Today the world has 6.92 billion people. They all wake up and look for the sun in the sky. They also look up at super brands and aspire to belong. The future is bright for brands that evolve their consumers into passionate advocates. Loyal consumers who buy without question. These are consumers who are worth their weight in gold.
When a brand gets it right, loads of customers worldwide will be with you for life, and the business can grow kinetically.
But how far does this devotion go? Brands who curate movements benefit here significantly more than brands who build their business based on product messaging alone. Inspiring examples of this way of thinking include: Livestrong, Tom’s Shoes, the Ford Fiesta Movement, Decoding J-Z – Bing, K-Swiss Tubes and Kenny Powers, Harley Davidson, Honest Tea, IBM’s Smarter Planet, Pepsi with the ‘Refresh’ project, P&G’s Old Spice, Nothing, Naked Juice and Smart Car ‘Against Dumb mindless consumption’ (the last example was produced by my own agency StrawberryFrog) and on and on the list goes.
The grandfather of this approach is Apple. It seems that when it comes to brands like Apple, fans are more than buyers. A phenomenon which recently helped the tech giant become more valuable than Microsoft and then, at a brisk pace, more valuable than Google…to become the world’s most valuable brand.
What psychological impact that pushed it over the edge? Better products? Better factories? Better design? Sure all of these made a difference. But more than anything else, the Apple fan helped the brand ascend to the top. Why are Apple fans in the true sense of the word – fanatical devotees who worship at Apple’s altar of technology?
A recent documentary out of the UK explored how Apple’s power, its fans’ reaction to their products border on the religious. In the program, researchers conducted an experiment. In one corner, an Apple fan. In another, a religious believer. The results of an MRI scan showed that Apple was actually stimulating the same parts of the brain as religious imagery does in people of faith.
Time and again, we see the same scenes the world over when Apple launch a new product. People travel for miles and camp overnight outside stores to get their hands on the latest offerings – no matter what the cost. Note that Apple never do ‘special offers’ or ‘discounts’ to earn this type of impact – it’s purely product power and the kudos of being one of the ‘first’ to have the latest from Apple’s core. Even the staff join in with the frenzy.
Where Apple leads, other brands try to follow – but will they ever achieve the same level of devotion? It depends on what they come up with. Apple are geniuses at giving people exactly what they want – easy communication in the best and most stylish way possible all based on an idea that is relevant in culture, wrapped in a passionate philosophy of life.
So where does this leave marketing then? Surely that plays a part in all of this? Yes it does. Clever campaigns combined with new approaches – such as Cultural Movements which center on communication between brand and customer – can turn occasional buyers into loyal brand followers and active provocateurs in a movement that turns other consumers into the same.
Inextricably linking your brand to something which many people are passionate about boosts buy-in because you share the interest. Perhaps Apple’s rivals – or any brand for that matter, should take note – trying to ‘out-do’ a market leader which is offering superior technology won’t work. It won’t covert the fanatical. But maybe offering something else in a different way just might catch attention.