D'Arcy from Winnipeg
Solution Architecture, Business & Entrepreneurship, Microsoft, and Adoption

Monday Morning Thoughts – Apple Has Fans, Not Sheep

Monday, September 22, 2014 7:31 AM

So the iPhone 6 was released last week and with that comes the numerous comments about sheep. Here’s a sampling from Twitter:

“I saw a bunch of people in line outside an Apple Store for the iPhone 6 and I fell asleep. Turns out counting sheep really does work.”

“How do you milk a sheep? Release an iPhone”

“Trolling iPhone 6 users at work. Such sheep. They don’t get it.”

“You know what I'm not doing today? Buying an iPhone 6. Maybe I should have written this in "baaa" so all you sheep could read it.”

I used to think along the same terms, but now I have a different point of view. Actually, its not just that – its an appreciation for what Apple has been able to do over the years: build a rabidly-loyal fan base.

Apple took technology and made it cool for the everyday-person. In Seth Godin terms, they created a tribe around their brand. Consider this passage from Godin’s book “Tribes”:

The secret of leadership is simple: Do what you believe in. Paint a picture of the future. Go there. People will follow.

Once you choose to lead you’ll be under huge pressure to reconsider, to compromise, to dumb it down, or to give up. Of course you will. That’s the world’s job: to get you to be quiet and follow. The status quo is the status quo for a reason. But once you choose to lead, you’ll also discover that it’s not so difficult. That the options available to you seem really clear, and that yes, in fact, you can get from here to there. Go.

While many companies were trying to build a customer base, Apple was building a fan base. The difference is that a fan base has some element of loyalty tied to it; of connectedness, of ownership. It makes no logical sense but neither do fans of major sports teams – people will follow, cheer, buy merchandise, plan vacations/trips , and decorate houses/cars/etc. around sports teams that they have no other affiliation with besides residing in the same city or state/province (and that isn’t even the base criteria to be a fan – you could live on the other side of the planet and still cheer for a team). And even when things are bad, fans still stick behind their team.

Apple has created that for themselves. The people lining up for the new iPhone 6 are not sheep, they are fans. They have bought in to the idea of what being part of the Apple Tribe is about and will support their “team” to the bitter end. Those that make sheep comments do so out of jealousy and/or misunderstanding of what they’re witnessing – a continued case study in how to create a loyal fan base that propels a business to places unfathomable.


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