Apple Forever? How One Brand’s Experience Factor Has Created a True Loyalty Story

Dec 12, 2013

Love it or hate it, Apple’s rule as the most valuable global brand has serious staying power. While iOS market share is actually trailing that of Android in the US by a few percentage points and much more in other parts of the world, few brands have been able to achieve such golden status and remain consistently in the top spot – or at least in the top 10 – of the most beloved brands.

“Every so often, a company changes our lives, not just with its products, but with its ethos.” That was the introduction to Interbrand’s Best Global Brands 2013 report and the reason why Apple moved Coca-Cola and Google from their lofty perches this year.

I was reminded of the “Apple effect” after watching a recent Bloomberg TV segment, Apple Success All About Customer Loyalty.

What instills the kind of brand passion and loyalty that can divide a household over telephony devices? Can you imagine having an argument with your significant other over Nortel or Vtech handsets? I thought as much.

But when it comes to the Apple versus Android debate, Americans are split and discussions about the two can get very heated. At home, we’re a bi-device family, constantly mocking each other about the latest updates and releases – as if that would turn an Apple lover into an Android fan or vice versa.

In Apple’s case, however, it’s not about the device. You can commoditize a device. It’s about the experience, which is what makes the level of engagement so much stronger. Experience is precisely the essence of what we seek as consumers and shoppers, as lovers of brands and as loyalty marketers and program managers.

And, increasingly, experience is what’s driving customer loyalty – as Apple has discovered.

Experience equals opportunity

For other brands, Apple lovers also represent a golden opportunity. Despite smaller market share, Apple users account for 89% of mobile commerce sales. They also “tend to be younger, better educated, live in urban areas, and are more affluent than Android users: 60% of Apple iPhone users earn over $75,000 per year, compared with 44% of Android phone owners,” according to a SeeWhy survey from April 2013.

Which brings me to a by-product of the “Apple effect,” – aspirational loyalty.

Apple customers – who represent the market most brands want to tap into – tend to be sophisticated and ready to pay more not just for a premium product, but for a whole premium experience – whether they are using their devices or interacting with the brand in-store. They keep returning because Apple gives them a great experience over time.

For brands, failure to consistently deliver a great experience means taking a great risk. While Apple has certainly taken risks bringing new products to market, it hasn’t broken its promise of a seamless experience, even if it has made a few missteps, like the Maps snafu of September 2012.

You only have to look at the sad tale of BlackBerry to realize how a poor brand experience impacts customers’ emotional responses and overall loyalty.

Brands must do what they’ve always strived to do: attend to customers’ wants and needs on whichever channels those customers prefer. Moreover, they must get to know their customers in ways that extend beyond the transaction, discovering how other aspects of their lives influence their brand loyalty – once again, as Apple has done.

Ultimately, brands must build their customer experience to fit their promise and ensure it unfolds even more naturally if they want to become the next big loyalty success story.

As a consumer, think about the last time you had a great experience and emotional connection with a brand.

Now, as a loyalty program manager, ask yourself how you’re going to apply that to generate the same type of emotional response and experience to your brand’s program.

What are some great (or bad) brand experiences you’ve had recently? Share your experience with us at