Apple and the Power of Passion

I spent the wee hours of my Saturday morning in line for the grand opening of a new Apple Store. If you've never been to one, it's an event.

The line starts early and by the time the store is almost ready to open, it snakes its way around the mall or down the street. Suddenly, the noise starts to build and build, and then Apple Store employees come racing around the corner or down the stairs, clapping and cheering and screaming. They run down the line, pumping fists and slapping hands, and it gets louder and louder. They form up in front of the store, bright colored shirts against wood, glass, and steel. Managers and specialists and concierges and geniuses all, they cheer for the crowd, and they scream for the crowd to bring that noise right back at them. Then they race away, the lights go out, the employees re-appear inside the store, and the doors open.

When line is released and it's the crowd's turn to run, into the store, grabbing one of the thousand free, location branded t-shirts they give away, and through the gauntlet of Apple Store employees who cheer and slap hands again, greeting every new customer.

So what's the point? It's an experience -- that's the point. The Apple Store is meant to be an experience. Buying an iPhone -- for which they now have new, dedicated activation centers in the store -- is meant to be an experience. Opening the iPhone box likewise, turning it on, using it. Macs have welcome videos that play the first time you turn them on. Safari 4 has the same. It's a wonder iPhones don't as well (they do have fairly slick screen-savers that play while on display at the store).

It's all about the customer -- and the customer becoming a user -- experience. Apple pours a lot of passion into crafting that experience (too much, sometimes, when the control of that experience alienates rather than empowers the user -- but that's often the price of unchecked passion).

They won't do video on an iPhone 3G because the framerate is below their 30-FPS standards. They won't put a camera in the iPod touch because VGA just isn't good enough quality for a flagship device. Steve Jobs has said he and Apple are just as proud of the products they didn't ship as the ones they did. He also said Apple makes the products they themselves want to own. And that's the key. That's the passion, and the focus on experience.

We just know Jony Ive prototyped the heck out of the iPhone hardware and packaging designs, and Scott Forstall and the software team, if not counting clicks, definitely counted on every tap, swipe, shake, and pinch to bring a smile to a new user's face.

TechCrunch's MG Siegler nailed it when he spoke of Apple's enthusiasm. It's easy to see everywhere from Jobs' keynote product introductions to Apple Store employees in the 'burbs.

It's not just Apple's great build quality and trend-setting user interface other companies are competing with -- it's Apple's culture which is as passionate as it is (often maddeningly) secretive. That's the culture that gets customers lining up for new store openings and new product releases, and makes the stores and products that they're lining up for. And it's not easy to maintain in large companies, which are often fragmented fiefdoms competing as much, or more, with themselves as they are with others.

How long Apple will be able to maintain that passion is anyone's guess, and they certainly make their share of mistakes along the way (insert G4 Cube joke here), but for now, especially for iPhone lovers, they're still firing on all cylinders.

(For anyone particularly interested in the the Apple Store opening I went to today -- Fairview Pointe-Claire, just outside Montreal -- I placed a few pictures up on Twitter).

Have something to say about this story? Leave a comment! Need help with something else? Ask in our forums!

Rene Ritchie

EiC of iMore, EP of Mobile Nations, Apple analyst, co-host of Debug, Iterate, Vector, Review, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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Reader comments

Apple and the Power of Passion


maybe its just because im in the uk, but ive never seen so much energy and excitment over a store opening, just doesnt happen over here, unless theres some washed up celeb openining it. If there was a huge new product launch maybe i could understand it. Maybe im a cynic but just smacks to me of "Yeeeeeah! they've opened another store they can rip us off in" lol :)

appleturds haha
like some kind of cult gathering.. scary
i use apple too, but i dont get that excited about it sheesh

Is this the same blog that tried to paint Microsoft Windows 7 launch parties as pathetic?
Gathering all the coolaid sipping fanboys and shills in one place doesn't make them seem any smarter or any less of fanboy. It just makes them seem more pathetic in their willingness to serve theif god.

Pretty lame story. Why would the camera in the touch only be VGA? I've got a 3gs but the original and 3g were pants, hence why I waited for the 3gs...
A lot of the point that you make come accross as rampant famboyism, frankly. Which is a shame, because the iPhone is a fantastic piece of kit and stands up on it's own without all the hyperbole

@ icebike (and others like you)
I love how you enlightened non-Kool Aid™ drinkers (LMAO) always frequent places like this to shit on the Apple folks - be us fanboys or just happy customers.
Why don't you take your fucking Zune and have a social with other MS losers?
I know why.
Because even in the 90% world of Gates-sucking cheap tech-losers like you, you can't find another loser with a Zune to "socialize" with.
I can't WAIT to see how fsck-ing 'tarded the MS stores will be.
Guru bars - original - will be a higher turnover rate than Mickey-D's.
Customers will leave pissed (assuming anyone goes there)
And Apple will laugh at another lame attempt to copy them as the MS stock continues to be worth next to nothing.

Wow, just imagine how much worse it would be if the Google nerds and fanboys ever get a Google store. This will look like child's play.

Let's see how many people clap when a Microsoft store opens or did anyone notice when Dell opened their stores?

Honestly, don't these people have anything constructive to do with their time?
Really? Forming crowds over something such as this?

honestly, never been to an Apple store opening, but I'd definitely like to sometime. If you think these people are crazy for grand openings, check this out: I work here and our grand openings always involve fire fighters checking capacity limits, traffic control and thousands of customers, and of course the WEGMANS cheer!

I work in the apple store.. It's fun OH WE WANT YOUR MONEY GIVE IT TO US MUAHAHA... New apple t.v's 2011

Dear God!! I'm writing this on my iPhone which I love but that is so fake and bordering on pathetic.
The main thing that is so fake about the article is the big story in the news lately about apple staff striking over their conditions..followed up in the news by other apple staff saying how badly they are treated!!
No company is a family..families don't clock in or get fired if they're not sitting around the kitchen table at 9am three mornings in a row. To paint Apple as some kind of Wonderland is just so...fake.
Love the iPhone though.

Anyone who uses the term fanboi/fanboy (or hater) immediately disqualifies themselves from the conversation.
Whether the event itself is crafted -- and I clearly think it is, strategically -- that's the point of the article. They put a lot of thought into what they do, planning, and it shows, and it clearly works for them.
They're choreographed to be sure, just like any show, but that shows a level of commitment to the concept.
Also, I don't know what it's like elsewhere (and that Apple Store walkout was called off -- never happened), but these staffers looked really happy, hugging each other and getting really into it. I go to Best Buy and Future Shop a lot and the different in service level and enthusiasm is palpable.
That translates into a better customer experience -- again the point of the article -- which of course is better for customers.
love. up.

If you ever wanted to further stereotype the Apple fans as being brainless sheep, this video just summed it up very nicely. A bunch of people woke up to go clap hands and sing around a digital campfire just because a store opened up and get some new t-shirts. That's.... pretty sad

It is interesting that there is this much criticism over what was obviously one company's attempt to "reach" their customers. Apple, regardless of all their limitations, has made attempts to expand their relationship with the public. Are we saying this is a bad thing? And why?
Customer Service is a dying art in a time that requires it more than ever in history.
And, think what you will; if there are lines of people waiting outside for the opening of a new store, then this comapny strategy is working, without question. Apple has identified with what those people are looking for, at least...and it didn't take Kool-Aid.
(I must admit to being childishly excited over what seems like silly things to others in my past, so I am not so ready to judge these customers.)

I want to add:
Every person that poo-poos MS and other companies the second that someone shares a criticism about Apple only strengthens the "Fanboi/fanboy" stereotypes that are thrown about here. Good grief...the cursing and hating is not a way to make a good argument.


Anyone who uses the term fanboi/fanboy (or hater) immediately disqualifies themselves from the conversation.

So you post an article and video which succinctly describes a phenomena and a level of "passion", then turn around and BAN the term that has universally come to describe this same passion?
How does that work?
I have a friend who works in the Alderwood Mall Apple store, (yes, THAT store), and she claims the internal Apple name for those who camp out prior to openings or product releases is "Fanboys". She move to Lynnwood from the Bay area, and insists the term is universal inside Apple.

Here is a criticism of Apple:
It's sad that a company would include in their culture the common use of stereotyping, especially as it applies to their most loyal of customers.
Maybe (and I don't pretend to speak for Rene)he is growing tired of the labels being applied to all those that have a particular "passion" for Apple and Apple products. Using the term, "Fanboi" indicates a huge bias and taints the opinion that follows, IMHO.

And I thought the midnight launches of Halo were exciting, people show up in Master Chief outfits and are pumped. Wonder if Steve Balmer has seen the openings of one of these stores. Can't wait to see what he does at the first Microsoft store, lol.

I'm not banning anything -- anyone can use that term any time they like. I'm pointing out it disqualifies the conversation. That's it's intended purpose. (We can get into a longer discussion of why I dislike the term fan -- fanatic -- though that too derails this particular conversation).
(As to Apple using it, yeah, for sure, though that's likely more derisive of their own customer base and probably none too wise. Credit card companies calling those who pay their bills on time "deadbeats" for not generating interest income -- that's funnier).

@Rene / @SpiceRak2:
I'm not at all sure I understand the meaning of the phrase "disqualifies the conversation". Perhaps that is some colloquial terminology.
The word "Fanboy" may telegraph an opinion, and may be seen by some as dismissive, which is what I read into SpiceRak2's post. But it is not necessarily derisive. (OK, Koolaid sipping is derisive. ;-)
But in some sense it is MEANT to be dismissive, but not necessarily derisive.
Dismissive, because many have learned that a conversation is largely impossible once you see the level of passion you addressed in your post. Any point of disagreement will fall on deaf ears, and the words troll and hater can't be far behind.
The video seemed quite convincing that Apple employees were the ones enticing the adulation. To me, that's every bit as trite and self serving as the Microsoft Launch party idea. Yet on this site, one is clearly billed as Lame (and perhaps it was), while the other is reported as smart marketing.
You started out reporting a somewhat daft and obviously staged event from the view point of an un-involved reporter.
But by article's end, you were the fawning fan again, touting "Build quality" and personifying individual apple employees as tireless perfectionists.
In your attempt to explain it, you got sucked into it. You ended up justifying it. You drank the Koolaid.
Its ok. We expect a site about the iPhone to be enthusiastic about it, and the company that makes it. We all have iPhones already. We like them. We use them hourly.
But a significant number of the posts above saw the event exactly the same as a Windows 7 Launch party. Lame.
So the post failed in some ways. And maybe that is good.

Use of the term "fanboy" aside, it is curious in past entries you have derided Microsoft's staging and choreographing of events, yet you laud Apple's same actions as "generating passion.". Apple executes the artifice with more skill and aplomb, no doubt, but that does not make the choregraphy any more real.

"Use of the term “fanboy” aside, it is curious in past entries you have derided Microsoft’s staging and choreographing of events, yet you laud Apple’s same actions as “generating passion.”. Apple executes the artifice with more skill and aplomb, no doubt, but that does not make the choregraphy any more real."
The difference is that, more often than not, there is genuine passion, excitement and anticipation surrounding Apple products and events; you cannot say the same with much of Microsoft's output, apart from Halo. Hence Microsoft's attempts to look cool, hip and connected fall wide of the mark. Welcome to the social.

That type of thing is EXACTLY what Rene is saying, it's about an experience. Making the customers day - and you can tell from the article, Rene left excited/happy and feeling like he'd wittnessed something special.

Everyone in this video acted embarassingly nerdy. Also, Apple should 'reach' their customers by fixing the iPhone 3.1 coma problem.

I can see this from both sides:
Business-wise, it's a novel idea and creates an atmosphere of verve and excitement which works with consumers or else people wouldn't be lined up at the opening.
On the other hand, as a consumer, I have to say it is pretty lame! ;)

@ icebike
"Dismissive, because many have learned that a conversation is largely impossible once you see the level of passion you addressed in your post. Any point of disagreement will fall on deaf ears, and the words troll and hater can’t be far behind."
I see what you are saying. If the discussion starts out with perceived biases, it can only breakdown from there.
It's just as pointless to roll out with the "troll" words as it is "fanboi." (The point being that, at the very least, you create an uphill battle when trying to convey your perspective if you alienate your listener.)
But my real question is, "What is the acceptable alternative to Apple's approach to a new store launch?" There are worse ways to do it. Microsoft seemed to share that view, too.

The phrase "drink the Koolaid" is one that is both jokingly and seriously passed around within the Apple retail franchise. I understand that a lot of you view this entire event as something fake and pathetic and boring, amongst other things. But at the heart of it, there are two people who work for Apple: those who believe and those who do not. A belief, much like a religion, is only as strong as those who support it. It's easy enough for people to both applaud and condemn Apple in the same breath, simply because it's something that is rarely (if ever) seen in the retail world. A person working for the Gap may like their job or hate their job, but as long as they get it done at the end of the day, no one really cares. That is a major difference with employees at Apple stores: if you really don't care, you won't last. You can't hit the floor every day and say "Only another five hours, I'll sell some Apple Care to shut up the managers and then go home." Fuck. That. You'll never last. The passion that you see displayed on the video above is echoed across every store and street where an Apple lives. If any of you were fortunate enough to be at an Apple opening, you would understand. If you were able to be at a flagship opening (Sydney, for example, or Boylston Street) then that energy is multiplied to an amount that is beyond human comprehension.
Microsoft can celebrate its product however it so chooses. If they want to have launch parties, fantastic! Get your users to actually be EXCITED about what they're doing, not just resigned to "this is what's next." When the first Microsoft store opens, I hope to God they have the same energy simply because that is what Apple has brought to the table. If you want to just get a machine or an MP3 player, don't even bother going to a store, just shop online. The prices are exactly the same at as they are in a tangible store. But you go to an Apple retail building for both the convenience and the experience. Microsoft: you've been inviting ex-Apple employees into your fold, and I hope you are paying attention to what they have to say.
Either drink the Koolaid or don't. But it really makes a lot more sense after a few sips.


“What is the acceptable alternative to Apple’s approach to a new store launch?”

I didn't say it was unacceptable, simply posted my opinion that it was a tad over the top.
My objection is that this method of self promotion sort of puts the customer in a position where they are there to worship the store, the company, etc.
Most other large retailers manage to open stores with a focus on the customer, rather than turning that focus toward the company. They give door prizes, discounts and gift cards.
Most companies opening a new store make customers feel the store is there for them, rather than the customer being there for the company.
Apple has managed to turn it into a near religious experience, akin to going to church to receive blessings, rather than going to Honda or Ford, to get your car fixed or buy a new one.
No one can argue with the success. Its just unseemly IMHO.

As a recent MS -> Apple convert, when I (recently) bought both my iphone 3GS and my macbook pro, I got customer service/assistance/enthusiasm that I've never gotten with any of my HP/Dell/IBM computers. Combine that with excellent products that are extremely user friendly and I'm sold.
Somebody throw me a t-shirt and pass the kool-aid. I've had a great experience with Apple...a much better one than I've had with other companies in the past.

If every Apple employee had the enthusiam of Lurch from The Addams Family, I'd still stick with Apple products for another twenty-two years. One can call me any names one wants. I won't use junk. I'd rather flip burgers for a living than switch to using Windows. I'll take a refill on that Kool-Aid now, please. :roll:

One of the lamest things I've ever seen, by far. Not sure what possessed you to stand in line in the wee hours of Saturday morning, but it sounds like it was absolutely not worth it.

I'm really glad that rubbish doesn't happen in the Uk. I love apple but that cr@p is wrong on so many levels LOL. A bunch of very strange individuals hahahahaha.

I wouldn't stand in line to watch a bunch of millionaire grown men in matching pajamas chase each other down to fight over rubber inflatable balls while fanboys scream and carry on either. Especially when the outcome doesn't affect my life in any way whatsoever. Why would it? Because I live in the same city or went to the same college as one of the teams? Really? Am I supposed to be excited about them all showering together afterward too?
On the other hand, at least these Apple "fanboys" actually USE these products and are involved with them and affected by them in their daily lives.
Its pretty obvious to me who's more over the top and pathetic.

@ icebike
"Apple has managed to turn it into a near religious experience, akin to going to church to receive blessings, rather than going to Honda or Ford, to get your car fixed or buy a new one."
I follow you. I can see what you mean.
However "unseemly," it obviously works, so I'm sure Apple doesn't mind. ;-)

This post is very interesting. I think that many people have a skewed view on what is really happening here. Apple employees love their jobs. Ask any of them. Many of them work other jobs or are professionals in other fields. The reason they keep coming to work, is because they love it. Why not throw a huge party when a new store opens? If Macy's employees love their jobs, they can throw a party too, if they want. Just guess who will have to advertise their party -- Apple or Macy's? hahaha takes another sip peace.