Undoubtedly, Apple’s marketing efforts have given it a huge – and dedicated – following. Fans are so loyal to the iPhone and iPad maker that they’ve gone to extreme lengths: from lining up days before the release of the iPhone 6s to them staunchly defending without argument.
There have always been people who have suggested the cult-like behavior of Apple fans – and now the debate has resurfaced.
While can argue that Apple doesn’t exactly raise followers that are going to be brainwashed to strange and sinister things, there are some psychological parallels happening. According to a report four years ago, Apple triggers a religions reaction in its fans brains – and yes, this was done with an MRI.
Though there are no tributes to the late Steve Jobs and Apple “preachers”, a cultural historian and NYU Professor Erica Robles-Anderson said that “it’s obviously a cult“.
Does her argument hold water or are her claims unfounded? Ultimate Mac weighs in to answer this question: is Apple a cult?
Now an empire, once an underdog
Being an extra-dedicated fan dates back to much longer ago than Apple’s more recent resurgence – in fact, I would date it all the way back to 1984, with the emergence of Mac User Groups. These groups actually still exist, though their numbers are dwindling. During the era of the floppy disks and the non-existence of quick troubleshooting options, these groups helped out ordinary users and helped the Apple fan base grow.
When Apple experienced its own version of the Dark Ages with Steve Jobs’ departure in the late 80s to late 90s, these groups stuck with Apple it all despite the dominance of computers running Microsoft Windows. Apple was once the embattled and nearly bankrupt underdog – though it has changed with its resurgence starting from the iPod, MacBook, and finally the iPhone.
So I would argue that the Mac User Groups set a psychological precedence for such loyal behavior – not exactly cult-ish, but loyal to a fault. It’s not just with Apple – just look at Nintendo fans. It really takes more of a cult of personality to lead, and both Apple and Nintendo had leaders that not only were able to steer the ship, but do it with a personality difficult for competitors to emulate. And Apple had it’s underdog mantra to ride on for a long time.
Its mantra of being the underdog is lost, but regardless of what its competition offers, it has a knack of making its customers stay and staunchly support it. If these Mac user groups stayed with Mac computers despite adversity, then today’s users definitely can and will. If you compare Apple products on paper and on market value, they lag behind compared to its main rival Samsung and other upstarts such as HTC and even Nokia.
It has made people band together and unite under one banner depicting a partially bitten Apple.
Though most of its fans nowadays are unaware of what it went through in the past few decades, Apple took a steep climb to the top and made it to the summit through its revolutionary products and marketing capabilities.
Apple’s marketing strategy
Steve Jobs was a great innovator, revered by many and was responsible for bring Apple to the top. He was a modern-day Edison: he took ideas from other competitors in the market, merged them into something awesome, improved them, and made it his own.
His keynotes and the way he unveiled products is enough to make any motivational speaker go green with envy: there’s something in his presentations that make you want to go ahead and buy what’s up for sale despite the many times kind of lost his temper on stage.
Anyway, Apple’s marketing strategy is arguably the best in the business. It’s highlighted by:
- Ignoring their critics. You rarely hear Apple make press releases about what their critics say. Apple has its fair share of detractors, but they have been doing the right thing by simply doing business.
- Making everything understandable. If you browse through Apple’s catalog of products, they make every product description as easy to understand as possible and at the same time, sound more attractive. This is also evident in their software: the iOS and OS X operating systems are easy to learn and are intuitive.
- Giving unique products. There are dozens of smart phones running the Android OS, but only one type runs the iOS. There are numerous laptops out there, but none as thin as the MacBook Air. There are numerous personal computers with freakishly large screens, but none as bigger as the iMac.
The company’s masterful way of communicating makes heads turn and can entice anyone – these are the reasons why it has gained a huge and dedicated following made up of supporters, which are known to many as fanboys and fangirls.
Where Apple goes, its fans follow
Whenever Apple ventures into a new market, its fans follow it. For example, when Apple entered the music streaming market through Apple Music, tons of faithful Spotify users jumped ship. When Apple TV was released, its fans bought it. Every time an iPhone model hits the market, it burned holes on almost everybody’s pockets.
It’s crazy and though people see it as cult-like behavior, this was accomplished by Apple simply by establishing a bridge of trust to its customers. Sure, the company makes its products obsolete after four to five years (case at hand, the iPhone 4 which can no longer be updated to iOS 9), but it’s commitment to quality is unwavering. It ensures the best possible products are released to its users and it constantly updates its software.
Even if its followers behave like members of a cult, it was done through trust and quality service.
So, is Apple a cult?
Of course not and even though professor Erica Robles-Anderson has more authority than us to speak about the matter, we’re Apple fans too and we think its absurd. Sure, there are crazy Apple fanboys out there, but doesn’t every fan base have its own blind followers?
If we consider it a cult, then we can say the same to sports fans who religiously follow their teams, win or lose. Soccer fans in Europe cheer for their team through singing chants and choreographed movements – similar to what happens in churches worldwide. And yet, sports fan groups are not considered a cult.
We can safely say there is no way we’ll see Apple fans brandish a portrait of Steve Jobs with flowers while reciting some sort of creed. No, it’s not a cult but mere fanaticism, trust and admiration to one of the world’s biggest innovators. Despite my admiration for Apple, I also would not jump off a cliff for Steve Jobs’ ghost or kill any non iPhone owners to create an Apple-pure world. No, I’m comfortable with being a fan and I think most are too.