Sometimes I feel like a broken record when it comes to referencing Apple. But here I go again. I can’t help it because I heard a news story this morning about a US tourist traveling in China who happened upon an Apple store… or so he thought. As it turned out this was not a store of knock-off Apple products. In fact, it was actually a knock-off Apple store. From the same decorated walls, glass store fronts, wooden tables, staff in blue T’s to the Apple dogtag lanyards, the store duplicated all of it.
When we talk about brand, we always say that brands must be consistent. From look and feel to the language used, the message must remain the same. If a product is not in line with that message, it is not a product the brand should pursue. Apple understands this so well that, in addition to a catalog of products consumers covet, they also have stores that consumers view as destinations, much like IKEA. Before an Apple store opened in Greensboro, I frequented the Apple store over an hour away. Sure, I could order the new iPhone online, but the Apple Store experience is part of what makes it special.

You can walk into a Target or a Best Buy and recognize where you are. You can see their logos, color palettes and products that help you recognize and differentiate them from the shop next door. The difference with Apple is that if, you take away the products on the tables, the images on the walls and the logo on the exterior, you would still know it was an Apple store.

Brand is something that, when used correctly, creates emotional value beyond category table stakes. Apple has done this so well that it has created value in how the consumers view their stores – and copy them.