Steve Jobs Left a Legacy in Loyalty

Oct 7, 2011

I was checking email and some social sites last night and saw a post on LinkedIn making reference to “missing Steve Jobs.” I thought it was a comment about his announcement to retire from leadership at Apple this past month until I read further and realized he had passed away.

There is not much I can say to elevate Steve Jobs anymore than has been said over the past 24 hours. However, some comments and remembrances I have heard has left an impression on me:

Most people won’t be talking about this, but in addition to technology and music, Jobs left a legacy in Loyalty Marketing as well. In addition to the standard loyalty business models, Proprietary, Partner, Coalition, there are other go-to-market strategies that have been applied in market by companies which had a specific competitive advantage to leverage.

Walmart has effectively used price, selection, and consumer finance to build customer loyalty. Carrabba’s and Tasti D-Lite have used mobile handsets, location based marketing and SMS to create communications based programs that engage and delight customers.

Apple pioneered a different approach to building and maintaining customer loyalty. Through a blend of product innovation, service, after-sale support, and a wholly customer-centric approach to retail, Apple created one of the most aspirational brands on the planet. No discounts were available for their products, their stores often had traffic akin to Grand Central Station, and new product introductions resembled opening night for a Lady Gaga tour. It didn’t matter – their fans adored Apple.

Few other brands have done the same. Zappos and Red Bull are two that come to mind. Tony Hsieh was one of the first CEOs to listen to customers in social media channels and help address their customer service issues. The strong devotion to Zappos by its customer base is at least in part attributable to these early social media efforts. Red Bull is an aspirational brand that screams “Millennial Fantasy”. The number of people who will ever fly off a mountain on a snowboard stoked on Red Bull are less than one-in-a-million. That doesn’t stop millions from feeling better about themselves when they pound a can on their way to work.

One other description of Steve Jobs that I heard was that he did not worry about what others were doing but pursued his visions and dreams, wanting to change the world. While banks, hotels, and airlines followed copy-cat models for rewards in the early 90’s, Apple pressed its advantage through its products and service.

In the process, Apple became one of the most admired brands in the world and left a legacy of loyalty lessons for us to ponder and emulate – especially as it pertains to delivering on the customer experience.