As much as it saddens me to admit this, I must say it. I’m not the fanboy I thought I was. Gary Allen has completely shown me up. His devotion for Apple compels him to attend Apple store openings globally. What is this fascination and how does it translate to Apple marketing?
Going through my RSS feeds, I came across Allen’s photos of the recently opened West 14th St. Apple Store in Manhattan. And it immediately hits me. This is why Allen goes to every opening: a beautiful descending glass spiral staircase, illuminated by a circle of lights below; glass walkways and a complete three story warehouse retrofitted with Apple simplicity in gray paneling, and beach wood accents. This is how I imagine my house to look, and it makes me want to fly to New York simply to enjoy the aesthetic presence of the store. It’s an architectural marvel, and maybe that’s just enough incentive to garner foot traffic for Apple.
Why it works
Nothing beats word of mouth marketing, and by creating a completely open environment for customers to enter and be free to play, talk or hang out is a beautiful thing. It’s like the Starbucks of the IT industry. You compare the Apple store to the Dell stands you see in malls and you realize the immediate polarization in business models as well as brand. Apple fosters community-building relationships, not only between customers and machines, but between customers and other customers. Walking into an Apple store, I feel completely open to talk to the stranger standing next to me playing with the same device. After all, we tend to share one huge interest: our devotion for Apple. It’s always interesting to see a new customer’s interaction as well, the immediate joy they gain from playing with an iPhone or Apple TV. It’s great to see the consumer-on-consumer action, where a knowledgeable customer is more than willing to share their interest and facts with others. Their enthusiasm and passion is conveyed, and the word of mouth has succeeded. Apple now has a new customer.
In that regard, Apple Stores are not about the sale. They are geared toward the special interest groups, giving rise to the Genius Bar and the kids section. These focus topics for discussion with professionals and other users. I remember when the iPhone was released. I picked up an iPhone and realized to my surprise the phone was completely activated. As other people caught on, you could see them calling friends and family right from the store. The staff was friendly, inviting and continued to cheer customers on their purchases. It struck me then that if ever I was in need of free access to the Internet, I could swing by a local Apple Store and get work done.
The Next Social
Apple continues to have a strong community presence, but imagine that spreading to local Apple Retail Stores. Apple has already taken this into consideration, what with their many workshops and one-on-one help services. Larger stores have gone so far as to have dedicated presentation rooms. Imagine being able to reserve it for meetings and more. You wouldn’t need to bring anything, the store’s already chock full of supplies. Throw in wifi, and you’re set.
So the next time you have a few hours to kill, be sure to grab a tea from the Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf, and hang out at an Apple Store for awhile. Who knows, you might make a new friend.
P.S. I would love to see Frank Gehry get his hands on an Apple Store. That is something I would definitely make a trip for.