We’ve all thought it. Mac is a cult as much as it is a brand, right?
When my last Macbook was fried beyond any hope of resurrection, I was outwardly disgruntled at the thought of what a new laptop was going to do to my budget, but inwardly I was giddy at the prospect of a new Mac product.
The store, the box, the product itself inspire something akin to reverence in me. When I got my new Mac home, and opened the box, I was on the phone with my local Mac store owner.
“Oh my God, they get everything right don’t they? It’s like opening a jewelry box from Tiffany’s”, I gushed.
“I know”, he said, “orgasmic, right?”
I half expected to hear the sweet voices of a choir rising up out of the box as I lifted the immaculate aluminum machine from the simple, and austere black interior of the box.
BRAND AS RELIGIOUS EXPERIENCE
According to Martin Lindstrom’s research for his book Buyology, I’m not alone. I was having a religious experience. With a hunk of metal and circuitry.
In fact, to our brains, the Apple brand is nearly identical to a religious figure or icon. In a study Lindstrom conducted with neuroscientist, Dr. Calvert, involving 65 subjects, and a series of images, there was practically no discernible difference in brain activity between strong brands, such as Apple, and religious images. Weaker brands, in contrast, showed activity in entirely different regions of the brain, while the strong brands, the “cult” brands, produced increased activity in areas of the brain associated with memory, decision-making, emotion, and religious experience.
What is it about Apple, or other strong iconic brands such as Harley Davidson, Coca-Cola, or Ferrari, that triggers a religious experience?
Lindstrom determined 10 common pillars that all major religions share. No one has confirmed that the below experiences are what correlates to a “religious” brain response, but what the heck, let’s see how Apple squares up:
1. Sense of Belonging – In the video documentary, Macheads, longtime Mac fanatics talk about their early adoption of Mac as a social movement. They talk about belonging, and needing to band together to share information.
2. A Clear Vision – Steve Job’s original vision for Apple: “Man is the creator of change in this world, as such he should not be above systems and structures, and not subordinate to them.”
3. Power over Enemies – Apple’s ads pitted the Apple user against the PC user, and Microsoft has been scrambling to win back power ever since.
4. Sensory Appeal – Apple transformed the personal computer, and subsequent products, from ugly utilitarian products, to sleek-lined, elegant, and aesthetically appealing, functioning works of art. The stores are clean and light, with high ceilings. User interfaces are attractive and user-friendly. Even the packaging smacks of elegance and luxury.
5. Storytelling – Watching Steve Jobs unveil a new product is very much like watching a master storyteller.
6. Grandeur – From Apple stores to conventions, Apple is all about grandeur.
7. Evangelism – Go ahead. I dare you. Just ask a Mac user about their new Iphone, or their new Macbook, and watch evangelism at its finest.
8. Symbols – From the logo, to desktop icons, Apple has nailed symbols.
9. Mystery – Probably one of Apple’s finest marketing techniques is the sense of mystery created around their new products. By the time a new Apple product actually hits the market, the whole world has already guessed, and speculated, and spread rumors about the product. Mind you, Apple never confirms, or denies, the rumors. I always imagine Steve Jobs (His Holiness?) sitting back and chuckling as he watches the world market his products for him, before they are ever even announced.
10. Rituals – Product releases and conventions bring Mac followers out in droves to be part of the rituals of Apple.
GIVING YOUR BRAND A RELIGIOUS UPGRADE
So how can businesses elevate their brand to religious status, how can they spark the right neuronal pattern in their customers’ brains? That’s what we’ll be talking about at the next #nmchat on Twitter this Thursday at 6PM Eastern time (*update 3/3/11: #nmchat no longer runs on Thursdays). If you would like to join in, follow me on Twitter and give me a shout out for more information.
For now, I leave you with this interview between Martin Lindstrom, author of Buyology, and Kobi Shely, the director of MacHEADS.
March 3, 2011 UPDATE: While Buyology was a fun read a year ago, and one of the first on the scene about neuromarketing, I don’t recommend it. I keep meaning to get a reading list together, but if you’re looking for some better books start with How We Decide or The Buying Brain: Secrets for Selling to the Subconscious Mind or About Face: The Secrets of Emotionally Effective Advertising (all amazon affiliate links which, of course, help support the research on this blog 🙂 ) instead.