Building a Cult Following

In the spring issue of the Great British Entrepreneurs Magazine, three NatWest Great British Entrepreneur Awards winners; Spectrum Collections, Cambridge Satchel Co. and Tangle Teezer tell us how they built their cult following.

For some, social media is an essential marketing tool. For others, it’s the main focus of their business; working with brands to harness their large following.

Entrepreneurs are building a cult following on social media – a group of dedicated, highly-engaged customers who could just as easily call themselves “fans”. With so many individuals and companies on social media, how do you rise above the noise to be heard and seen?

Hannah & Sophie Pycroft, Spectrum Collections 

We’ve always described Spectrum as an ‘Instabrand’ and Instagram was our go-to social media when we first started out. Being so heavily image focused, it was the perfect place for Spectrum to gain momentum with our vibrant product range offering ultimate #gridgoals.

We started by posting the most ‘instagrammable’ pictures possible, mixing our brushes with interesting textures and colours and hashtagging all the relevant keywords to reach as many users and potential customers as we could. It didn’t take long for people to start noticing the brand. We didn’t sell anything for the first six months…BUT when we finally started selling, we included a hand-written note in each parcel, thanking the customer for trying the brand and asking them to share the brush love on their own social media.

Result! Our customers felt really appreciated and posted beautiful photos of their brushes, which we would repost, meaning we had a stream of pre-created content to share whilst reaching new audiences. We started from zero and we’re at 256K followers with not one bot or fake follower – “fake it till you make it” definitely doesn’t apply to social media, users are savvy and can spot spam in an instant.

It’s taken four years to get to this point so now the challenge is to maintain and continue to build the following. How? By engaging with our followers, commenting on tagged posts and replying to their comments on our posts. Instagram is a social media after all, so have conversations with customers and build relationships, which leads nicely onto our next top tip; adding personality to your content and brand.

We’d already built the illusion that Spectrum was an international brand even when we were packing orders in the garage, so we wanted to maximise that, whilst adding some personality to the brand to make it even more relatable. The handwritten notes were a great way of adding personality and improved the overall experience. We always caption posts as though we’re speaking directly to customers, adding a bit of sass and humour whenever possible. We hate feeling like we’re being ‘sold’ to, so we never pass that onto customers. But ironically, when we did reveal our backstory, that’s what people loved most about the brand. So now we add even more of ourselves, writing personal blogs on our journey so far.

Finally, the most important element to building a cult following is perseverance. It doesn’t happen overnight. You’ll need to work tirelessly, spend too much time glued to your phone or computer and you’ll develop an unhealthy obsession with analytics, figures and followers. But, if you love what you do, it’s SO worth it and with each new follower you’ll do a little happy dance and grow your business. Quick boosts, giveaways and competitions are a great, but to build a truly loyal following you do need to stick with it, comment, like, engage and grow your community to reach that cult status.

Julie Deane OBE, Cambridge Satchel Company

From the very outset, we always liked to do things a little differently. Back in those early days, when it was just my mother and I packing and shipping all our orders, we’d do little things like include a dog biscuit for customers we knew were fellow dog owners, or a chocolate bar and a handwritten note where we knew the package would arrive late. I think it was those personal touches and that attention to detail which set us apart.

When it came to marketing, our approach was similarly different. We were one of the very first brands to embrace bloggers, and they us. Before long, our bags were being spotted on front rows at international fashion weeks, as well as on runways and A-list stars such as Taylor Swift, Alexa Chung and Lady Gaga. Collaborations with esteemed international designers including Comme des Garc?ons and Vivienne Westwood, along with interest from serious retailers such Urban Outfitters, helped the business to grow at a phenomenal speed from the early days.

People often ask what the key to our success is. In my mind, a creative business is a successful business. When the world is your competition you can’t afford to be ordinary. It’s creativity that matters, creativity that makes you stand out, creativity that makes you extraordinary. But designing products is only part of that picture; creativity also means generating new ideas all the time; doing more for less, doing more with less, doing old things better, doing new things first. This is what inspires your customers, develops loyalty, and sustains values.

Shaun Pulfrey, Tangle Teezer

I didn’t set out to create a brand that would have a cult following when I launched Tangle Teezer in 2007.

There’s never been a specific strategy focused on building a cult brand. It’s all come from inventing products that are amazing and deliver results. You can’t build a brand, let alone one with a dedicated customer base, without a quality product.

We’ve benefitted from celebrities using Tangle Teezer, but again, that’s testament to how good the product is. For brand awareness it’s been amazing, helping us to cement our reputation as a global brand. We’ve had Nicole Scherzinger, Victoria Beckham, Cara Delevigne and loads more using it. Salma Hayek has said the brush ‘changed her life’.

Don’t imitate other brands, replicating their formula won’t necessarily bring the same success for you.

Tangle Teezer looks different from any other hairbrush on the market, but you can still tell it’s a hairbrush. It’s instantly recognisable in a line-up of hairbrushes. Create something that is unique in the market.

Don’t exaggerate, it will only come back to bite you. People relate to honesty.

You can take a look at a full, digital version of the spring issue of the Great British Entrepreneurs Magazine here.