Stories the essence of relationships

When a company projects synthetically sentimental images on billboards to sell its products, most sensitive consumers wince — if they pay attention at all. Fake emotional appeals rank as possibly the most offensive marketing tactic around, although there are exceptions.

But these failures are valiant attempts to capture and bottle the allure of the emotional connection – that ineffable tie to an object or brand that becomes more than just a preference – it’s a love affair.

Romantic relationships can be brief and intense. Or, they can be lasting love affairs. The same can be said of relationships between organizations and the hearts of the public. What they all have in common is a narrative arc.

“How did you meet?” Few enthusiastic couples turn down a chance to recount their love’s genesis. The juicier the story, the stronger the relationship; the narrative becomes the sacred path of destiny two hopeful lovers tread. Attachment to the story of a relationship can grow so strong as to outshine feelings for the partner themself.

The hyper-romantic, rain-soaked desperation of The Notebook’s heroes shames those of us who were united by the match.com algorithm. Images like Alfred Eisenstaedt’s Times Square kiss sum up the feeling of total abandon in the face of that transcendent power of romance.

It’s a phenomenon that is succinctly, but not easily, conveyed in an image or a myth. It’s no wonder companies try to cash in on it. But how can a business successfully evoke amorous feelings – or any feelings – if its product is a practical electronic device housed in a plastic case?

A loyal Apple user may recall the sense of pride and superiority he felt walking into Starbucks for the first time with a MacBook on his arm. He knew he had the hottest product on the market. Why? How did Apple convince this guy and millions more that their gadgets are the cheerleaders rather than the nerds?

In Apple’s case, an elegant, polished image and a hard-to-get price tag elevated the brand to supermodel status. Do character and substance matter when your public image is so perfectly managed? Not really, according to marketing author, Marc Gobe.

Apple’s intense marketing of its products – or healthy communication, if we’re talking relationships – has paid off in spades. But what did Apple lend to the narrative its customers have experienced that they didn’t construct on their own?

As we see in the resignation of Steve Jobs, the face of the company meant a great deal. Jobs was a charismatic, impassioned nerd in a black turtleneck who gave us products we didn’t know we needed. He was like the knight in shining armor who took it off because it was too pretentious. So, with Jobs gone, hopefully living his life to the fullest, what is the next chapter in the saga? Does the end of Jobs’ tenure mean the end of Apple? Or is this just a twist in the plot?

It’s Apple’s job, sans Jobs, to continue to write itself into the love lives of its consumers. The positive spin for Apple is that its hero left the scene on top with a tragic and endearing story that may yield the kind of reverent widow’s love that endures a lifetime.

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5 Responses to Stories the essence of relationships

  1. caolson says:

    I don’t think losing Jobs will affect whether Apple continues to be a popular brand simply because they have already become such a staple product for so many people. In addition, I think possibly one of the most important jobs of PR practitioners is to understand their clients well enough to be able to take the steps to creating the “love affair” between their client organization and that organization’s stakeholders, so that they can truly begin to matter in the lives of those stakeholders.

  2. lkapetan says:

    Well, in the case of Steve Jobs, I agree that the company had a visible and definitely recognizible leader who was connected with the brand. With his resignation, I don’t think that Apple will lose its emotional connection with their audience. Further investment into the brand, building brand loyalty is their long term investment. Leadership is aware that definitely everything is all about the brand.

  3. estrapko says:

    I think the most important thing in emotional messaging is that it has to be believable. The customer must feel the genuine passion of a company for a promoted product. I think that is why Apple is so successful and that’s why many other companies have failed with their products.

  4. rsteinga says:

    This post makes some very good points about the strong relationship Apple has created with its consumer base. From what I understand, Steve Jobs’ replacement, Tim Cook, is actually more well liked by Apple employees than Jobs. He is a calming presence and while he is very driven, he is not quite as intense as Jobs. Gawker has been profiling Cook for some time now and I found this article very informative. It provides a really good picture of Cook’s work ethic and demeanor. http://gaw.kr/pe3iTI

  5. ammarty says:

    First of all, this was a really well-written and fascinating article. I too am intrigued by how Apple became such a popular household name, even with their high price tags. Despite the economy or social ranking of its consumers, Apple has continued to become more popular and coveted than ever. Eventually, I foresee Apple being the only phone and computer distributor on the market. They are taking over all aspects of the technological world and at a rapid pace! Perhaps Steve Jobs could be referred to as the most brilliant of marketers because let’s face it — Apple has taken over the world! These days, if you don’t have an iPhone, you just have “some other phone.” Not even the Droid can keep up no matter their cool look or sweet market gadgets they release.

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