At the present juncture, Angela Ahrendts
is the CEO of Burberry. And Burberry, of course, is a deluxe fashion house famous for its distinctive plaid pattern, and is a sought-after luxury brand in Europe, China, and Russia. Ms. Ahrendts knows how to package, market and sell high-end products. When she took the reins at Burberry, the company was adrift on an ocean of dwindling profits and in danger of losing its brand identity. Ahrendts successfully hoisted Burberry's collective sails, changed direction and effectively re-invented the brand.
This speaks volumes about Apple's recruitment of her as Apple's next High Priestess of retail and online stores. She begins her ministry in the spring of 2014. And it will be a ministry in the spiritual sense of the word. For Apple already perceives itself as much more than a mere vendor of electronics. When Apple gazes into the mirror, the image reflected is that of a swish fashion brand, a brand that visualizes becoming a religion. Which brings up a great big, pertinent question: what does it take to elevate a brand from deluxe fashion icon to a rapport verging on an ecstatic/religious experience?
Well, according to Martin Lindstrom, who is a branding guru at Brand Sense Agency, the first thing any brand with religious aspirations absolutely, positively must do is abide by the "Ten Rules of sensory branding," which include: a sense of belonging, a clear vision, enemies, evangelism, grandeur, storytelling, sensory appeal, rituals, symbols, and mystery.
Let's take a brief look at each of the ten rules.
A sense of belonging refers to community, a community based on common values. The brand's or in this case, the religion's adherents are more important than the brand itself, especially when it comes to communication. And as you can imagine, only Jesus-like companies are able to relegate the brand to a secondary role.
Clear vision requires the brand to re-invent itself into more than a brand. It must mutate into a hero with a sense of purpose. In other words, the brand assumes a philosophy, along with an identity that adherents are drawn to emotionally. Often, clear vision is represented in a person, a charismatic personality that stands apart from the lumpenproletariat.
The enemy, in Apple's religion, is Android (Google). There is a war between Apple and Android. Android is the visible enemy that provides adherents with the opportunity to fly their colors and identify with one side or the other. Without an enemy, there is no tension, no rivalry to create enthusiasm and commitment. The presence of the enemy fans the flames of passion, which in turn energizes those committed to the cause. Corporate enemies are a good thing.
What is evangelism? It is simply one adherent witnessing (in a religious, Biblical sense) to the unconverted. Evangelism encompasses everything from simple word-of-mouth testimony to glitzy television advertisements, and history; history adds authenticity to the brand.
The definition of grandeur is the existence of factors that engender feelings of awe. The brand necessarily conveys an elegant simplicity that is overwhelming. Grandeur is hard to precisely define and even harder to attain.
Storytelling is the foundation of any brand and any religion. Mankind in general is captivated by stories, which explains movies, books, and videos. The story engages the imagination and provides a feeling of 'perfect-worldliness.'
Titillating all five senses is the goal of sensory appeal, although so far no brand has managed to pull off this difficult magical trick ' that of engaging all five senses simultaneously. To achieve religious status, Apple's products will have to literally feel exquisite, have a distinctive smell and sound, and accompany the aforementioned qualities with that of 'eye candy.'
Brands need rituals. Slipknot wears masks reminiscent of Hannibal Lector. Elton John used to change costumes multiple times during his concerts. And each costume was more extravagant that the previous one. These are rituals. The most important factor in any ritual is this: it must be shared by others.
Symbols pervade life, from logos to gangs to hairstyles and clothing. Without a symbol that is sui generis and pervasive, no brand can attain apotheosis.
The final rule, the tenth rule, revolves around the esoteric idea known as mystery. And mystery is a mystery, a mystique that envelopes and clings to an object, a thing, a place, a question, an idea. Essentially, there's nothing really mysterious about Android or Apple. Nevertheless, they need to cultivate it in order to elevate their respective brands.
Indubitably, Apple perceives itself as a singular brand. For Apple designs, manufactures, packages, and markets its products as deluxe. Its products carry premium prices, its corporate identity is snobbishly elitist, for which the company makes no excuses. Recently, Apple has begun segmenting its products, adding a choice of colors to its iPhones (which might turn out to be a mistake or sheer genius, only time will tell). Thus, it needs someone like Ms. Ahrendts to help it chart a course through the deep waters of expanding its market while at the same time maintaining its luxury status. This is tricky, for brand diminishment is a whirlpool that no brand can afford to fall into. Apple, which is now a fashion brand, cannot afford to slide back down to the status of an electronics company.
That would be the kiss of death.
Apple and their new High Priestess have the unenviable task of not only maintaining but escalating their brand as a fashion statement. And if they want to raise it to religious heights, they need to remember that even Paradise had its serpent. The apple can be forbidden fruit or make one "like a god."