Things Brands Can Learn From Apple

Branding Is Driven By Service

Apple tore down and rebuilt their business model to resounding success.

Our past weeks posts have all focused on Branding. Understanding it, what it achieves, and finally how service drives Brand recognition and association.

The best points and lessons are always illustrated with examples. We will close of our examination of branding, with lessons learned from Apple (with a little help from Henry Ford).

Apples to Apples, not all fruit are equal.

Apple has broken records and set precedents for business success. On average Apple stores are generating over $6000 per square foot and they were recently estimated to have a worth of around $600 billion.

So how have they done it? By breaking with many traditional forms and placing customer experience where it belongs – at the head of the pack, as their primary goal.

“We are at our best when we deliver enriching experiences” – Apple Credo

This is not a new concept, in fact we can trace a similar thought to the head of one of histories other great business success stories – Henry Ford:


A young Steve Jobs looking a bit like Freddy Mercury.

A business absolutely devoted to service, will have only one worry about profits. They will be embarrassingly large” – Henry Ford

Ten years ago Steve Jobs and Ron Johnson (former head of Apple retail) determined that something had to change, the current business model was lacking. They were not content to simply adjust, they tore everything down and rebuilt from the ground up. Here are but a few concepts that Apple implemented in their business model.

Things Brands Can Learn From Apple.

Taken From the book The Apple Experience: Secrets to Building Insanely Great Customer Loyalty by Carmine Gallo.

*Quotes by Henry Ford and “TMS” (Transition Marketing Services) have been added in separate, and are not a part of The Apple Experience: Secrets to Building Insanely Great Customer Loyalty*

1 .Stop selling stuff.

“A business that makes nothing but money is a poor business” – Henry Ford

When Steve Jobs first started the Apple Store, he did not ask the question, “How will we grow our market share from 5 to 10 percent?” Instead he asked, “How do we enrich people’s lives?” Think about your vision. If you were to examine the business model for most brands and retailers, and develop a vision around it, the vision would be to “sell more stuff.” A vision based on selling stuff is not very inspiring and leads to a very different experience than what the Apple Retail Store created.

“Many consumers flock to Apple, because they are disenchanted with being sold stuff by cheesy sales pitches and non-authentic marketing campaigns” – TMS

Steve Wosniak or The “Woz” as Sheldon Cooper calls him. Co-founder of Apple, Steve was caught recently waiting in line to purchase the new iPad, further proving that the mentality at Apple does not fit with stereotypical big business.

2. Enrich lives.

“An idealist is a person who helps other people to be prosperous” – Henry Ford

The vision behind the Apple Store is to “enrich lives”. These are the first two words on a wallet-sized credo card employees are encouraged to carry. When you enrich lives, magical things start to happen. For example, the basis of “enriching lives”, convinced Apple to have a non-commissioned sales floor, where employees feel comfortable spending as much time with a customer as the customer desires. Enriching lives led Apple to build play areas (the “family room”), where kids could see, touch and play on computers. Enriching lives led to the creation of a “Genius Bar”, where trained experts are focused on “rebuilding relationships” as much as fixing problems.

“The best Branding is all about Humanizing your business, make yourself accessible and REAL if you want to build effective brand to consumer relationships” – TMS

3. Hire for smiles.

“Enthusiasm is the yeast that makes your hopes shine to the stars. Enthusiasm is the sparkle in your eyes, the swing in your gait. The grip of your hand, the irresistible surge of will and energy to execute your ideas” – Henry Ford

The soul of the Apple Store is in its people. They are hired, trained, motivated and taught to create magical and memorable moments for their customers. The Apple Store values a magnetic personality as much, if not more so, than technical proficiency. The Apple Store cares less about what you know and more about how much you love people.

“Good service begins with training. Unless you are willing to settle for mundane efforts, train your employees – take an active role in their improvement” – TMS

4. Celebrate diversity.

Apple does not turn their nose up at the non-traditional. They have built their brand by breaking the mold and their retail employees testify to that.

“Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success” – Henry Ford

Mohawks, tattoos, piercings are all acceptable among Apple Store employees. Apple hires people who reflect the diversity of their customers. Since they are more interested in how passionate you are, your hairstyle doesn’t matter. Early in the Apple Store history, they also learned that former teachers make the best salespeople – because they ask a lot of questions. It’s not uncommon to find former teachers, engineers, and artists at an Apple Store. Apple doesn’t look for someone who fits a mold.

“The world is quickly filling up with brilliant minds that do not conform to the suit mentality – the day for that image is waning. It is not uncommon now to see Bank Tellers, Doctors, Lawyers and more, sporting tattoos and such. I know a dentist with massive ear piercings. Do not make the mistake of turning your back on the mind behind the next big thing, simply because they wear skinny jeans” – TMS

5. Unleash inner genius.

I am looking for a lot of men who have an infinite capacity to not know what can’t be done” -Henry Ford

Teach your customers something they never knew they could do before, and they’ll reward you with their loyalty. For example, the Apple Store offers a unique program to help people understand and enjoy their computers: One to One. The $99 one-year membership program is available with the purchase of a Mac. Apple Store instructors called “creatives” offer personalized instruction inside the Apple Store. Customers can learn just about anything: basics about the Mac operating system; how to design a website; enjoying, sharing, and editing photos or movies; creating a presentation; and much more. The One to One program was created to help build customers for life. It was designed on the premise that the more you understand a product, the more you enjoy it, and the more likely you are to build a long-term relationship with the company. Instructors are trained to provide guidance and instruction, but also to inspire customers, giving them the tools to make them more creative than they ever imagined.

“When you engage your customers and improve their experience, you have just done more for your brand than thousands of dollars in advertising could ever do” – TMS

6. Empower employees.

“If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself” – Henry Ford

I spent one hour talking to an Apple Store specialist about kids, golf, and my business. We spent about ten minutes talking about the product (a MacBook Air). I asked the employee whether he would be reprimanded for spending so much time with one customer. “Not at all,” he replied. “If you have a great experience, that’s all that matters”. Apple has a non-commissioned sales floor for a reason—employees are not pressured to “make a sale.” Instead they are empowered to do what they believe is the right thing to do.

“It has been our experience, personally and from discussing with consumers, that few things impact a brand image more negatively then sales commissioned staff” – TMS

7. Sell the benefit.

“If there is any one secret of success, it lies in the ability to get the other person’s point of view and see things from that person’s angle as well as from your own” – Henry Ford

Apple Store specialists are taught to sell the benefit behind products and to customize those benefits for the customer. For example, I walked to the iPad table with my two young daughters and told the specialist I was considering my first iPad. In a brilliant move, the specialist focused on my two daughters, the ‘secondary’ customer who can influence a purchase. He let the girls play on separate devices. On one device he played the movie, Tangled, and on the other device he brought up a Disney Princess coloring app. My girls were thrilled and, in one memorable moment, my 6-year-old turned me to and said, “I love this store!” It’s easy to see why. Instead of touting “speeds and feeds,” the specialist taught us how the device could improve our lives.

“Engage your customers on the levels that matter, have fun with them, develop a banter and a relationship by investing yourself in them” – TMS

Follow the steps of service.

“Time and money spent in helping men to do more for themselves is far better than mere giving” – Henry Ford

The Apple Store teaches its employees to follow five steps in each and every interaction. These are called the Apple five steps of service. They are outlined by the acronym A-P-P-L-E. They are:

  • Approach with a customized, warm greeting.
  • Probe politely to understand the customer’s needs.
  • Present a solution the customer can take home today.
  • Listen for and address unresolved questions.
  • End with a fond farewell and an invitation to return.

9. Create multisensory experiences.

“A market is never saturated with a good product, but it is very quickly saturated with a bad one” – Henry Ford

The brain loves multi-sensory experiences. In other words, people enjoy being able to see, touch, and play with products. Walk into an Apple Store upon opening and you’ll see all the notebook computer screens perfectly positioned slightly beyond 90-degree angles. The position of the computer lets you see the screen (which is on and loaded with content) but forces you to touch the computer in order to adjust it. Every device in the store is working and connected to the Internet. Spend as much time as you’d like playing with the products—nobody will kick you out. Creatives who give One-to-One workshops do not touch the computer without asking for permission. They want you to do it. The sense of touch helps create an emotional connection with a product.

“Do not make your customer interaction about the sale. Make it about the customer. Don’t chase the sale, please the customer and let the sale come to you” – TMS

10. Appeal to the buying brain.

Apple lays their buildings out in a way that creates a comfortable environment for consumers.

“Before everything else, getting ready is the secret of success” – Henry Ford

Clutter forces the brain to consume energy. Create uncluttered environments instead. The Apple Store is spacious, clean, well-lit, and uncluttered. Cables are hidden from view and no posters are placed on the iconic glass entrances. Computer screens are cleaned constantly. Keep the environment clean, open, and uncluttered.

“Take pride in your quarters, in your business. Treat everything about your business as intrinsic to improving the customers experience, and thereby creating the environment for the sale” – TMS

This way of thinking is not new, it was just misplaced. Apple has clearly demonstrated the success behind these principles. How long before businesses truly understand the foundation for ultimate Branding power lay in Customer Service and Experience?

Ben Erickson is a Design & Social Media Specialist with Transition Marketing ServicesContact us for a free consultation.


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