Consumers Get (Apple’s) Religion

Discussion
May 24, 2011
George Anderson

Having begun using Apple products back in 1988, we thought we fully understood the unique connection that consumers have with the company and its products.

We’ve viewed Apple, both manufacturer and retailer, as epitomizing the call to action in Kenneth Blanchard’s and Sheldon Bowles’ classic Raving Fans: A Revolutionary Approach to Customer Service. "Just having satisfied customers isn’t good enough anymore. If you really want a booming business, you have to create raving fans."

Just how raving, Apple’s fans were, we didn’t fully grasp. According to a new BBC documentary, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) tests on Apple devotees found brain activity virtually the same as in religious worshipers.

The documentary points out that people at a recent store opening in England came from the U.S. and other locations to wait on line for the doors to open. When the store opened, what did they find? Exactly the same things they could find at the Apple location that is closest to their homes.

The most recent initiative by Apple to drive true believers to a state of ecstasy are iPad sales stations. Consumers at newly-remodeled Apple locations can simply tap a button on an iPad for help and a photo of a sales rep in the store will come up on the screen with a message that he or she will be there shortly to assist.

Discussion Questions: What is it about Apple that engenders such intense levels of enthusiasm on the part of its customers? Why don’t more companies have this type of relationship with their customers?

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12 Comments on "Consumers Get (Apple’s) Religion"


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Bob Phibbs
Guest
9 years 11 months ago

As a customer since the Mac Classic, through the Quadra, G3, 4, and various laptops, iPhones, and now iPad, I am Apple. Could there be a stronger bond in a retail brand? I doubt it because so many have forgotten what got them there. Apple doesn’t come out with line extensions without relevance. A true case study in what makes a great brand tick–and enter the world where customers will crawl over broken glass naked to have that experience. And along the way give you high margins….

Gene Detroyer
Guest
9 years 11 months ago

What is it about Apple that engenders such intense levels of enthusiasm on the part of its customers? Great products!

Why don’t more companies have this type of relationship with their customers? Because they don’t continually come out with great products.

No company has reached the level of product excellence that Apple has.

Paul R. Schottmiller
Guest
Paul R. Schottmiller
9 years 11 months ago

Apple makes products that are cool, easy, work, and constantly add more cool, easy, working features. There you go; a blueprint for creating raving fans.

Doug Stephens
Guest
Doug Stephens
9 years 11 months ago

I recently interviewed former Apple Evangelist, author and speaker Guy Kawasaki on this exact subject. According to Guy, the reasons behind the religious-like following of Apple are actually pretty simple. He believes that Apple goes beyond mere “engagement” with customers and takes them to a level of “enchantment.” It’s this same level of enchantment that one might find among religious zealots.

According to Guy, the core elements of enchantment for a retail brand are:
1. Likability
2. Trustworthiness
3. Great Products

That said, becoming an enchanting brand isn’t so simple as is evidenced by the throngs of brands out there who are anything but enchanting.

For those who are interested, my interview with Guy is HERE.

Gene Hoffman
Guest
Gene Hoffman
9 years 11 months ago

When a company is capable of making a better mousetrap, one that not only imaginatively fulfills its strong promise but also eliminates all unseemly parts, it creates raves within human caves. That’s what Apple is doing today. So take careful notice, other American companies.

Ralph Jacobson
Guest
9 years 11 months ago

Apple represents the anti-establishment culture–those who choose not to follow the masses. Apple has done a great job at serving this demographic. While other retail stores have few shoppers, the Apple Stores are always packed with people learning more about their products. This following IS almost a religion.

Apple has one of the most powerful brands according to at least one study. This illustrates the passion and loyalty of its fans. It is probably not too surprising that these fans have such a mental devotion to the brand.

Ian Percy
Guest
9 years 11 months ago
Good for the Apple PR Department. But this is a little over-dramatized. I don’t hold myself out as a brain expert but I can hold my own at a cocktail party. First don’t confuse a “spiritual” experience with “religion;” they are distinct entities. That said, when those temporal lobes light up it is usually a sign of optimism, joy, happy discovery, creativity and affiliated emotions. When you’re having a ‘spiritual’ experience it usually involves those very things. Lots of experiences elicit those emotions. For some people a Cinnabon will do it. For others, so can a puppy. As I type this I’m looking out over an amazing desert at the Four Peaks of Arizona; it doesn’t get any better. Indeed there are things all around us that should light up that brain of ours in joy and gratitude. But back to Apple. I’m a Mac convert. Trust me, my temporal lobes have been lit up all too IN-frequently! In my experience there’s proved to be a lot of smoke and mirrors around the Apple mystique.… Read more »
Sheldon Glazer
Guest
Sheldon Glazer
9 years 11 months ago

By the time the competition gets with it, Apple’s already done it and is on to new products or enhancements.

Fabien Tiburce
Guest
Fabien Tiburce
9 years 11 months ago
Yes, Apple has great–make that amazing–products. Great technology, excellent usability not to mention aesthetically pleasing. But I suspect there is something a bit more insidious at work. Other studies have demonstrated the typical Apple customer is younger, less caring, less generous and less compassionate than the general population (don’t shoot the messenger, this is true). The same studies have shown Apple customers have a superiority complex. And frankly, you can’t blame them because it is Apple’s own advertising (you are a dumb, awkward PC, I am a new superior Mac) which gave it to them. Mac does not advertise they have GREAT products, they (subtly or not so subtly) advertise they have BETTER products. Apple buyers buy into this message whereby purchasing a “superior” Apple product makes them feel good, real good (akin to divination?). In other words, I am not questioning the strength of Apple’s product lineup but let’s face it, Apple is a superb marketer that knows how to make its customers feel good, well beyond the product’s actual worth.
Larry Negrich
Guest
9 years 11 months ago

Traveling from the US to a UK store opening seems a bit extreme to pick up an iPad but as unemployment is rather high I guess a certain consumer sector has a lot of free time on its hands.

My question is three-part: Who is the PR firm who recommended MRIs to measure customer loyalty? Who would submit to take an MRI to measure their devotion to any product/company? (To Apple or religion.) And which health insurance company’s policy is covering the cost of these MRIs?

M. Jericho Banks PhD
Guest
M. Jericho Banks PhD
9 years 11 months ago
Guy Kawasaki, the Apple Evangelist, would be pleased with this report. I began with Apple in ’85, with an external 50mb disc and two floppy slots. Power user! I swear that sometimes while the little machine was straining to complete a simple task the smiling face on the screen began to look somewhat constipated. Poor little guy. Go out of the room, come back, still straining. And so we fell in love with the underdog born in a garage. I continued with Apple through ’96, and at one time managed a department employing 32 of Apple’s highest-end graphics stations. In ’97 I was forced to the dark side by a new employer and have been there ever since. Somehow, I gradually developed an enmity toward Apple products, even to the point of eschewing the iPhone while my whole family embraces them. I introduced our son to Apple products in the 80s, he’s now a developer with two successful sites of his own, and he uses Apple products exclusively. If Bob Phibbs is Apple, I am… Read more »
Michael Finn
Guest
Michael Finn
9 years 11 months ago
Apple doesn’t just deliver a better product or even an eco-system. It delivers an experience that people are willing to pay a premium for; it just works without much fuss. Think about the portable MP3 market before the iPod. Before iPod came along, the MP3 market was in horrible shape and the players were not pleasant by any real means. There was no real way to buy any digital music which resulted in piracy, the software that came with the hardware was usually a disaster that had more menus than buttons. The iPod changed all that because all people had to do was plug it into a computer and iTunes would pop-up automatically. The first time you ran it, it would go through your computer and search for all of the music you had. But the real crowning jewel was the iTunes software. It gave people a marketplace to buy and sell their music through an incredibly easy to use interface. To eject it from the computer, you clicked on the “eject” button in the… Read more »
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