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Would you ever consider joining a cult?

I know, a crazy question, right?


Of course, you are probably saying to yourself – “No way, that’s kind of crazy. Who in the right mind would join a cult?”

Yeah, I know, I hear you, and I agree with you.

Yet, let me share some interesting myths about cults with you:

  1. Most people think that those who join cults are not very intelligent or have psychological problems. Ummm, nope, that’s not correct. Believe it or not, most people who join cults are very intelligent and are psychologically sound.
  2. People knowingly join cults – Most people don’t or wouldn’t ever join a cult. What usually happens to them is like a frog in a slow pot of boiling water. It seems wonderful at first, and then it’s starting to demonstrate a dark side. Then you’re hooked.
  3. You will know a cult when you see it – Not so, see above. And, I recently watched a documentary on HBO – The Vow. It was fascinating because it was about a personal and professional development company (NXIVM) that the NY Times exposed for what it was—”a barbaric organization that abused its members emotionally and physically”. It was riveting, and I’d highly recommend it.

One thing that cults have in common with basic human nature is that we all want to feel like we belong somewhere.

We have this sense of wanting to be and hang out with like-minded people.

Here are some other reasons people join: to give their lives more meaning, to feel secure, create order within chaos, and feel more like themselves.

You might be surprised to know that this is also why people join communities, groups, memberships and become obsessed with specific brands.

I’ve read several books about cults, tribes, memberships, and more. What I find fascinating is there are certain aspects of known brands that are cult-like.

I’m reading them because there is a shift happening in marketing that’s focused on community and tribe building, using some specific traits of cults to grow businesses.

You need to know I’m definitely not an advocate for cults.

What I am an advocate for is learning about them and seeing how some of their good traits can be used in my business and yours.

The big shift is around building a community, or a community brand, much like Apple did when it first came out.

It positioned itself for the creatives, the free spirits. It was a “non-business” computer. Remember those old ads of “I’m a PC, and I’m a Mac?

I was so a Mac trapped in a PC corporate body back then.

Interestingly, they created a safe, fun, cool community where creatives, artists, and more felt like they belonged and were welcomed with open arms.

If you’re thinking about creating a membership, community, or even a program, mastermind, etc., this type of thinking will help you greatly.

The core of what you create – needs to be unique, different, and be driven by your own core mission, vision, and values.

You must repel those who won’t belong and attract those who will be the best fit. (This is a whole other conversation around defining your dream clients/customers.) Don’t waste your money by trying to market to everyone. You will go broke.

Remember, the core reason people join any type of group is that they want to feel like – “Finally, I will be around my people. I will belong, feel comfortable, and will be able to grow and feel more like me. I will be accepted and feel good about myself and maybe even help others.”

Looking at all the memberships, communities, groups, and programs I’ve joined over the years – it’s for that very reason – being around like-minded people where I feel accepted, can grow, and feel like I belong.

Parting words – something that Dan Kennedy taught me about community and membership – People psychologically join for 3 reasons:

  1. To get what you promised them (your offer, promise, etc.).
  2. To be able to have a place to help, share, and get their ego stroked.
  3. To belong to a community, and something greater than themselves where they can be accepted, be around like-minded people, and belong.

I’ve got so much more to say about this, and this is already way long. Check out the P.S. for some resources if you’re interested in discovering more.

Happy mid-January – brrrrr

Note 1: Here are resources to discover more about building communities and the core reasons people join cults, and more: (Note the copyright dates, it’s time for a new book to come out on this!)

  • The Culting of Brands: Turn Your Customers Into True Believers by Douglas Atkin (Copyright 2004)
  • True Believer by Eric Hoffer (copyright 1951)
  • Tribe: We Need You To Lead Us by Seth Godin (copyright 2008)

Note 2: For something a bit out of the ordinary – Mannequins Mountain

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