You don’t buy a Mac, you buy a connected creative lifestyle. You don’t use an iPhone, you use an advanced 21st century communications device. Your iPad isn’t just a computer you can fondle, but the future of computing itself; Apple TV is a revolution while Apple Watch is an essential part of who you are.
And you love it
I’m certain the critics will knock me for saying this, but most of these claims are not hype. Apple’s history shows it regularly sits at the leading edge of new technologies, and while in between times it seems to enjoy making an insanely healthy living through product iteration that doesn’t reflect its core. You don’t judge the strength of the elements by what they do on a cloudless day, but on the power they show during a storm.
Apple has helped give birth to whole industries.
It even influenced the development of Android.
That’s not hype. Nor is it marketing.
Apple’s compelling customer satisfaction ratings matter. These are the most important numbers the company commands. Those satisfied customers become satisfied future customers, ensuring product longevity and helping drive interest in its recurring income streams, from Apple Pay to iTunes.
Just like Walt Disney, Apple isn’t for everyone. However, what both those companies share (apart from years of shared board talent) is a talent for mass market entertainment, only where Disney had Mickey Mouse, Apple had an iMac; Steve Jobs became the tech Aladdin and those keynote speeches have become the equivalent of a free ticket to Disneyland, at least, they have for some. Apple is on the way to building its own theme park, too. The similarities between Apple and Disney go so far it’s hard to avoid concluding that with its focus on pleasing its customers through compelling technologies and a desire to transform computing experiences into novel interactions with an Apple appliance, Apple isn’t a technology firm at all; it’s an entertainment company. An experience facilitator that is providing the tech tools to soften our transition into an increasingly dystopian century.
This focus on experience is key to understanding Apple. The company micromanages every interaction you have, from the moment you visit its online site to the way its staff genuinely try to help you when you visit a store or dial the hotline. Apple designs its experience to be engaging, empowering and rewarding. It gets rich by giving you what you need, and tries not to make you take more than you need.
The only time it lost sight of this approach was during those dark days when a gang of people who thought they were running a computer company ran it. They almost killed the firm by thinking inside their dizzying selection of little beige boxes. They couldn’t deliver high-end experiences in a context defined by the competition, and they lacked the imagination to sprinkle stardust on what they had to sell.
Steve Jobs knew what Apple was. He always did. He did not keep this information to himself. "It’s in Apple’s DNA that technology alone is not enough," he said in 2011. "It’s technology married with liberal arts, married with the humanities, that yields the results that make our hearts sing."
It’s this fusing of philosophies that creates the message inherent within the Apple brand. While built on use of new technologies, what’s truly important is the narrative created through this combination. In a competitive industry this narrative is under constant attack, of course. Remember when Tony Fadell was going to be the new Steve Jobs? Have you seen those Samsung anti-Apple attack ads? Did you hear the FBI call Apple customer privacy a marketing gimmick? If you are an Apple fan have you ever been called a fanboi?
Sticks and stones cause pain, but words so far have failed to truly tarnish the brand, which like Disney seems set for a century of dominance. All the same, the company is fundamentally rooted in the fast moving technology industry, a transformative sector subject to rapid and unexpected change. Apple’s challenge will be to straddle future change while keeping us entertained.
Do you think it can achieve this?
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