I recently had several unpleasant online encounters with a recent Apple convert. You probably know the type: if you complain about any aspect of your current non-Apple phone or computer, they will loudly and glibly declare “Get an iGadget!” But when you complain about an Apple problem or corporate behaviour, they will be immediately dismissive with “It’s your fault" "You are not holding it right” “Other companies do even worse things…” and so on.
Not surprisingly, a lot if online discussions about Apple are predicated with "please don't flame me" or "no fanboi pls."
It is religious. Such exchanges are no different to those with any religious fanatic.
If you have a problem, switch to their god and it will all be fixed. And if you don’t agree, you are close-minded or mentally defective. On the other hand, don’t you dare voice any dissent or contrary opinions. You will be dismissed and flamed for blasphemy, because their god is perfect.
I used to think having a fanatical following like Apple’s is the ultimate aim for every brand. Now I am less sure.
To be a fanatic means you need to suspend critical thinking. Everything about brand X is perfect. Everything they say is the truth. It doesn’t matter whether the product or service is appropriate. And there is little consideration for any greater implications or risk factors beyond simply buying the brand.
A fanatic will always be the ultimate yes-person. This means the brand misses out on valuable honest feedback or constructive criticisms. Their ego gets a great boost of course as every one loves them and they can do no wrong. I can definitely see the attraction in that.
Fanaticism also fuels a divisive them-vs-us situation. On the surface this can sound attractive (“If you don’t have an iPhone…”) but ultimately you are only whipping up the converted. Too much exclusivity can lead to a backlash against perceived elitism, smugness and superiority. And too many crazed fans out to “convert” others and flame out “blasphemy” makes the brand much less attractive to those who are not prone to “just believing.”
Building up loyalty and dedication to a brand is of course a worthwhile exercise. I have brands I am loyal to, but never to the point of blind, unquestioning belief. If a brand no longer serves me, or the brand’s attitude fails me, I will switch.
When you buy into a brand, you are also buying into the community of users, and fans. The problem I have with a community of fanatics is that when things go wrong, when you question the dogma, you are out on your own. The community will turn against you. Having experienced this first hand, it is an atrocious experience. I don't know about you, but I'd much rather spend time with people who openly acknowledge the faults of their favourite brand, and work with each other to overcome them.
From the brand’s perspective, having a legion of fans can breed contempt and arrogance. The marketing
myths BS becomes the unquestioned truth inside and outside of the business. If you think you know best, and your fan base says you know best, there is a real risk of losing touch with the real purpose and users of you work.
As a brand, do you want loyal users who genuinely care about what you do and how you do it? Do you want to see the real challenges and improvement opportunities before you? Which do you value more – your ego or the quality of your output?