Game of Cults: How Your Game Cultivates Your Most Valuable Asset

The Game of Cults recipe

We have come full circle.

Not in this series, but in where I started.

For those who have been with me since November 2019, you’ll remember the Tragedy of the Commons series, where I spoke about abusing the attention of an audience and its ramifications for everyone.

In a world of endless content supply and a limited supply of attention, poverty of attention will develop.

Visibility, accessibility, taste, and other factors impact your ability to attract and hold attention.  In the end, you exist in a dog-eat-dog world with a finite amount of attention and an endless number of content creators producing a constant supply of media, all to serve a limited demand.

The poverty of attention will continue to be your publishing business’s problem.

The maelstrom of content further complicates matters by overwhelming search engines and ranking systems, so they will only highlight a small portion of available content.

Those who want to sell a product to an audience (creators and publishers) and those who create audiences to sell (influencers and advertisers) must establish preferential attention. Preferential attention is what your fans and followers give you because you’ve demonstrated reliability through past performance.

You will be required to create another asset—maybe the most valuable you’ll ever have. More valuable than your house, car, or backlist because without this asset, you can’t leverage your backlist to buy a new home or car.

The asset is more than just earned attention—it is attention that acts on your recommendation and that you can quickly call upon.

It’s your audience.

An audience is the visualization or characterization of a group of individuals. In your case, we are building them around your brand.

Understand that what we imagine as an audience is very different from what it is.

In our mind, an audience is a homogeneous group of statistics that all fit neatly into a few buckets. If you were to imagine them lined up in front of a bookstore, waiting to buy your book, they would all be similar demographically, wearing your brand T-shirt and acting like a hungry mob.

That’s not reality.

In reality, an audience is conglomerated across time and space. We collect individual buying instances together. Then we look for similarities to call them an audience.

The act of buying is an individual act.

It isn’t until you give this group a place and reason to collect and call themselves a community that they know they have a common connection.

The Game of Cults system is the best-defined method to collect and control an audience. So let’s break it down and apply what you’ve learned.

We’re at the point where we need to get into the nuts and bolts of the system.

You should have the fundamentals on the objective of creating a brand cult in a gamified way, but how do you implement one?

How do you begin to earn attention and mold group behavior to act as you wish?

While I can go through this in writing, I think it will help to introduce a model. Or maybe this is more of a note-sheet-meets-recipe.

There is a lot here, so I’ll take the rest of the season to review the various parts and refer back to the material we’ve covered in previous articles to help you apply this to your business.

Game of Cults Recipe and Model

If we start on the upper left-hand side, you can see that the objective is to build a positive feedback system that will turn a prospect into a cultist.

The circle with the community in the center is part of an upcoming business model I’ll discuss in season three. It represents the community aspect of your publishing business, and at its heart is the model to its left, the model I’m walking you through now.

Below are the nine steps that act as a grand checklist to guide you in building a system that creates community and gets readers to assist you with your business goals.

  1. Define Brand Promise.
  2. Define a business goal to set a game objective.
  3. Define User types (players).
  4. Select motivation.
  5. Define desired actions.
  6. Define desired triggers.
  7. Define feedback mechanisms.
  8. Define incentives and rewards.
  9. Build game paths that guide players to win states aligned to business goals.

As you go through the steps, you’ll see you bounce around the sheet from section to section.

In the end, this all comes together into a series of game paths that help players navigate the game and lead them willingly into your brand cult.

This isn’t a push model. It’s a pull model. The gravity of your brand offering pulls them deeper and deeper. They have agency because they get to choose where they want to go.

These steps create the game paths through the various phases:

  • Discovery: when you and prospects court each other.
  • Indoctrination: those who have shown intent and interest get help to get the most out of the brand.
  • Scaffolding: the bulk of your game where you sort, segment, and serve your players, allowing them to choose where they want to go.
  • Endgame: the win-states and goals for the players that serve your business goals.

The role of your community

Outside of how you want your community to act and feel or fulfill human givens through your group, they play a structural role.

Your community is the structure that drives through the duality of function. Simply put, the individual looks to the structure (media delivery platform) to filter and suggest choices, and the structure looks for trends in consumer behavior to drive filtering and suggestions.

The system doesn’t have a mind of its own nor the group it has identified and uses to inform future suggestions to individuals.

Or does it? The group, I mean.

Gustave Le Bon showed us that a mob consciousness can be controlled and looks willingly for leadership.

This is where we can use this system to influence and create a “mob” mentality that will, in turn, influence the macroscopic layer of the market in two fundamental ways.

Availability: Your community helps with availability. By purchasing your book, the book gets performance visibility on a sales platform. Performance visibility is a crucial role of platforms to help other users find good products based on sales. The results typically influence recommendation pages and categories. Understanding availability and appeal only gets a prospect to the first decision gate of consideration. Next is further evaluation of the product quality.

Quality: Here’s the rub. With an experiential product—and books being experiential—the only way to evaluate the experience is to have it. The prospect is considering the risk-reward via quality signals. Will I have a good experience or waste my time?

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There are two functions of social influence —informational and normative. During an individual’s evaluation of products, the community signal is informative, helping the evaluator to find a quality product. The information being signaled is the number of ratings, the overall rating, and the number of substantive reviews. “I loved it!” isn’t substantive, but a reader helping to frame the reading experience is.

Later, after an individual identifies as a potential community member, you seek to normalize them on your product as the best quality. Here, the group acts on group members to reaffirm community beliefs about why your books are good.

Do you see the positive feedback loop?

Do you see how they both influence each other?

This all gets back to the idea of the wisdom of the crowds, which is that a group has innate wisdom. This has been seen in experiments involving guessing the temperature in the room, the weight of an object, or the number of pennies in a jar.

As individuals, we trust the group and want to be part of the group’s idea of what is good.

Next week, I’ll look deeper at key hurdles, such as the barrier to entry and crossing the chasm.

One more thing…

​​​​​Familiarize yourself with the sheet. Please print it out and put it in your workspace. Begin to think about what you already have in place. Forget the holes for now. Instead, take an inventory of what’s already done.

Read: A Step-By-Step Guide to Designing Alluring Game Paths