Shadowbringers | Fostering a Cult Brand Following

How would you like your brand to have a cult following?

Cult brands do not happen by accident.

"Cult Brand: a brand for which a group of customers exhibit a great devotion or dedication. Its ideology is distinctive, and it has a well-defined and committed community. It enjoys exclusive devotion (that is, not shared with another brand in the same category), and its members often become voluntary advocates'" - Douglas Atkin

Cult brands make people excited about their offering and use tactics to turn them into lifelong customers. Cult brands make their customers feel special, important, and part of a unique group, fostering a type of loyalty that most businesses can only dream of.

One of our recent exhibition clients has captured the illusive cult brand following, Square Enix with ‘SHADOWBRINGERS’ – the new FINAL FANTASY XIV Online Expansion.

The Shadowbringers exhibition stand helped to foster this cult following through numerous elements at PAX 2019.


The quality of being available only to a small number of people.

When something is limited and exclusive, not everyone can have it, and in turn this makes people want it! This is principle is called the scarcity principle (we have discussed this principle in a previous post).

A sense of urgency is developed through the perception that what you are offering is limited. Like supply and demand, the rarer something is, the more valuable it is. This elusive value is the catalyst for their interest, curiosity and need to have the offering.

The cult following for the Shadowbringers brand was emphasised by the feeling of scarcity that surrounded the exhibition stand and its immersive activities, they harnessed the psychological power of exclusivity. The Shadowbringer exhibition strategy also included a few other tactics to help emphasis the feeling of exclusivity for their following:

  • Event coding: A unique version of the Shadowbringers game was coded just for use at PAX 2019.
  • Limited players: The Shadowbringers stand has 3 custom made gaming pods. Each pod hosted 8 players for a 30 minutes session. 20 mins after the doors to PAX were open on the first day of the exhibition, the Shadowbringers line was already closed. From then each day the line had an average of a 2 hours wait time.


Solidarity: A clear sense of belonging to a group through the awareness of shared interests, objectives, standards. This creates a psychological sense of unity and loyalty.

Fostering a ‘group’ for your customers to be part of gives them a feeling of connection with your brand. They feel like they belong to something bigger and this drives a sense of loyalty and allegiance to your brand that would be unthinkable through other marketing avenues.

When people feel like they are part of something they become promotors or influencers for your brand. They provide your brand with one of the most valuable marketing channels; word of mouth. They will talk about, share and elevate your brand any chance they have. This genuine promotion will in turn advance your company into a cult brand.

The Shadowbringers exhibition stand helped to cultivate this solidarity amongst its audience. The stand aligned the brand messaging to empathetically targeting the niche audience and aligning this around their ‘groups’ interests and values. The formation of the Shadowbringers group was not a forced marketing activity, rather one fortified by the marketing messaging and immersive activities made available to the audience.

To further enhance the solidarity within the Shadowbringer fan base, they delighted the audience by giving them something unexpected and collectable. They gave away exclusive t-shirts to everyone who won a game while playing at PAX 2019. Their fan base saw these as highly valuable items and this established a sense of solidarity.


On-stand competitions help to increase stand presence, engagement and brand loyalty.

Including competition into exhibition marketing not only helps to drive traffic to a stand, it also can act as a catalyst to forming deep and long-lasting relationships between a customer and brand.

Competitions are addictive and compelling for the exhibition participants. They feel a sense of progression as they partake in the activity, which provides them with a sense of satisfaction and positive feelings towards the brand. Humans are naturally competitive, so providing them with an opportunity to compete in a fun and friendly environment spurs them into action.

SquareEnix custom showtopper exhibition stand at PAX 2019 by

Data collection can be a major bonus that is easily incorporated and achieved through the use of competition. This data capture will not only elevate the exhibition marketing goals but help deepen connections after the exhibition doors close. These connections will help convert the participants into cult followers.

While competitions can be implemented in exhibition marketing by adding simple systems, such as points gathered for attendees completing / achieving desired tasks, the Shadowbringers stand brought competition to life through gamification.

The Shadowbringers stand allowed all gamers to participate in competing against others. The inclusion of 3 gaming pods, with 8 players in each (24 players at one time) allowed for multiple people to compete and play against each other, with the winner walking away with a free t-shirt.

By the end of PAX 2019 some Shadowbringer fans had won 16 shirts!

Given that the line to play the game on the Shadowbringers stand was 2 hours, then gamers played for 30 mins, and joined the line again, some of these cult followers would have spent the entire 3 days of PAX lined up / playing at the Shadowbringers stand! Now that is passion and devotion to a brand.


Knowing your target market and what gets them excited, then using that to your advantage is what building a brand following is all about.

Advanced technology on an exhibition stand can help distinguish a brand from competitors and give your brand a dominating presence at an exhibition. If technology is used well, it can help portray your brand as a leader in the market and help attract customers, leave a lasting impression and engage them with your brand.

Shadowbringers fans were given the best technology in abundance.

The design of the Shadowbringers stand was based around technology. Gamers love technology and the latest advancements in technological devices. They know the latest trends and can pick who is ahead of the pack.

The Shadowbringers stand had 2 large 3m x 1.5m rigged LED video walls. This LED screen walls were high resolution using an Aluvision Hi-LED tile 55 2.8mm pixel density screen matrix. These screens helped to interrupt the exhibition attendee journey and connect with visitors in an immersive way.

The main feature of the Shadowbringers stand was the inclusion of 3 game pods with 8 stations in each.  The image quality of these play stations needed to be high, to provide the best player experience for the gamers. The ability to increase playability with higher image quality allows the gamers to feel like they are right inside the game.

The stand incorporated live feeds of the play stations on large tv screens, so even those not playing at the particular time could feel involved and immerse themselves into the game, providing a rich experience for all customers.

Rigged speakers were also incorporated into the Shadowbringers stand to help draw exhibition attendees in and boost communication on the stand. The stand incorporated a stage where there was a presenter providing live commentary of the gamers playing on the playing stations. This helped to increase engagement with the target audience.

The sheer volume of tech on the Shadowbringers exhibition stand helped to portray their product as a leader in the gaming industry. While the quality of the tech used (image quality and sounds quality) ensured their product was viewed as it was meant to be.

"Square Enix was presenting the Shadowbringers Final Fantasy XIV (14) game at PAX in Melbourne. The stand design was developed through an iterative process working side by side with the team from Square Enix. The concept was designed to capture the imagination of show attendees, illustrate the characters and the atmosphere of game play and encourage them to engage in the game. This was an outstanding success, in 2019 we increased the gaming station capacity by 50%. To engage more players then we did in 2017 and still there was a 2 hour wait to play! This stand is always a favourite with the Expo Centric team and was a huge hit for show attendees at PAX!" - Saba Zare, Design Manager, Expo Centric.


PAX | Melbourne Convention & Exhibition Centre | 11-13 October 2019

PAX (Penny Arcade Expo) is a festival for gamers to celebrate gaming culture. It’s the largest consumer games event in North America, first held in Seattle in 2004 and nearly doubling in size each successive year and expanding to a second show in Boston in 2010. A festival celebrating games culture, it connects the world’s leading game publishers with their most avid fans while providing an inclusive community environment.

PAX Australia combines the exciting program from the international shows with local content and community events. International guests, speakers, musicians and developers will join local game industry representatives to showcase games and community events in Australia.


Square Enix |

Square Enix is a Japanese video game developer, publisher, and distribution company known for its Final Fantasy, Dragon Quest, and Kingdom Hearts role-playing video game franchises, among numerous others. Several of them have sold over 10 million copies worldwide, with the Final Fantasy franchise alone selling 144 million, the Dragon Quest franchise selling 78 million and the Kingdom Hearts franchise selling 30 million.

The Square Enix headquarters are in the Shinjuku Eastside Square Building in Shinjuku, Tokyo. The company employs over 4300 employees worldwide.

Would you like your brand to have a cult following? Send us your brief and let us help you attract the crowds.


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