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Apple — The Ultimate Brand Promise?

This past Friday was the grand opening of the Apple store in Chicago’s Magnificent Mile (the equivalent of NY’s 5th Avenue.) The Mac geek in me obviously wanted to take a peek, so I headed there on a beautiful summer evening. Upon arrival O H M Y G O D !, you would have thought Britney Spears was in there (which would have definitely been an added bonus). Hundreds — if not a thousand — of people were rounding the corners to get in. There were Bouncers for chris’ sakes! I wish I had taken some pictures, I had my camera but the crowd was overwhelming.

What this goes to prove is that Apple has created one of the most desirable brands in America. I am sure that 80% of the people that were in line had no clue what G5 meant yet they still wanted to be part of it. They stood in line for hours to experience the Apple brand even if the name Steve Jobs didn’t ring a bell.

I have to say, I was very impressed (maybe even shocked) with this. This was branding at its best, getting people excited about what? A Store? Computers? iPods? Forget that — they were selling a lifestyle and by jickity people were lining the streets for a piece of it.

Whenever a Gateway store can do this, call me up, then we’ll talk.

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ENTRY DETAILS
ARCHIVE ID 1501 FILED UNDER Branding and Identity
PUBLISHED ON Jun.30.2003 BY Armin
WITH COMMENTS
Comments
Darrel’s comment is:

Gotta get me one of them apple windows for my remodelling project at home...

On Jun.30.2003 at 09:26 AM
griff’s comment is:

I experienced the same at the os 10 release here in dallas. Geeks sat on the mall floor installing os 10 at 1:00am.

I was scolded by an Apple hired security guard for snapping photos.

On Jun.30.2003 at 10:07 AM
Bradley’s comment is:

Yeah, I was there on Friday night for the opening too, and I honestly haven't seen anything like it. I waited for over an hour and it was well worth it--the store is great, every detail is taken care of, customer service was phenomenal.

Personally, I think that most corporations manage to prevent a happening like this from happening by sucking all the life out of their brand with "brand strategy."

What's Apple's strategy? I don't know specifically, but I'm pretty sure its not too complicated. Either way...it works.

On Jun.30.2003 at 10:52 AM
brook’s comment is:

I think it is actually more likely that 80 percent of those people were serious mac fans. I just can't see that many people being drawn to the store for other reasons. The brand is great, makes people excited (especially the fans). There probably was a certain degree of, hey this is the hip thing happening today so we better go check it out. But I doubt that was most of the crowd. Who knows, though, right?

I think a lot of the sales from iPods and PowerBooks comes from people seeing famous actors/musicians using or talking about them. Damn good strategy there. Think of that little section in Wired: "What's on your iPod?" There's so much of that going on.

On Jun.30.2003 at 11:08 AM
Tan’s comment is:

It's like when NikeTowns first opened in Chicago and across the country.

I've been to a number of Apple stores -- one in Pheonix, 1 here in Seattle (with another one opening soon), and one in Texas. They're all very consistently cool.

The stores attract crowds because they are innovative. You can't miss the big black wall with the glowing apple in the middle. It's cooler than any dance club, and promises a glimse into a Utopian world of technology where everything works. It's like Tomorrow Land at the old Disneyland.

But I wonder how long the fascination will last? The Apple Stores around here still attract tourists, but I noticed in my last visit that people are lingering less, and some are just coming in, picking stuff up, and leaving. Hate to admit it, but it felt like a really fancy Radio Shack or something.

When the crowds eventually die down in Chicago, go and shop late on a Tuesday night or something -- and tell me if you don't get the same impression.

I guess I just wished that there was a little more substance inside the stores. Maybe a bar, or a small auditorium, or a glimse into something more. Not quite sure what that "more" would be, though....

On Jun.30.2003 at 11:22 AM
Darrel’s comment is:

Maybe a bar

I'm guessing Apple hasn't quite figured out how to bring liquor licensing into the mix...

On Jun.30.2003 at 11:55 AM
Schicker’s comment is:

> I guess I just wished that there was a little more substance inside the stores. Maybe a bar, or a small auditorium, or a glimse into something more. Not quite sure what that "more" would be, though....

I'm thinking about how other brand stores try to do this. I haven't gone through it very completely, but I just picked up a book on prada stores, branding, working with koolhaas experience. It seems to focus on the intersection of customer experience and architecture [go figure], but deals quite a bit with branding.

I remember Prada incorporating different elements to appeal to different aspects of their customers. Different display space externally to draw customers inside and a sort of shoe gallery/auditorium that could be used to host events once they got there. I think this was written as different stores were being built, I'd be interested to see what kind of events they put on. [Shoe release parties?] The incorporation of a gallery is interesting, especially when you want people to view your product as art instead of just another shoe, or computer for that matter.

I think Prada also had special VIP rooms, where the creme de la creme could get their Pradas custom made with custom materials. I think customization of your mac/ipod/.mac account is part of apple's experience, but I don't know if they could or would want to offer a similar experience.

Something about the book that does cross over is the idea of customer experience across mediums, combining your online & in-store shopping history. If you set up an account with them, they will keep track of your size, and what you've bought in the past, and suggest items that might co-ordinate. It reminds me of the scene in Minority Report, where Tom Cruise walks into the Gap & they pull up his account by reading his eyes. -- This is an example of extremely targeted marketing, and while I'm sure some people appreciate this level of customer service, I doubt Mac users would buy into a pitch such as "Did you like your iMac? maybe you'd like an iPod to go with that."

What I do think Apple might consider is a way to tie their stores into the portable apple lifestyle. Maybe offering a cybercafe/wifi access to get people with laptops to hang out & demo the cool things they can do with their mac for free. Granted most of them would just use it for email or websurfing, but some of them might try to work in public. "Oh you want to know about the new Quark, well Lisa over there is a designer and she's working on something right now." I doubt that would happen very often at all, but if the space created was cool enough & the staff knew you...

I was trying to think of a reason to get people to bring in their ipods. Anyone?

On Jun.30.2003 at 12:18 PM
Tan’s comment is:

I suggested a bar half-jokingly, but the more I think about it, why not? As Schicker suggested, maybe Apple could make the store more as a destination for a community of users who want to share experiences and mp3s.

Musicians and writers have bars they go to. So do cops. Why not designers and mac fanatics?

I can see it now, the G5 martini -- Stoli, a drop of vermouth, and a shot of apple cider. mmmm....

On Jun.30.2003 at 12:27 PM
armin’s comment is:

I think we already discussed Apple's 5% market share and all that in another thread, let's discuss Apple's Brand — why is it so damn cool? I'm sure it has something more to do than with Mini Me.

To me, the turning point came with the Think Different campaign, after that, it just caught like wildfire. They have been able to maintain that momentum for almost, what? 5 years? That's pretty impressive for a 5% market share company.

On Jun.30.2003 at 12:52 PM
Tan’s comment is:

I only know of one other company whose brand has such a fanatic, die-hard customer audience: Volkswagen.

It's no coincidence that both companies tout design as their primary market differentiator.

> Apple's Brand — why is it so damn cool?

Their product design has always been one step ahead of the trends. Apple innovates through design, pure and simple.

Plus, the stuff just works better. They set a lofty promise, and fulfill it.

On Jun.30.2003 at 12:59 PM
Darrel’s comment is:

Apple's Brand — why is it so damn cool?

Because, compared to many other computer manufacturers, it focuses on well designed hardware and software from both an aesthetic and engineering standpoint.

The advertising (or visual brand identity) has never been a big part of Apple's overall brand. Just a friendly reminder that they exist.

Even the Apple stores don't put too much weight on anything outside of the actual product...which is hightlighted to great effect.

I will note one exception...the Apple Logo window decal. Pure genius.

On Jun.30.2003 at 01:09 PM
Kiran Max Weber’s comment is:

you would have thought Britney Spears was in there (which would have definitely been an added bonus).

Armin, I got your back.

On Jun.30.2003 at 01:14 PM
Arturo’s comment is:

To me, the turning point came with the Think Different campaign

That campaign indeed was a turning point, exactly after Steve Jobs took the reins back, it was a way of returning to the basics of apple: cool products, great design, innovation. From that campaign comes this "heroic statment" (remember -here's to the crazy ones-

) to... change the world, what can be more compelling and more inspirational than this "call to arms"?

On Jun.30.2003 at 01:24 PM
Paul’s comment is:

what can be more compelling and more inspirational than this "call to arms"?

And what better way to shore up the support of those already on board than by making them feel like Heroes for making a simple technology purchase. No wonder we are a rabid lot: we are not just consumers, we are examples for all mankind!

On Jun.30.2003 at 01:39 PM
griff’s comment is:

why it's so damn cool?

Apple brand is about creating desire. Creating a desire for products that you probably don't really need (ipod), but find that once you see it you can't live without it.

Also, few will admit it, but it is that 5% thing. There is nothing cool about having something 95% percent of the people have. It's an exclusive club and they work that angle to thier advantage. Would the same campaign work if they had 30% or more share? No.

On Jun.30.2003 at 01:42 PM
Tan’s comment is:

> It's an exclusive club and they work that angle to thier advantage. Would the same campaign work if they had 30% or more share? No.

I see what you're saying, but I'm not sure I agree.

Read an article a few years back that talked about the marketing of "individualism" as a brand. In other words, make a customer feel that a product is specifically made for him/her only. And that the consumer is a rebel, an exception to the crowd. But the truth is, of course, the company wants to sell to a few million of these individualists.

Most consumers hate things marketed to the common masses -- though they'd never admit it. It's a common business cycle for companies to lose sales as soon as their product receives mass acceptance.

But two companies do this very successfully -- that is, market "individualism", yet sell their stuff to every person on the planet. Who?

Nike and Coca-Cola.

I think Apple is doing a great job at this. As one of their consumers, I do feel like I'm part of an elitist group, but I'd love nothing more than to see Apple grow into a massive computer-making giant that rules the world. I think they could easily grab 30% of the market, and none of us would feel differently about them.

That is, unless their stuff begins to suck.

On Jun.30.2003 at 02:09 PM
Darrel’s comment is:

but I'd love nothing more than to see Apple grow into a massive computer-making giant

It is a massive computer-making giant.

On Jun.30.2003 at 02:39 PM
Amanda’s comment is:

Apple products seems to be the new wave in hipster accessories. Which is kind of hilarious.

I love apples for the same reasons that every other designer loves apples. They are simple, functional, solid and don't get in the way of being creative. They don't require post secondary education in IT to operate, and they look freaking cool. Enough said.

Roll call: Who is a super apple geek like me and has one of those apple stickers on the back window of their car? I even have the old school rainbow one. Which makes me very cool. And very geeky.

On Jun.30.2003 at 02:54 PM
Tan’s comment is:

> It is a massive computer-making giant.

oh you know what I mean...M-A-S-S-I-V-E...not just massive.

> Roll call:

I have this thing against car stickers.... but I have an old rainbow Apple cliosi´┐Żnne keychain that still gets used. Does that count?

On Jun.30.2003 at 03:23 PM
Bradley’s comment is:

Thing about this Apple Store here in Chicago is how damn well integrated it is--nightly classes on a multitude of topics from photography to digital video, basic to advanced, five days a week (or more). Opportunities to work in a studio they have of some sort too...the activity is pretty constant. Every Friday night over the summer there's a performance of some sort (such as, Cheap Trick this Friday). You gotta love it. As for the crowd? Hell yeah most of them were just Mac fans...but Apple created those Mac fans and now they delivered something else.

I'm not sure if I'd go so far as to say that Apple isn't that concerned with advertising and visual identity. Jobs, unlike...any other CEO...takes an active interest in the advertising, going over copy, making contributions. He totally re-edited those "Switch" spots that Errol Morris directed several months ago...it was his idea to use that dopey background music. He credits himself (with others of course) on all the awards Apple wins, be it a Gold in D&AD for the first iMac, or recognition for the iPod packaging & POP.

As far as their visual identity, its always evolving. Hey, they brought in Andy Dreyfus from IBM to manage brand communications and almost got Brian Collins from BIG/Ogilvy to be a part of it too. They want the best. Sure, the product design is fantastic, but it takes a lot of skill to produce minimalist graphic design that showcases it as well as they do. Apple consistently employs simplified forms to create dynamic patterns (think of their packaging design and how they position those boxes) which in turn increases visibility and in my mind, power. The web site is impeccable. Typography in ads and brochures crisp as it gets.

Prada has nothing on Apple in my opinion. I didn't care at all for the flagship in NYC, I thought the detail work was atrociously shoddy, and the men's area felt like a prison. Bravo. And shopping mixing with culture? This is nothing new! For crying out loud, when I worked as a retail slave at Club Monaco we had books of all sorts lying around on the tables.

Apple adds that next level of retail that Prada thinks its hit but hasn't by getting people involved pretty intimately with their products--lectures, demonstrations, classes, whatever. I think its great. I'm sure that most of us don't need many of those classes, but think about other folks, maybe individuals seeking to "switch."

On Jun.30.2003 at 04:55 PM
pk’s comment is:

i went down on sunday because i needed a new battery for my ibook (codename: precious). had no idea the place had just opened.

the staff was great. very laid back, extremely helpful (i wanted to try a new battery on precious before plonking down the dough...just to make sure)...and tired. they got me out of the store in about ten minutes with battery in hand. very nice.

oh, and they actually giggled when asking (compulsory, i'd imagine) if i wanted a .Mac subscription. apparently it's as big a joke to apple as it is to the rest of the world.

On Jun.30.2003 at 06:30 PM
Mick’s comment is:

> Who is a super apple geek like me and has one of those apple stickers on the back window of their car?

Lots of people www.apfelautos.com

On Jul.01.2003 at 12:24 AM
Joerg’s comment is:

> Who is a super apple geek like me and has one of those apple stickers on the back window of their car?

Lots of people www.apfelautos.com

Mick, whats even more amazing than the number of apple stickers is the variety of small car designs never to be seen in the US. But that is a whole new topic.

On Jul.01.2003 at 03:00 AM
Darrel’s comment is:

such as, Cheap Trick this Friday

Man...Cheap Trick in an Apple Store...does it get any better than that?

Mick, whats even more amazing than the number of apple stickers is the variety of small car designs never to be seen in the US.

How about an Apple branded Smart car?

On Jul.01.2003 at 09:42 AM
pk’s comment is:

Man...Cheap Trick in an Apple Store...does it get any better than that?

i fear your music collection.

On Jul.01.2003 at 06:12 PM
priya’s comment is:

i remember reading a Wired (i think it was Wired, anyway) that was talking about the phenom that is Apple.

It is only Apple users who will hold 'unboxing parties' to celebrate an arrival of a spanking new Mac into thier homes. They even had photos of such parties... people drinking cocktails and eating appetizers congregating around a white Apple box.

what other company can claim thier customers are as excited about thier product? no one.

(i'll try to find the article... it was awhile ago.)

On Jul.01.2003 at 07:56 PM
Darrel’s comment is:

i fear your music collection.

I fear anyone that doesn't have Cheap Trick's greatest hits in their collection.

What are you? Anti American?

;o)

On Jul.02.2003 at 08:25 AM
Tan’s comment is:

If lovin Cheap Trick means that I'm a patriot, then please pass me a flag to burn.

On Jul.02.2003 at 09:49 AM
d.u.menon’s comment is:

wish i were there. lucky you.

d.u.menon

On Jul.05.2003 at 08:18 AM
Jason Nicholas’s comment is:

for what it's worth: my first trip to an apple store, (in cambridge, mass.) to buy a mouse for the ibook resulted in the staff running my cc through one of those old fashioned card imprinters because they couldn't get a connection to the creditcard service or something. It was amusing to see all these geeks in black X tshirts clustered around a manager learning about manual credit card use.

e.g. "oh, so that's why the numbers are raised!"

On Jul.09.2003 at 12:17 PM
Kiran Max Weber’s comment is:

From Silicon Valley Biz Ink:

Adhering to the philosophy that one good thing deserves another, two icons of American popular culture --Volkswagen and Apple Computers -- are joining forces to provide 2003 New Beetle sedan buyers with a complimentary Apple iPod, the world's top-selling digital music player.

The pairing begins today and will be featured prominently in a TV, local radio and newspaper, nationwide print, broadcast media and e-commerce campaign, through the end of September. Sleek iPod displays will also adorn Volkswagen dealer showrooms.

The union of the iPod and the Beetle -- two design triumphs -- truly represents one of the most stylish ways to take your entire music collection with you on the road," said Greg Joswiak, Apple's vice president of hardware product marketing. "With room for over 3,700 songs on their iPod, New Beetle drivers can enjoy three cross-country road trips without hearing a single song repeated."

"Apple's audience is a lot like our audience," said Karen Marderosian, Volkswagen Marketing Director. "A group that embraces something different, simple and unconventional. We think this initiative represents a natural alliance of two like-minded brands."

If these brands are so cool and innovative - why are their market shares so damn low? Cost?

On Jul.16.2003 at 09:21 AM
jonsel’s comment is:

something different, simple and unconventional.

There's your answer. The majority in this country don't want different and unconventional. They want simple, sure, but often don't place a higher value on the high-end aesthetic that VW and Apple offer. When price is the motivating factor, a Dell is cheaper than an Apple, and a Ford Focus is cheaper than a VW Beetle. So, yeah, cost.

I'd be really interested to see Apple try to sell a well-designed computer (like the iMac) for the same price as a Dell. There are other factors against it, like Windows' domination, but it could provide some empirical evidence as to how much they are being hurt by their pricing structure.

On Jul.16.2003 at 10:07 AM
surts’s comment is:

I was reading a link from wired about apple's brand and found an interesting link about Brands in the Billboard hot 100 - kinda interesting.

On Sep.04.2003 at 05:37 PM
Matt Kenyon’s comment is:

Roll call: Who is a super apple geek like me and has one of those apple stickers on the back window of their car? I even have the old school rainbow one. Which makes me very cool. And very geeky.

Yeah! I have one on my car, but here in the north of england uk, it makes little sense to most people. However, ive had countless queries as to what it means, and everybody just thinks it is cool (I wish all my logos had this impact!)

The brand is really cool, but i dont think it is enforced / exposed enough over here! (which is a crying shame..)

On Nov.20.2003 at 05:14 PM
Jim’s comment is:

So where is Apple going to go from here? What does the future hold for this brand?

Griff, you're absolutley right, I think, about the 5% market share being part of what makes Apple 'cool'. I like having a laptop that only a select few have and believe me when I'm travelling on public trasnport, especially on teh plane and I whip out a 17" Powerbook - boy fo I get looks....

On May.23.2004 at 06:49 PM
Tan’s comment is:

>So where is Apple going to go from here? What does the future hold for this brand?

Good question. I've been wondering myself. There have been rumours that Apple is working on expanding its own line of design software — forgoing Adobe altogether. I don't know how realistic that is, but if anyone can do it, it's probably Apple.

On the hardware side — I think desktop CPUs sales have plateau'd. People are still replacing their old G4s, but Apple is not exactly winning over hoards of PC users with the new G5s. XServe sales have also been disappointing. Don't know how iMacs are doing, but I'm guessing it's steady-as-she-goes like G5s sales.

It's the laptops and iPods that have been exploding. With the iPod line, Apple more than showed that it could successfully venture into personal electronics. This seems like a prosperous path for them to continue. Will they become the next Sony? Probably not. But if Apple offered a plasma HDTV or surround sound DVD system, would I buy it? What about an Apple digital camcorder/camera? Epad? Phone/PDA? Hell yes to all. Chances are, the next wave of Apple products will continue to be more portable, more convenient (smaller,etc.), and more universal/adaptable.

And of course, everything will still be cool.

That's my prediction.

On May.24.2004 at 12:16 PM