Re-envisioning a Post-Apple Brandscape

by Jun 17, 2015Marketing

Re-envisioning a Post-Apple Brandscape

by | Jun 17, 2015

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I recently read a brilliant article written by a marketing and branding titan about how Apple changed the culture of customers’ expectations when interacting with brands. I’ve been stewing on a response ever since, because I think the author stopped short in describing the implications of this culture shift. Similarly, I think brands everywhere are stopping short of their potential.

In the article, the author points to the advent of Apple stores and how they redefined the retail shopping experience. Shopping used to follow a predictable form with cash registers at the front, cashiers manning their stations, and products filling shelves and aisles and racks throughout the rest of the square footage. Apple turned that model on its head when they got rid of registers, turned their retail space into a technological playground, and trained their entire staff to be customer service professionals with the ability to ring up a purchase anywhere.

According to the article, as Apple has grown, they have shifted the culture. The public now expects their shopping experience to be entertaining, smooth, and captivating. Every other retailer is competing against that kind of experience.

And you know what? I think he’s right. Apple, along with some like-minded brands, has set a new standard, and if other brands want to compete, they are going to have to increase the quality of experience their customers receive.

All About the Experience

All of that is nice and maybe a helpful social commentary, but what are the implications for brand architects and culture shapers?

As brands adapt to the new culture that says they need to provide an “experience” with every interaction, there are two clear responses, or two ways forward.

The first is what I call the “Shock & Awe” path. Brands who take this approach try to beat out their competitors in the attention battle with the novel, dramatic, and flashy. They believe the person with the loudest megaphone wins, and to compete in this post-Apple world they need to create the most audacious experience possible.

Imagine what this could look like! In retail, it may mean Urban Outfitters builds adult sized slides from the second story to the first (skinny jeans only, please). Kroger grocery stores could begin giving 5 minute massages (on aisle 3, right next to the hot sauce).

The second path forward in the Post-Apple Cultural Brandscape is the “Remarkable” path.  These brands recognize the need to create an experience, but don’t want to stop at creating any old experience – they want their customers’ brand interactions to be remarkable, meaningful, and lasting. They believe in telling stories that are bigger than themselves and inviting customers into those meta-narratives.

In retail, we’re seeing a trend in companies like Tom’s Shoes attaching a humanitarian or social justice story they’re passionate about to their brand. In tech, early on we saw Apple invite people to share their passion for creativity, as Apple developed machines geared for artists, musicians, and photographers. In grocers, we’re seeing companies who are passionate about eating natural, organic, whole foods invite customers into that story.

Which is better? Which method is right? Which path should we take our brand down?

It depends… Do you want a flash in the pan? A spike in metrics that you have to duplicate again in two weeks? Or do you want loyal lifelong customers?

Shock & Awe

Shock & Awe is going to work to some degree, but only in the short term. Think about GoDaddy’s Super Bowl campaign strategy: throw up the sexiest 30 second promo on screen allowed by the FCC, and watch the web metrics shoot up while closing some extra deals.

Sure, GoDaddy created an experience, but it wasn’t connected to a larger story. They stirred up some hype and got some online shopping carts filled. But they didn’t create a tribe. No one was invited in to a remarkable story. No one bought the t-shirt that says “Hey! I’m passionate about inappropriate commercials!”

So if GoDaddy wants to see similar results, next year’s Super Bowl ad is going to have to outdo this year’s. Eventually your commercials will just get banned (good thing that’s never happened…), and your customers will desert you.

Remarkability

In a “Remarkable” paradigm, brands create life-long tribes. They cultivate a group of people who align themselves with that brand because they’ve been invited into a story centered around mutual passions.

Nike is walking down the Remarkable path. They’ve crafted their brand around a larger story. “Just Do It” captures the determination and fearlessness of the athlete. Nike speaks to a demographic who possess determination, who will take risks and live life to the fullest! Over the past 30 years they have effectively created a tribe of people who don’t just feel a certain way when interacting with the brand, but actually believe in the same things the brand believes in. Nike has such a strong customer base that entire businesses have been created around the buying and reselling of used shoes. That is remarkable!

That’s what can happen when you form your brand around a larger story, when you infuse meaning that’s bigger than the brand itself. When you appeal to something deeper inside of people they become your brand ambassadors, preaching the good news of <insert your brand here> in their workplaces, schools, and neighborhoods.

If your brand wants long term results you need to create a tribe of people who will stick with you for the long run.  Do that by inviting people into your larger story.

Brand architects! Culture shapers! Hear, all ye stewards of the story! Let’s begin to seat our brand’s identities within some larger narrative. Let’s strive to tell meaningful stories!

If you need help knowing where to start, ask yourself, “What are we passionate about?” If you need more help than that … call Resound Creative.

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