Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Brand Loyalty: Apple's Awesome Experience

Some more branding here, with one of my favorite companies that is no stranger to anyone - Apple. Apple is one of the most innovative and influential technology companies in the world. How did they do it? I'd love to give you my opinion from a branding perspective, though there's a lot more to it. With its products, and with customer service, Apple enhanced the level of loyalty its customers feel toward the company.

A few months ago, I was lucky enough to attend a guest lecture at the Syracuse University's Whitman School of Management. The lecture with Jerry McDougal, Vice President of Retail for Apple, provided me with some great insight into Apple's brand and strategies.

Experience with a brand strongly affects brand loyalty. Apple embraces the idea of customer experience by creating a tech-savvy and hands-on environment in its stores. Customers are encouraged to come into the stores to work, and to play. As McDougal says, “99% of stores that sell phones have dummy phones that don’t work. At Apple, you can really test the product." Apple does this with all of their products and they don’t limit the amount of time you can use these products for free either. Here's a fun fact for - there have even been authors who don’t own computers who have written entire books in an Apple store on a test-drive computer. Many stores wouldn’t have allowed this to happen, but Apple strives to foster good customer experience. These authors didn’t have to pay Apple anything, and they weren’t asked to leave after a few hours. Instead, Apple employees helped them out when they needed a coffee or had a technical issue.

What else has helped Apple's branding? Oh right, Steve Jobs the wonder-CEO. Literature on brand loyalty has stressed the importance of CEOs in brand management. Steve Jobs has always been the face of Apple, even during his hiatus when he wasn’t the CEO. People in the tech world love him and here's what I love about him; he unveils each new Apple product personally, so customers are hearing about the new technology directly from the source. Okay, maybe the iPhone 4 unveiling wasn't perfect, but at least if was straight from Jobs himself. Jobs even has such dedicated fans who admire him as a hero, like the fan who created a site,

Even more proof of Apple's incredible branding is a research study conducted by Cornell University, which revealed that the Apple store in Manhattan was the fifth most photographed place in New York City, and the 28th most photographed in the world. Loyal customers are the best marketing tool a brand can have, and Apple’s dedication to customer experience has created just that.

Satisfied customer will act as marketers without even realizing it. Apple enthusiasts rant and rave about their technology, and they make people who don’t have Apple products jealous. They think they are the best because they have Apple; and they tell people they are best because they have Apple. The evidence is all over the virtual world, with blogs dedicated solely to discussing Apple, and Facebook pages such as "We Love Apple." Apple Inc. didn’t ask its customers to rant and rave; they just provided the products that compelled its loyal customers to do so. Simply by providing a good product experience, Apple enhanced its brand loyalty.

Apple is awesome, and their loyal brand enthusiasts prove it. That's my PR thought for the day.

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