As Matt Ragas, author of "The Power of Cult Branding," told us at the 2003 Jacobs Media Summit, cult brands are being formed every day. In that speech, he pointed to Google as a great example. In a recent New York Times feature article, Trader Joe's has now entered cult brand status.
Maybe it's not as hard as we think. After all, in the grocery store world, no one's hitting it out of the park. So Trader Joe's comes along, offering unique products that no one else carries. And while their corporate culture may be quirky, they have figured out how to uniquely serve customers. They have a "tasting panel" the company uses to taste test new products to make sure they make the Trader Joe's cut.
And to stand apart from the other specialty stores on the market, employees wear Hawaiian shirts - a gimmick that brings a sense of fun to the business, and rubs off on customers. (Remember the "FISH" video that emphasized that element at the Pike Street Market in Seattle?)
But maybe the secret sauce for Trader Joe's is the one that we all talk about - but rarely find a way to consistently deliver - passion. It has become cliché to emphasize the importance of DJs and staffers who get it. But consider this quote from Trader Joe's customer, Marcy Benfiglio, in explaining why she's loyal to the store: "This sounds crazy, but you feel like the company likes food even more than they like money. You don't feel that at the supermarket."
And given that lack of passion inside other new media competitors, it's a reminder that creating cult brands is within our grasp - if we dedicate ourselves to making it a goal.