The power of ‘cult status’ in the food and drink category

Many brands in the ‘Direct to Consumer’ (DTC) space have perfected the art of successful community building. The explosion of new DTC brands over the past few years has disrupted the way people shop across many established industries and has caused a significant shift in brand relationships with consumers.

For brands, owning the end-to-end relationship with consumers has many benefits, particularly the ability to build up a loyal following and ‘cult-like’ status. Peloton followers, for example, think of their equipment and virtual spin classes as a way of life and are committed enough to pay large sums of money for the bike itself, and subsequent monthly payments for live and on-demand virtual classes. Generating loyalty of this level takes work, but the pay-off is clear; consumers committed to your brand will make repeat and consistent purchases regardless of price.

Although it can be tempting to think that only niche products and services can generate this kind of status, that simply isn’t the case. All categories can achieve this – even those you’d least expect.

Although food and drink are basic human necessities, independent brands in this category have the same opportunity to develop dedicated brand loyalty as any other. This can be achieved by understanding evolving trends and the changing relationships between people and their diets. Cult status happens when brands resonate with a passionate community of fans and create deeper emotional connections with a truly relevant offering.

Today’s consumers are more concerned about the environment and animal welfare than ever before. Many are actively making changes to positively contribute – like cutting back on meat consumption, buying products that are packaged sustainably and switching to plant-based milk alternatives. Demand for a healthier lifestyle is also on the rise, with consumers even beginning to shun alcohol in favour of juice bars and coffee shops.

In line with these shifts, independent food and drink brands have an opportunity to adapt and engage customers with offerings that are more relevant to the trends of the time. The low-to-zero alcohol market, for example, is growing considerably – largely because brands in this sector are beginning to wake up to the demand for alternatives that enable more positive and healthier lifestyles without compromising on taste.

On top of this, consumers want personalised and bespoke experiences with brands – particularly given that Amazon has encouraged such a step-change in people’s expectations in recent years. When it comes to food and drink, this becomes even more prominent – customers investing in a more sustainable, healthier and more positive lifestyles want to know that the products they put into their bodies are legitimately everything they promise to be and want to hear from experts in the field. As such, they expect high standards across all touchpoints.

Food and drink brand Innocent tapped into this well as the brand has grown – benefitting greatly from opening direct lines of communication with consumers through social media. The brand has been cost-effectively using these platforms to provide customers with useful, engaging and authentic content related to the topics they care about most. Through this, the brand has successfully built up a loyal and committed following.

Similarly, Innocent has had success with intelligently leveraging customer data insights to offer both relevant and valuable messages to customers. By gaining comprehensive insight into what content customers were actively engaging with, Innocent was able to tailor future campaigns to give people more of what they needed. Relevance and personalisation in this sense didn’t mean just sending offer emails at the point of purchase or including the customer’s name in a subject heading – it meant creating thoughtful, tailored experiences based on past behaviour and preferences.

Communicating effectively with customers doesn’t need a massive cheque book. Nor should brands feel pressure to jump on the hype around a new piece of technology just because others have. With a finger on the pulse of evolving trends and the right tools – most independent food and drink brands can deliver the type of customer experience that encourages a dedicated following and ‘cult-like’ status.