When we first set out to explore the Apple culture and the people who follows the company, we were mainly interested to find out how brands act as communities, and how people become loyal to them. Apple is unique and its often regarded as religion. Now there is a new study conducted by marketing guru Martin Lindstorm using brain wave scans. Martin scanned the brains of many consumers, among them MacHEADS. Yesterday Martin published his fascinating book Buyology and we had a chance to conduct an interview with him to find out what he had discovered.MH-You are about to launch a new book can you please tell us more about it?
ML: Buyology is based on the world’s largest
NeuroMarketing study. By peering inside 2,000 consumers brains we’ve
investigated what creates powerful brands, which regions of our brain
generates passion and love and thus the future formula of brand
MH-I understand that there is a very interesting research that you did
using brain waves, how did you imply it on MacHEADS? What did you find out?
ML: I’ve always been fascinated by the power
of the Apple brand - they’re kind in a league themselves. Up there with
Harley Davidson, Hello Kitty and some football brands like Manchester
United etc. This is the reason why we decided to investigate the truth
behind the brand. Is it just a brand - or is it a religion? By
recruiting people belonging to the faith of Christianity we went on a
mission to prove or disprove the similarities between Apple and
religion. We are the first in the world to investigate and prove a
strong parallel - I mean very strong parallel between religion and
Apple. But this is far from the full story - there was a lot of other
dimensions we learned about the brand which I think will shock the
MH-Apple continues to spark a unique sort of consumer fanaticism that is
the envy of nearly all marketers. How do they do that?
ML: It is very simple why - but very complex
to imitate. Apple is (as we’ve proven using neuroscience) is a religion.
Not only that - it is a religion based on its communities. Without its
core communities Apple would die - it is already facing strong pressure
as the brand simply is becoming too broad loosing it’s magic - what’s
holding it all together is the hundreds if not thousands of communities
across the world spreading the passion and creating the myths.
MH-Is there similarities between Apple and religion? Is consumerism the
new religion of the 21st century? Or is just an urban myth?
ML: It sure is - many religions has let
their believers down. They’re not accessible, up-to-date, appealing and
interactive. This is exactly what Apple is. Our research shows that the
more we’re under pressure - the more stress we’re under the more
superstitious we become - the more superstitious we become the more we
consume - so you could say Apple is the next generation of commercial
MH-You’ve said that many of the apple fans want to be in the limelight,
to share the success, can you elaborate? If so what do you think about
the veteran apple fans the ones who were in the minority and were
unsuccessful during the 90s, there are their most trusted and most
ML: It has changed over time - the old Apple
fans are very different from the next generation of Apple fans. The old
generation didn’t have the need to be in the limelight - they needed the
communities and to feel the sense of belonging. The new youtube’ish
generation however is different - they’re much more verbal - and visible
- and ride on Apple to secure the limelight. When attending tons of
openings it was clear that they enjoyed being interviewed about their
passion - it made them special - something I think we all enjoy as
MH- MacHEADS explore the culture around Apple, mainly the people
who believed so much in the company during its darkest times. We
believe that Apple hasn’t been a company but a way of life for their
most loyalist. The ultimate question we pose is now that Apple is more
successful “Has Apple lost its faith and became just another brand?”
What are your thoughts?
ML: The Apple brand has to be very careful
about not loosing it’s spirit as the brand goes broad. We’ve seen this
with every religion - the biggest religions are also (often) reflecting
less passion than those of a smaller size. Why because communities is
all about being close, feeling special, being heard and believe in
something you can use as a mission to convert the world with. That’s the
reason why there’s almost no Microsoft communities - as the world
already (sort of) is converted to Windows. (hate it or love it). Apple
has over the past couple of years been so busy growing that they began
to forget their communities. They also began attacking their own
communities - i.e. sued a young passionate guy for releasing news about
Apple prior to official release. These actions did (on the basis of our
research) cause some damage - however not enough to destroy anything.
However that said - Apple needs to be incredible careful about nurturing
their communities in the future (not to take it for given that they have
this support) but to involve themselves even more. They shouldn’t sue to
many people or else the damage will become serious - and will have to be
less arrogant in order to keep motivating the core fans.
I spoke with a serious Apple fan as part of the Sydney Apple store
opening some weeks ago - he’d attracted 600 out of the 2000 people
waiting in line to enter the store (most waiting for up to 48 hours) he
claimed. I asked him if Apple sponsored him - he said no - I then asked
if he’d tried to get them as a sponsor - he said yes - he’d contacted
them 6 times - but no-one had replied back.!.
MH -Another interesting thing we came up with is the fact that Apple and
their consumers are in many ways separated, there is Apple and there
is the community. There are a lot of mix feelings between the two, on
the one hand Apple fans are their biggest criticizers, on the other
hand they are the ones who will buy their products no matter what. How
is this possible?
ML: As far as I know most religions never
delivers - except for spiritual stuff. When we get sick we will pray to
God - yet we don’t blame our religion and change it. That’s because
Apple doesn’t sell products but a belief. Just like Chatolism doesn’t
sell candles and bibles but hope.
MH -MacHEADS also explore the Mac users groups around the world and their
role in creating the Mac community. We went as far as exploring the
first Mac user group BMUG. It reminds a community center with mutual
interest and shared systems of believes and friendship. People are
helping each other with questions and there are many activities
creating strong bonds and friendships. The interesting part is that
most of the Mac fans, I’d say 90 percent, are ate the age of 50 and
60, not something you would imagine when you talk about Apple fans.
Their strongest complaint is that young people are not joining ,that
they find all their needs online and they are in fear that the mac
community won’t sustain. Is there a future for Macheads community in
the digital era?
ML: Most defiantly - however it needs to be
nurtured and migrate into a online format which is just as strong as the
current “senior Apple” community. LEGO has done this with success - so
can Apple - but Apple needs to support this much more in order not to
loose what they have.
MH- Do you agree that much of Apple’s mystery and its ability to create
strong identity came when they were considered the underdog that ones
who fight Microsoft for the quest of freedom to think differently?
The people who believed in that ideas were the kind of people who
wanted to change the world. What is left from that promise?
ML: Having a clear enemy is the key to
creating powerful brands - think Coke/Pepsi - they’ve now lost it and
guess what both brands are not nearly as strong as they were.
MH- What makes Steve Jobs the dominant force behind Apple?
ML: He treat his brand as a religion - is
very religious him selves - and is incredible aware of what elements
goes into a religion - how to maintain it - and how to build the
mystery. Today no-one can secure a interview with him with only few
exceptions - this wasn’t the case in the past - he has however slowly
build his brand into a situation where he is able to add so much mystery
to it than he doesn’t need to be involved (in public at least) that he’s
heavily involved behind the scenes is another story.
MH- When can we expect your book?
ML: October 20th - will air on 60-minutes on
Martin Lindstrom is recognized as one of the world’s primary online branding gurus, defining ten groundbreaking Internet-branding rules in 1995. A leading thinker in his field, a visionary and an educator in the rapidly growing field of online branding, Martin Lindstrom has authored several best-selling books, including his latest book, Buyology, on the use of emerging techniques for building strong, international online brands.
Co-founder of BBDO Interactive Europe (later renamed Framfab), Europe’s largest Internet solution company in 1995. Throughout his career, Lindstrom has provided brand-building advice to international companies including LEGO Worldwide, Mars, Pepsi, Mercedes-Benz, VISA, Quicken and Yellow Pages. He is a member of several international boards including Wotch.com, Hitwise and eKit.com.