I am talking about an idea or impression around which people organize their life. Or at least a portion of it. It can be small, such as CrossFit, a recent exercise brand that encouraged a cult-like following. They had a terminology and clothing and rituals. From what I understand a big part of the cult was loyalty to the brand and disdain for those not in it.
I don’t know much else about that example and have no opinion.
Cults are not always bad, either. I have expressed my fondness for Richard Simmons’ work. I think he gave a lot to a lot of overweight lonely people for a lot of years. He was a helper. And he was also a lifestyle entrepreneur at heart who was an actual celebrity. He gave them something to believe in.
Finally, merch is not a deliverable. It’s not the core product. Electricity is a core product. Loving Kanye West is a core product. Listening to his music and buying a Jesus t-shirt is not a core product. Of course, at his level merch is a multi—million proposition. So your task is to give them something to believe in as your core product and then monetize it.