iBook on Chinese trainOver at my China travel blog I’ve written about how much I love my Apple iBook laptop. It doesn’t give me any problems, runs really well, doesn’t get viruses, has excellent battery life and is very portable (when I bought a camera memory card reader the other day in Mudanjiang, China, I whipped out my iBook from my backpack, plugged in the card reader, checked it worked and then bought it – without a word of English being spoken). [On a side note, I don’t see many non-Apple users who are passionate about their laptops.]
And this is my point – not to engage in a PC vs Apple debate but rather to note that most/all Apple users feel the same way as I do about their computers – to the extent that “normal” people are mystified by it. How does Apple create such brand loyalty? What is this magic which other companies would kill for?

Personally, I like my Mac for these reasons:

  • it’s designed really well
  • it’s not Microsoft
  • it doesn’t get viruses and I don’t even run any virus protection software (it’s simply built differently)
  • a charismatic CEO: Steve Jobs, who is so much cooler than Bill whats-his-name
  • I don’t need to ask “You want me to pay HOW much for a word processor?!” questions
  • it’s stable (by March this year I had only restarted it 3 times since the beginning of the year)
  • I don’t ever turn it off – when I’m done I just flip down the screen and it goes to sleep
  • a “sleep” light at the front which “breathes” (slowly glows brighter and dimmer repeatedly) when the laptop is asleep
  • the ability to see my desktop by hitting F11
  • the ability to see all open windows by hitting F10
  • I can run linux programs on it
  • I can turn the screen to black-and-white to save battery power (which I’m doing right now while blogging on a train in northern China)

(if any of these don’t make sense to you ask me for a demo when I next see you, which I’ll gladly give)
Some things I take out of this:
Good design is key, not an afterthought (I’ve had people coming over to me in coffee shops wanting to see my white laptop – and every time some sees my “sleep” light “breathing” it’s a “COOL!” response)
Make sure your product is mature (i.e. it works really well, is better than other things out there and is a pleasure to use)
Add some unexpected features (I don’t need to install any drivers to make printers/flash drives/cameras work – I just plug them in and they’re ready to use)
Add lots of free stuff (in my Mac’s case I get all the standard computer stuff as well as great, integrated applications: mail, address book, calendar)
Update your website often (Apple updates their main site with a new front page every 2 weeks – and are constantly adding to the other pages)
Integrate your product with an online component (obviously this doesn’t apply to a product like breakfast cereal (or does it…?!) but in my iBook’s case there is so much to do on the Apple website that although I’ve spent many hours there I feel I’ve only scratched the surface. I’m not saying you need to have a website as big as Apple’s but at least have something there which adds value to your product. And PLEASE design it well!)
Give space for people to build communities on top of your product (I’m part of many Apple communities – free software, news, discussions – there’s a whole culture grown up around this funny computer. It seems to be an in-joke to place Macs in TV programmes and in unexpected places – like Forest Gump buying stock in Apple…)
Ask your customers what they want – and listen (Apple does this really well – I’m constantly amazed by their software updates – the kind of thing I look at and say, “Hey, what a great idea – I should have thought of that!”).
Innovate. Apple doesn’t wait for customers to get back to them on where they should go next (although they ask), they have the best and brightest and most creative who are driving them forward. Hire those Bright Young Things!
I’m not sure if my list of Mac “do’s” are transferable principles for any other company, but maybe they’ll spark off some ideas as to how you can build die-hard loyalty amongst your customers.
[Interestingly, the Apple infrastructure in SA is far below where it should be. The “official” supplier in SA – Core – doesn’t keep much stock, so often ordering Macs and accessories can take a while. There’s no official Apple store in SA either and local prices are far higher than overseas due to greedy markup (I bought a 60GB iPod iPhoto in Singapore for R2,800 when the same thing costs R4,000 in SA).
Plus, to further confuse things the “official” Apple South Africa website http://www.zastore.co.za is not only not directly linked to or integrated with the Apple South Africa website, but has a disclaimer on it stating it’s not the official Apple South Africa site even while their Google advertisment claims they are.
Core also has a deal with Apple which says they won’t service Mac laptops bought in other countries – even though these Macs have worldwide warranty.
I make this point simply to point out that I still love Apple and my Mac in spite of bad local infrastructure.]

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