A Case in Point
Another example of Apple's disruptive marketing. The company's online store has gone down and intrepid bloggers are on the case. Apple's fanboy minions are rallying, effectively launching whatever new product has coming... for free.
Typically a service disruption is bad for business. For example, when an online store goes down it means lost revenue and aggravated customers, right? Well, Apple's turned what might be considered bad service into a marketing tactic. While most companies try to downplay technical difficulties, Apple hypes them. You might've noticed they even highlight their service disruptions with a cute "We'll be back soon" Post-It icon. It's not there to be condescending; it's actually a signal. As the BusinessWeek Apple blog notes, when the Apple Store is down, "that's often an indicator that a new product is about to be announced." Apple has turned an inconvenience into a positive newsworthy event. Now anytime the store is down, the likes of Engadget and Gizmodo, as well as the hundreds of Apple fanboy sites, report it and the speculation begins. When the store's back up what new product will be there? A Mac tablet? An ultraportable Macbook? A pink iPod Nano for Valentine's Day?
It's an unconventional and innovative approach to marketing - it fundamentally transforms a negative into a positive, it creates suspense, and it builds in viral marketing. But it can have its drawbacks. As BusinessWeek points out, that "We'll be back soon" icon doesn't always mean a new product is about to be revealed. Sometimes it means that the site is just down - you know, for maintenance or technical problems or some other nuisance. Has Apple, in using this marketing device, created unrealistic expectations? Probably. But as long as they don't suffer too many unwanted outages and regularly deliver on the promise of innovation, they'll continue to get invaluable free publicity.
Goes to show that virtually anything can be turned into advantage if you apply a little creative thinking.
Just watch it. An education.
I still have an Abercrombie & Fitch camel hair blazer
Feel the hand
Cult brands are an important study for anyone who wants to better understand the hold that a well-realized brand can have on a customer. Apple, Harley Davidson, MTV. Cult brands defy easy categorization. Some are fueled by massive marketing budgets others run far more frugally. Some, like Linux, have no central marketing budget at all.
We are members of a cult brand following. Filson is a Seattle clothing retailer of the old school. Clothing that is built – yes built – to last for years.
On a recent trip to Seattle we have an opportunity to visit the Filson mothership (where 85% of the merchandise they sell is still manufactured). In the course of the visit, we came to a couple of realizations about our membership in this cult:
Pride of belonging. One sales person told us that groups of Italians and Japanese Filson pilgrims would often come into the store. The concept that the “movement” had spread overseas was the source of pride.
Feeling protective. Membership in a cult brand is like being a shareholder, owning a stake of the company. This results in some protectiveness over the brand. For example, we would feel threatened if we heard that there was to be a ownership change at the company or that they planned to open a series of mall stores (neither of which is true).
Scarcity = desire. After years of buying through the Filson web site and the catalog, visiting the headquarters was an intense experience. The experience would be much less interesting were it with a similar company like Orvis (forgive the comparison) that has stores nationwide.