If you think all it takes is a pretty logo, Twitter background, branded Facebook page and matching business card is going to provide your audience a true brand experience, then sorry, you don't “get it.”
Apple has the brand experience nailed. My Apple experience started from the first I heard about the ipod. It continues through and after the day I retired my first 8GB iPod after 7 yrs of heavy use and dropping it 100 times.
They “Get Me” and They “Get You”
From the website, Genius Bar, telephone support and visit to the store, the brand experience is consistent. It is positive, friendly, upbeat, clean, and calm, yet filled with energy. What fills it with energy?
What is it that enables Apple to entertain a seven year old and my grandpa on the same device in the Apple store? I'll tell ya' what it is… they “get me.”
The only way you can “get it” when it comes to experiential branding is if you “get your customers.”
Apple knows who their audience is. They know how we work, play, and listen to music. They know how I work out and build the perfect size of nano to clip on my shirt when I hop on the cardio machine. They know when and where I listen to music. They know that at least 12 hours of the day I am multi-tasking, and chances are I have only one hand free as the other is dealing with kids, a dog and a load full of groceries. They know how to make the iPhone fit perfectly in my back pocket while I attend ball games and neighborhood block parties.
Yes, many companies attempt to know me by utilizing data profiling and analytics. I have worked for such companies and I have managed numerous programs that delivered stellar results from research, profiling and getting in the heads of customers. What Apple does however, is deeper than analytics. It gets to the heart and soul of who we are, what we are and what we want to do and become.
Apple takes experiential branding to a level only very few companies have achieved. They do it in a way that is natural, that is personal and experiential. They're doing more than blasting catalogs to my door based on purchase decisions. Apple is building products for me before I know I need them. They know what we like before we know we like it.
Sometimes I think they “get me” more than I “get myself” when it comes to white shiny objects!
More than an iDevice
How would you feel if you woke up in the morning and your favorite Apple product or device was gone? Not sure it would be a good morning for most of us. For me, of course, life would go on. Unless I was lucky and had done a back-up the night before, chances are I would have lost some of the captured life experiences, as my iPhone captures much about life. Experiences like the video of my son hitting his first ball in baseball and actually making it to 2nd base last week which by the way hasn't been backed up!
My iPhone is more than a device. Some days I feel like it is a permanent part of my body, yet that's a different problem all together. It enables me to connect with people all over the world. I can tweet, Facebook, Link, talk, chat, skype and yes, of course email. I can do it while I live my life.
Apple has mastered simplicity combined with fullness. They've mastered inspiration and entertainment combined. They've mastered fitting into my life without me knowing it.
Making Positive out of Negative
This weekend I visited the Apple store to obtain a replacement for an iPhone that cracked. Had I still been with Verizon and having to return one of my 10 Blackberries I returned over the years, I would have been dreading the visit to the Verizon store. However, the visit today was different. Instead of dreading the experience I was looking forward to it. I wasn't the only one in the Moore household looking forward to it. There were three other fellow geeks in my house (husband and kids) who weren't complaining about a potential 30 minute visit to the Apple store.
So why were so excited about returning a phone to the store? Yes, it might have had something to do with touching and feeling the iPad2. We were most excited about the experience we would have. Within seconds of walking in the store we had all lost one another. My seven year old was lost with headphones and an iPhone 4g. My 10 year old was searching for the most rocking laptop so he could make music. My husband was standing back laughing at all of us before he planned our next iMac purchase & deciding if we should buy another iPad.
I had spent literally one minute online prior to departure to schedule my Genius Bar appointment. We were more than happy when we got there 15 minutes early as that meant we could “geek out” longer. At almost the exact scheduled time they called my name to get me taken care of. Within a short 15 minutes the service representative had my new phone in hand, set to my number, and old phone erased.
Sorry Verizon, based on past experiences with you I would have been in the store at least an hour talking with a grumpy sales representative telling me why my phone wasn't broken and that it was user error. I'd be rich if I had a buck for every time a representative told me I had too many emails & should cut down on the number of applications I use.
Yes, I know the Apple guy probably thought some of the same things. However, there is one big difference in how he responded to my geek addiction problem that rang true on my iPhone. He did not tell me to cut down on email. He didn't tell me to use the product less. Instead he taught me how to ensure I maximized what I had. He showed me how to ensure I shut down my programs correctly as I hadn't been doing such. He asked a few questions and showed me a few tricks of how I could better maximize my experience.
So what is my point? My point is that even when my iPhone is cracked, dropping calls and I am headed to the store to return on a busy Sunday, my experience with Apple is positive. I knew they would take care of me regardless. They were slammed with a store jam packed. The same sales rep I had last time serviced me. He remembered me, my kids and my geeky ways. Not sure if it was coincidence that he was assigned as my service representative. It at minimum made for a few good chuckles!
From the first experience I had to purchasing an 8GB iPod to the return of my iPhone today it has been nothing but positive. I wouldn't have cared if I had to pay for a replacement today since I know I have received my money's worth. It stood the test of many drops on cement and late nights tweeting, Facebooking etc. It's lived in back pockets, purses, gym bags, elliptical machines and the list goes on.
Do you “Get It?”
My iPhone goes where I go. It goes with me because Apple “Gets me”.
Bottom line, know your customer. Learn what they like, how they work, how they work out, where they eat, why they do what they eat. Take the time to get in their head.
Do more than know their address, their phone number and the life time value of being your customer. Instead know what it will take to make them want to be your customer for life. Focus on that and the rest comes easy.
Give me an experience. Build an experience to better my business and better my life.