Reputation is nowhere near the top of the priority list for a lot of organisations. But look at someone who's doing it well, and the benefits are clear.

 
 

Do you have brand apostles or brand hostages?

Apple’s iPhone 5 launch, hot on the heels of Nokia-Microsoft’s new Lumia 920 handset, presents us with that bizarre sight of apparently sane people applauding a piece of technology. And already we’re hearing the stories about eager consumers queuing for hours outside high street stores to make sure they are among the first to get their hands on the latest technology leap.

The level of brand engagement and customer loyalty that Apple has achieved is stunning – and many academics and journalists have theorised about how the company has done it. 

The Apostle Model of customer satisfaction and loyalty, developed in 1996 by Jones and Sasser, puts customers in one of four categories, depending on their level of satisfaction and loyalty to an organisation or brand:

1. Apostle: High loyalty; high satisfaction: ‘staying and supportive’.

2. Mercenary: Low to medium loyalty; high satisfaction: ‘coming and going’; low commitment.

3. Defector: Low to medium loyalty; low to medium satisfaction: ‘leaving or having left and unhappy’.

4. Hostage: High loyalty; low to medium satisfaction: ‘unable to switch’; trapped.

Love it or hate it, Apple undoubtedly has its fair share of 'brand apostles' and works tirelessly to protect its reputation.

Reputation is nowhere near the top of the priority list for a lot of organisations, especially at a time when financial stability matters to such an extent that cost-management, cashflow, efficiency and sales are the only focus.

Could Apple have gained the reputation it has today by thinking in those terms?

Our view is a definite no. Of course we would say that, but just look at the investment Apple puts into protecting its IP, the way it designs products, creates demand, presents products to the market and consistently reinforces its brand. That’s supported with continuous marketing communications activity across broad-ranging channels.

In three decades the company has established and maintained one of the most successful brands ever. We could all learn a thing or two from that.

So look at your customers. Are they apostles or hostages? What could you do to engage them more effectively with your brand?

Brand engagement may sound like the kind of term bandied about by “marketing people”, but is it really the luxury many perceive it to be?

Not when you see those queues for the iPhone 5…
    
 
The Partners Group

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