Apple Addicts Still Mainline Steve Jobs

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\"RRExcerpted from the New, New Rules of Retail
By Robin Lewis and Michael Dart

On January 9, 2007, on a big stage at the Macworld convention at the Moscone Center in San Francisco, Steve Jobs unveiled the first iPhone. With the already unprecedented cult following of Apple—and for that matter, of Jobs himself—this would be the first of many launches that would further fuel one of the most powerful brand-consumer connections ever.

This unveiling, of course, was merely the warm-up. Steve Jobs’ grandly staged presentation would trigger an intense anticipation among Apple “addicts” that would be satisfied only by the actual sales release of the iPhone itself.

This would happen at 6:00 PM local time on June 29, 2007, as the doors opened at Apple Stores nationwide to welcome hundreds of cult followers anticipating their fix, so to speak. Some media sources at the time were dubbing the iPhone the “Jesus phone.” In fact, in New York City the line started forming twelve hours before Apple’s flagship store opened and ended up winding around two city blocks, or roughly a quarter mile, with more than a thousand avid cultists in it. Some had even camped out overnight. Obviously the Apple addicts had learned that if they wanted the new phone, they had better be present when that door opened, or be forced to wait for weeks.

Apple’s connection with its consumers has gone way beyond the simply emotional. It has succeeded by actually connecting with their minds. In our updated second edition of The New Rules of Retail, released on August 12, 2014, we called this neurological connectivity.

Neurological Connectivity

We believe neurological connectivity is achieved when a retailer, brand or service creates a strong psychological and emotional response that operates on a subconscious level for the consumer in a way that is typically not readily understood nor necessarily recognized by the consumer. As various research studies in the field of neuroscience have found, when people encounter an elevated experience, their brains release many chemicals. One in particular that has attracted a lot of attention is dopamine, which leads to feelings of euphoria, self-satisfaction and wellbeing, and which can also actually lead to addiction.

Consumer connectivity is no longer about merely the physical or practical connection of products or services with consumers. This, too, is simply a point of entry. Far more important is the mind connection, or neurological connectivity.

Simply stated, a brand or store has a neurological connection with its customers if those customers approach the store visit as they would a visit to the home of a good friend. The trip requires almost no perceivable effort because they know it is going to be a fun and enjoyable experience.

The consumer mind-connecting process created by Jobs for Apple is instructional for all consumer-facing businesses because of its holistic approach.
Once connected, Apple and its cult of addicts are impervious to competitors. Steve Jobs was almost obsessed with building this deep connection with consumers. His ability to translate science, technology and innovation into artistically designed, consumer-friendly products is now legendary. The unique

Apple Stores served as the final link in the connection.

However, the business model did not stop there. Apple creates prelaunch excitement for its products through tantalizing announcements at Macworld, showcasing the product to hard-core fans months before launch and typically after subtle leaks have already aroused interest. Without revealing details of
the product, Apple stimulates its fans’ expectations, sometimes in shrewdly creative ways. (Who can forget the theft of the iPhone 4 prototype “accidentally” left behind at a San Francisco Bay–area bar in 2010 that Apple sued to get returned?)

The buzz begins building, first with dropped hints, then with escalating stagecraft, until the anticipation is palpable. As demand accelerates, Apple warns of scarcity, which further heightens demand and drives an enormous volume of preorders. All in all, before the product is even released, consumers’ minds are filled with Apple, leaving no space for thoughts about competitive brands.

Finally, through both its integrated products and sophisticated retail stores, Apple further strengthens mind-share and connectivity by having the consumer co-create a whole series of fun, learning experiences at the store’s Genius Bar with Apple’s young, tech-savvy associates. Even the sleek, modern product box is designed to neurologically connect with consumers.

The supreme proof of the strength of Apple’s neurological connectivity, however, is that it succeeds at satisfying all of the six major consumer value shifts, also described in detail in our new edition, (toward demand for experiences, customization/personalization, affordable luxury, continuous streams of new products/services, instantaneously and more often, community-like lifestyles and technology embedded in every aspect of our lives).

One widely held view that has been promoted is that Apple consumers exhibit the same neural patterns as the religiously fervent do when beholding a spiritual leader or icon. While we may not totally subscribe to this theory, we do know that for any consumer-facing business to even come close to replicating Apple’s consumer connection, every part of the organization, across the value chain, must be maniacally—even religiously—focused on creating a superb customer experience and an Apple-like subconscious connection.


\"NewRobin and Michael\’s new book, The New Rules of Retail: Competing in the World\’s Toughest Marketplace, Second Edition, is now available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other booksellers.

About Michael Dart

\"M_Dart_small\"Michael Dart is a Partner at A.T. Kearney, Inc. He is an accomplished private equity consultant and advisor with more than 20 years of experience leading major strategic transformations and due diligence studies for many of the largest private equity funds and global retailers. He has experience leading the development and implementation of business strategies and growth efforts. Michael was recognized by Consulting magazine in 2010 as one of its Top 25 Consultants. He also co-authored The New Rules of Retail, which was featured on three Amazon bestseller lists. Michael is a frequent speaker at major conferences and he has delivered keynote speeches at the Women’s Wear Daily CEO Summit NYC and the Global Department Store Summits in Paris and Beijing. He is also a frequent contributor in the press and was recently profiled in the Personal Journal section of The Wall Street Journal.



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