that interrupts my Monday noon ritual.
I am addicted to a cult brand. I own branded merchandise. I follow on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. And heaven help whatever gets between my SoulCycle addiction and me.
As a consumer, my feverish need to tap it back in Palo on Saturday and Sunday survivor rides on the bikes near a fan goes beyond ritual. (Those who are members of this tribe/cult understand everything I just said.) As a marketer, I can’t help but be amazed. It is not easy to build a brand, let alone a cult brand.
The fascinating thing about a cult brand is that true cult status is never achieved thanks to advertising or clever campaigns to encourage rabid loyalty and advocacy. Think Apple, Harley-Davidson and Krispy Kreme. In that vein, SoulCycle is a perfect example. When I think about my experience with the brand of Soul, it is less about the brand and more about the experience—and more importantly, a consistent and authentic experience, no matter where I connect with the brand. From the content on the website to the experience of riding on the bike, a true SoulCycle experience demands that every rider choose his or her own path and be the creator of their own experiences.
So what can we learn from a cult-level brand like SoulCycle—or from my own raging addiction? First and foremost, earnest, lasting and authentic loyalty can’t be bought. It must be earned through consistent and honest experiences. Second, these experiences must transcend channel. SoulCycle isn’t just Soul in the studio, in a specific city or even just on the bike. It is carried through each and every experience, online or offline, on-bike or off. While small moments with the customer experience might change from instructor to instructor and even from city to city, the core of the brand—the fundamental customer focus that makes a SoulCycle experience different from a competitor’s—is still there.
Finally, cult brands co-create and collaborate with customers; they don’t sit on a pedestal and push messages out, hoping that more impressions lead to more acquisitions. With brands like SoulCycle, Apple and even Starbucks, there is a sense that as a customer—a member of the community—you are part of the team’s success. You are part of the tribe.
If SoulCycle was just a product, it would be an expensive exercise on a stationary bike. But SoulCycle—the cult brand—is a tribe, a pack and a community that gives as much as a customer cares to give. It puts the power of loyalty squarely on the shoulders of the very customers it seeks to empower.
As for me, if it is Monday at noon, seriously don’t try me—I have classes to grab. And on Saturdays and Sundays at 9:30 a.m., if you really need to find me, you can find me on bike 28.
Until next month!