Develop Your Own Cult Following

From underground phenomenon to national icon, your business can be a leader in its own right.

Long, flowing robes. Brainwashing. Mass suicides. Strange, but cults have gotten a bad rap over the years. Actually, it might be just the lifestyle choice you need to make. Think about it: Aren't you tired of being an anonymous sap? Start a cult, and you can be its leader! You can sway the opinions of thousands, maybe millions of people-and become filthy rich in the process. You can take over the world! (Insert your maniacal laugh here.)

At this point, you're probably thinking, "Hey, man, it's cool-we all got our point of view . . . um, I'm just going to step away from my computer and run now."

Don't lace up those Nikes just yet. We're not about to suggest you shave your head, stockpile weapons, set your compound on fire and start serving mass quantities of Kool-Aid.

Instead of Jim Jones, think Dow Jones. Starbucks. Ben & Jerry's. Krispy Kreme. They may not seem like cults on the surface, but each company has a core following that has brought in mucho moolah. But the money isn't what gives it cult status. McDonald's, if it wanted to, could purchase the planet. So could Time-Warner. But nobody thinks of those two companies as having cult status.

Attaining a cult status is something like going to a party full of people who are hipper and better-looking than you. If you try too hard to fit in, they'll see right through you, and you'll spend your night making conversation with the valet parking staff. Like a cube of Jello, the secret to becoming cult-worthy is hard to grasp.

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Geoff Williams has written for numerous publications, including Entrepreneur, Consumer Reports, LIFE and Entertainment Weekly. He also is the author of Living Well with Bad Credit.

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This article was originally published in the March 2001 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Develop Your Own Cult Following.

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