They're the ones that have your brand tattooed on their body.

Brand Loyalists are wimps. Build a Legion of Brand Fanatics.

Sure, Brand Loyalists boost your bottom line, talk about your brand, recommend it to their friends, use it on a daily basis, even teach their kids how to use it. And most companies would be happy to have them.

Not me. I think you can do better.

I think you can build your own legion of Brand Fanatics.

What’s a Brand Fanatic? They’re the ones that have your brand tattooed on their body.

Well, maybe they don’t have to be that crazy. But Brand Fanatics are the ones that not only have the Harley, they also wear the belt buckle every day and have the weekend wardrobe to match. They not only have an iPhone, they also have an iPad, iPod, iMac, Apple TV — and that doesn’t even include the gear that the rest of the family uses, or all the earlier versions collecting dust in the basement. So, at the very least, you are looking for the mostly-crazy, but not tattoo-crazy, people who want to live and breathe your brand.

But how do you find that type of Brand Fanatics? You don’t. You have to build them.

Here are three, not-for-the-faint-of-heart steps to start building your own Legion:

1. Get picky about who you target.

Abercrombie and Fitch has always targeted teens that are young, good-looking and popular. That’s why, whether you agree with the move or not, controversial comments by Mike Jeffries, A&F’s CEO, have been touted as a form of “perverse brilliance” when it came to targeting a select group. Here’s what he said: “Candidly, we go after the cool kids…A lot of people don’t belong [in our clothes], and they can’t belong. Are we exclusionary? Absolutely.” By saying he doesn’t want customers who don’t fit that “cool kids” image, Jeffries is making his current and future customers feel exceptional.

You may not have to be exclusionary as A&F, but you do want your Brand Fanatics to feel like they belong, so start getting picky about who you want to include in your Legion. Remember, you can’t be everything to everyone and be unique. You want to be everything to a few, instead.

2. Create an Insider’s Club, and make them work to be included.

The Marines only want those that want to be a Marine. They put recruits through one of the toughest boot camps possible, trying to wash out those that don’t belong. Those that pass the test are then put through the training required to become part of the group. They learn the language, know the right passwords, and when they belong they also get to wear the uniform and insignia that marks them as a Marine.

Okay, so running a Boot Camp may be a bit extreme. But if you tell people that what you offer is a little different and that they will have to work at it a little in order to benefit, then it becomes something truly unique. Once they make the effort, and feel like they belong, they become invested in your program and eager to spread the word about you.

3. Create an Insiders-Only Event.

Three Floyds Brewing Company is a craft brewery that not only created a true insiders event, it has apparently become The Event in the brewing world. I found out how well the event was known in global beer-brewing circles after three London barkeeps nearly swooned when I mentioned it.

First, Three Floyds created a beer that could only be purchased at the event, a beer so well-known that people willingly buy tickets just to stand in line for the right to pay more good cash for a limited number of bottles. Of course the beer’s reputation might also be because of good copywriting:

“Dark Lord is a gargantuan Russian Style Imperial Stout, with a reverse cascading head that starts out billowing the color of burnt oil like the Dark Lord rising from the black primordial beginnings. Its resonant vinous aroma has been described as cherries, sweet malt, molasses, burnt currants, plums with a port wine alcohol undertow. Mochachino notes buried within. Motor oil consistency, hellishly smooth yet divinely burnt and vinous. The first sip coats your palate with a palatial charred fruit and chocolate blanket. Alcohol burn wiggles its way down your throat with a thick body.”

Then they built the event: Dark Lord Day. Only those that know about it have the opportunity to buy tickets, which sell out quickly. There are rules on how to enter the grounds, specific hours when your specific group can line up, plus golden tickets that allow you to buy additional special bottles if you scratch-off and uncover the special symbol (and have even more cash.) Every year, the lore of the event grows.

Granted, you aren’t selling beer. But if you started an Insiders-Only Event, think about the connections you could make with your biggest fans. Earn new business by giving them the inside track on a new product. Help them connect with other fans, and let them help you build an more-amazing event next year.

Bonus: Encourage tattoos.

Why not? Tattoos are popular today (1 in 4 people between 18-50 have at least one somewhere). Besides, how cool would it be to see your logo on someone else’s body?



Kent Dicken

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