Customer loyalty is at the root of success for any lasting business. And when that loyalty turns into passionate advocacy, a "superfan" is born. For brands, these dedicated followers can help transform a satisfactory business into a sensational one. The obvious question for brands is: How do you create superfans?

To answer this question, we focused on 10 brands that have passionate superfans, and then looked for the primary element driving that passion. Your business may have one of these elements, or better yet, it may have several. But in learning how and why other brands have succeeded, you can take the first step toward cultivating your own group of superfans.  

The brand: Apple
The passion: Product

There's no question why Apple is at the top of this list. It's a brand that instills massive loyalty for many reasons. Once an underdog whose success rose and fell over the years, Apple maintained its commitment to thinking differently and developing innovative products--the iPod, iPhone, and iPad. Beyond the products themselves, this brand stands out because it offers impeccable user experiences with each product it develops. Apple excels at controlling the end-to-end experience. What's more, the company invests in a team that offers stellar customer service--the "Geniuses."

The takeaway: Strive to offer exceptional customer experiences that far outpace the competition. By winning consumers over with your great products, service, and history, you can drive loyalty and win customers for the long term to advocate for your brand.

The brand: Harley-Davidson
The passion: Reputation

While it's true that Harley-Davidson makes great motorcycles, the real allure of the brand is its outlaw reputation. From Easy Rider to Sons of Anarchy, Hollywood knows where to turn when rebellion needs a set of wheels. Harley-Davidson has been in business for over 100 years, and the brand's connection with its superfans only gets stronger with time. To foster this connection, Harley-Davidson hosts events around the country as part of the Harley Owners Group, or HOG, a paid membership program. By connecting fans with a common passion, Harley-Davidson builds emotional links with consumers and perpetuates long-term loyalty with its brand.

The takeaway: Nurture your relationship with superfans by bringing them together in a setting that fits and supports the reputation of your brand.

The brand: Trader Joe's
The passion: Value

It's not uncommon to see a line for a new movie on opening weekend. But a line for the grocery store, on a regular weekend? That might seem crazy to most, but not to Trader Joe's devotees. Fans rave about the Trader Joe's-branded products, usually sold for less than their name brand competition. This value has inspired years of devotion among superfans.

The takeaway: Remind consumers of the value you offer, whether through low prices or outstanding products, to entice people to keep returning to your brand and singing your praises.

The brand: WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment)
The passion: Storytelling

"You know it's fake, right?" That's the question most outsiders ask wrestling fans. And while most fans will acknowledge that the storylines are scripted, that's never been the point. For decades, World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) has mastered the art of storytelling. Larger than life giants jumping off ladders, backstabbing rivalries, heroes turning heel--every week features a new plot twist, and the WWE's legions of superfans won't miss a second of it.

The takeaway: Create compelling stories tied to your brand to keep superfans hooked and craving more.

The brand: Nike
The passion: Celebrity

"Money, it's gotta be the shoes!" These six words (from Mars Blackmon to Michael Jordan) were the catalyst for decades of success and legions of devoted superfans. Whether it's Andre Agassi, Bo Jackson, Tiger Woods, or LeBron James, Nike has always managed to sign the biggest names in sports. It's no accident. Nike knows that with each endorsement comes a roster of superfans aspiring to emulate that particular athlete.

The takeaway: Find ambassadors who embody your brand and who inspire and resonate with your customers. Don't be afraid to switch them up to keep your brand fresh and trendy.

The brand: SoulCycle
The passion: Lifestyle

Top 20 music, upbeat, inspirational instructors, enthusiasm galore, branded gear--it's all part of a rich collage that makes SoulCycle loyalists feel like they are part of something...bigger. That fun atmosphere and the feeling that customers are part of an inner circle are what make superfans so dedicated to the New York-based fitness company. Some brand loyalists have gone so far as to move to be closer to SoulCycle. Now that's loyalty.

The takeaway: Inspire consumers to live a better life. This motivation will help dedicated followers develop a greater appreciation for your brand.

The brand: The Green Bay Packers
The passion: Tradition

As the only major U.S. professional sports team that is actually owned by the fans, the Green Bay Packers have superfans like no other. Despite playing in the small town of Green Bay, Wisconsin (population: 104,000), every Packers game for the past 54 years has been sold out. The team's season ticket wait list has nearly 90,000 people on it. Given the team's estimate that less than 100 tickets a year actually turn over, a hopeful superfan that added his or her name to the list today would have to wait more than 950 years to receive a ticket. What team could ask for anything more?

The takeaway: Build your business up over time and allow your loyalists to be part of a shared experience that spreads across generations and inspires them to show their brand passion.

The brand: Star Wars
The passion: Imagination

A 1977 low budget, sci-fi movie, expected by most to flop, has become the biggest geek obsession in history. Robot friends, teddy bears living in the woods, space stations as big as planets--Star Wars has it all (and then some). By tapping into collective imaginations and concocting a world entirely different from the one consumers live in, Star Wars has made itself into something wholly unique, and in doing so, inspired generations of superfans spanning all ages.

The takeaway: Create something wildly imaginative and popular that consumers want to be part of to transform your ordinary fans into superfans.

The brand: Phish
The passion: Experience

This Vermont-based rock band has been known to improvise onstage for 30 minutes (or more). When they do sing, it's about "ramothropic microgazes" or a "golgi apparatus" (whatever those are). Needless to say, it's hardly the most accessible stuff. Despite never having had a hit single, Phish has been one of the top grossing acts for decades, and many of the band's superfans center their jobs and lives around its relentless touring schedule.

The takeaway: Bring your fans together and make them feel part of a powerful and unique experience.

The brand: Starbucks
The passion: Innovation

It probably helps that Starbucks's signature product is addictive. It also helps that the brand is everywhere. Whether you're in New York City or York, Pennsylvania, Starbucks superfans can get the same cup of coffee wherever they go. But beyond having a great product, Starbucks also embraces its superfans and looks to them to help improve its business and products through its MyStarbucksidea.com platform. It shows Starbucks values its customers and their thoughts to improve the brand.

The takeaway: Offer your most loyal customers ways to engage to discover new ideas that can improve the business and help you collect more passionate superfans along the way.

It's hard to imagine that any single brand could embody all of these consumer passions. However, by identifying and studying these brand examples of what works, you're that much closer to seeing which superfan passions might apply to your business. Once you know, take action and start creating a group of superfans you can call your very own.

Published on: Jul 2, 2015