The Simple Secret to Creating Lifetime Customers

Safe to say, I have an affinity for all things Apple. Steve Jobs singlehandedly took the computer company that was falling apart after his ouster in the 1980s and transformed it to the point where owning an Apple computer or device became as much a status symbol as driving a Mercedes or wearing Guess jeans.

Under Jobs’ guidance, Apple products transcended their basic, utilitarian use as computers, mobile telephones and digital music players and became something more. The result is an emotional – and often visceral – bond between Apple users and their products.

People wait in line for hours outside of Apple Retail Stores to buy the newest version of the iPhone. When customers emerge from the store, pushing their way through throngs of screaming fans waiting to get inside, they hold their new devices high in the air, grinning and smiling and sometimes even weeping tears of joy.

I’ve seen less emotion and excitement over the birth of a new child, let alone from purchasing a mobile phone at the local shopping center!

But it continues. Just yesterday, I found myself inside the massive Mall of America (MOA) here in Minneapolis/St. Paul. While my kids ran wild with their mother at MOA’s indoor amusement park, I felt pulled by some sort of magnetic force into the nearby Apple Store.

Even though I didn’t need to buy anything, I just felt like I should be there.

And as I checked my email and played with some of the store’s computers and devices, I overheard two young women next to me talking.

One was considering buying a MacBook Air laptop.

“I used to have a PC too, but once I switched to Mac … oh,” one of the girls let out a satisfied sigh. “I’ll never go back. I love my Mac.”

Here she was, an Apple user, giving her friend the hard sell on a high-end laptop! No wonder Apple’s product sales continue to shatter records – the company’s best salespeople are its customers!

Make it mean something!

Do you see the power in creating that type of emotional bond or connection with your clients or customers?

Copyblogger CEO Brian Clark talks about having customers develop what he calls this “affinity” for your product or service.

“Marketing is about human psychology, and human psychology from a communication standpoint really boils down to empathy,” he says. “Do I know how you feel? If I do know how you feel, can I communicate with you in a way that effectively creates an affinity between myself as a businessperson and yourself as a prospect that would not exist otherwise?

“You’re in this kind of cold, hard, commercial world where everyone starts his or her research online when looking for the best thing to buy to solve a problem or satisfy a desire. If, at the end of that, you can actually come away with a feeling that transcends a commercial transaction, that’s what good marketing does.”

“People value relationships – and even material goods – based on the meaning they evoke,” adds Nancy Duarte, author of the fantastic book Resonate. “The value of one’s belongings or even their life is not based on what it physically is; the real value comes from the meaningfulness associated with it by another person.”

Owning an Apple device says something about who you are as a person and what you believe in. You feel connected to something larger than yourself, and when you see others with Apple devices, you exchange a knowing glance – they too are part of the tribe.

This isn’t by accident.

Consider the way Apple marketed itself under Jobs during its renaissance of the late 1990s through the early 2010s.

The Crazy Ones

“Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.”

That 30 second TV commercial, featuring a script read by actor Richard Dreyfuss while images of luminaries like Einstein, Gandhi and Muhammad Ali flashed across the screen, first aired in 1997. It ended with the now-famous Apple tagline, Think Different.

You can watch it here:

Love him or hate him, Steve Jobs knew how to sell. His product launches for the iPod, iPhone and other Apple products became the stuff of legend. His advertising campaigns combined information and entertainment while establishing the difference between Apple customers and “everyone else.”

Remember those “I’m a Mac. And I’m a PC.” commercials of the 2000s? The Mac character was always played by a handsome, hip young guy who had it all going for him. The PC character was a bumbling, nerdy, overweight man wearing thick glasses and falling short of the mark. Their exchanges always centered around something Apple products did better, faster or easier than PCs. The humorous encounters also reinforced the narrative that Apple users were hip, smart and handsome, while PC users were, well … dorks.

Here’s a compilation of the ads to give you a flavor:

At this point of my life, after 25 years of using (and loving) Apple products, I can’t imagine switching brands. I’ve completely bought into all the marketing messages, feeling like I am different, better, smarter and more creative because I carry an iPhone. I know I’m being manipulated, but I don’t care. In fact, when someone tries to challenge me on the facts about Apple computers as opposed to PCs, I turn to “confirmation bias” to justify myself.

According to Wikipedia, “Confirmation bias, also called ‘myside bias,’ is the tendency to search for or interpret information in a way that confirms one’s beliefs or hypotheses. People display this bias when they gather or remember information selectively, or when they interpret it in a biased way. The effect is stronger for emotionally-charged issues and for deeply entrenched beliefs.”

Creating that emotional, “us against the world” mentality with your clients and customers goes a long way toward securing brand loyalty, and Steve Jobs played it to the hilt with Apple.

“I’d rather be a pirate than join the navy.” – Steve Jobs

Your Turn

How about it? Is there an example from your own life or a product, service or brand you feel an emotional attachment to? Or an example of one you can share? Let me know in the comments!

Also, what is YOUR product or service, and how can you or how do you create an emotional connection with your customers or clients in order to sell it? Would love to hear your thoughts!

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