Are you up for a guessing game? What is the first company name or brand that comes to your mind in each of the following categories?
- Fast Food
- Sports Shoes
- Soft Drinks
You can scroll down to the end of this post to see if I guessed correctly. I suspect that I did in more than half of the categories. Amazon founder, CEO and President, Jeff Bezos, memorably said: “Your brand is what other people say about you when you’re not in the room.” But why is it that, when we think of certain categories, we immediately associate particular brands with them? Why do they stand out so distinctively from their competitors? What’s the magic recipe behind their long-lasting success? I believe it’s because these companies/brands have succeeded in creating more than a product: they have created a feeling.
My answer to the last category in the above guessing game – technology – is Apple. According to Forbes, Apple is the most valuable brand in the world for the 9th year running, worth an astonishing $205 billion. It’s tempting and easy to think that Apple’s success can be put down to extravagant advertising campaigns, distinctive Apple Stores around the world or the astronomical sales of the iPhone over the last decade. But I think that such an explanation is missing something important.
Apple’s ‘Secret’ Recipe
Apple has always generated strong positive feelings in its fans. In fact, that's been one of its greatest assets.
Here are three of the reasons why:
- Packaging – The ‘Unboxing’ Experience
Apple starts wowing its customers from the moment a product is unboxed. As one blogger put it, “The packaging is laced with some sort of technology aphrodisiac.” The materials have an unmistakable sense of quality that simply isn’t found in most other similar products. Even the internal layout of the packaging is special, with the device presented immediately, and all accessories and documentation neatly stacked away underneath.
The takeaway: First impressions matter. They create value and wow your customers from that very first interaction, which lasts for ever in their minds and, especially, in their hearts. Make it central to your business to focus on quality and design when creating that very first experience. You don't get a second chance to make a first impression.
- Physical Presence – Remaining at the Forefront of Consumer Mindshare
Apple’s physical stores are as much about marketing as they are about serving customers. The stores on Fifth Avenue in New York, Regent Street in London, Union Square in San Francisco, and the recently opened one in the Marunouchi district of Tokyo, present the brand to hundreds of millions of consumers every year. People have developed confidence in Apple products because of their presence in highly distinctive stores in strategic locations, and due to the idea that physical sales and service support are readily available. Apple’s widespread physical presence is one of its biggest strengths.
The takeaway: Your business is unlikely to have the size or resources to follow Apple’s model but you can still adopt elements of its approach. Make yourself available to existing and potential customers, keep lines of communication and support open and, finally, generate loyalty with great aftersales support.
- Satisfaction Surveys – Learning from Every Customer
Whether you purchase an Apple product online, visit an Apple Store for service, or merely talk to a representative using live chat, you’re almost guaranteed to receive a satisfaction survey by e-mail shortly afterwards. This touchpoint is designed to remind customers of their interaction and reassure them that their feedback and opinions are valuable. It is good to feel that you can play a role in making the company better at what it does, while in return you are cared about, heard and, above all, appreciated. The late Chairman, CEO and co-founder of Apple Inc., Steve Jobs, blazed a unique trail. His vision was unwavering and he changed the world with it. Even so, he still listened to his customers. He even went so far as to say: “Get closer than ever to your customers. So close, in fact, that you tell them what they need well before they realize it themselves.”
The takeaway: Without customers, there is no business. Reach out with satisfaction surveys and call your customers periodically to ensure that they are getting the most from your products and services. What’s working and what could be improved? Show your customers that their feedback is valued and they’ll deliver you meaningful insights.
Learn from the Best
Apple is an ideal case study for businesses of any size. If you need to improve your touchpoints and want to make customer satisfaction central to your business model, you will find that adopting and adapting Apple’s strategies to your operation will provide measurable improvements, which will ultimately make your company or brand the one that immediately comes to mind when people think of your particular category.
Was I right (email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and let me know)? Here are my answers:
Fast Food: McDonald’s
Sports Shoes: Nike/Adidas
Soft Drinks: Coca-Cola/Pepsi