Apple’s launch of the latest version of its operating system – iOS6 – has been marked by a series of technical problems. And to add insult to injury, its mapping application is so riddled with problems that is has become the target of jokes. Even a London Underground worker seems to be having fun at the expense of Apple’s mapping software:
I thought this picture was hilarious and shared it on Twitter and Facebook (as did many others – apparently, the picture even made it to Huffington Post). In reply, @JamesLRamsay commented:
“They really are getting a ribbing – we once loved them like our own – now we mock them #poorApple”
Apple is famous for the cult-like following that it inspires among its fans. It is similar to that observed among sports fanatics, political party zealots or religious devotees. Indeed, in an experiment conducted by British neuroscientists, it was found that showing Apple fans images of Apple products produced the same effect of showing religious imagery to people of faith. More information is available here.
This paper describes how fanatical consumers (not just Apple’s) have a deep, emotional attachment to a brand. They go to great personal and financial lengths to support the brand, remaining loyal and engaging in positive word of mouth, even when they are unsatisfied with a particular transaction. Just like when you are deeply in love with someone – you may disapprove of an action they do, but you go on loving that person. Definitely, this sort of customer loyalty is something to cherish.
The problem is, of course, that not all buyers have such high levels of emotional involvement with the brand. Many have a degree of emotional loyalty, but need displays of quality or attributes over and above a competing offer to keep buying. And, then, there is the dejected fan.
The greatest fans can turn into detractors, when they feel cheated by the brand. Love turns into hate. What’s more, Gregoire, Trip and Legoux found that when fans complain online – for instance, on consumer forums – they are very resistant to recovery efforts. The authors compare this behaviour to announcing a divorce publicly: the parties are extremely unlikely to go back on their decision, even if revenge intentions decrease over time. [A huge incentive for companies to invest in direct complaint channels!]
What is your prognostic? Is this a lover’s disagreement or are Apple fans heading for divorce?