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Great brands start from within

Posted by: Ariën Breunis on April 09, 2012

Last Friday, I finally managed to have dinner with a good friend of mine. We hadn’t seen each other in months, so we had lots to talk about. I was particularly interested in hearing about his new job in Amsterdam’s flagship Apple store.

During the starter course, I discovered that my friend had been on Apple’s payroll since January -- more than two months before the official store opening in March! This was the case because my friend had been involved in extensive training sessions since the beginning of the year.

Before being faced with hordes of Apple enthusiasts in Amsterdam, my friend was required to work alongside international colleagues in the Apple stores of Covent Garden and Regent Street in London. During the rare occasions when he was actually in Amsterdam, my friend spent his days in a Hilton hotel participating in employee engagement training. In those two months prior to the Amsterdam Apple store opening, my friend learned everything about the Apple brand, its products and services, its communications, its retail environments, its channels and, of course, its people.

As our main course arrived and my friend continued to discuss how helpful his training time had been in London, I realized why Apple employees have such strong internal clarity around -- and great commitment to – the Apple brand itself. Apple seems to innately understand that great brands start from within.

As dinner continued, I brought up another leading brand, Nike. I asked my friend if he knew what an ‘Ekin’ was (Nike spelled backwards). He did not, so I explained the story about Nike and its ‘Ekins.’ To be an ‘Ekin’ means one is a true Nike brand ambassador -- someone who spreads the gospel of Nike around the world. After intensive training, each ‘Ekin’ is invited to have the well-known Nike swoosh symbol tattooed on his/her ankle -- a true sign of devotion to the brand.

After dinner, my friend and I parted ways. We agreed to meet up again in a couple of weeks. I won’t be surprised in the least if he shows up sporting Apple tattoos, one on each ankle.

Ariën Breunis is a Senior Consultant (Brand Strategy & Analytics) in Interbrand’s Amsterdam office.

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