Tuesday, August 10, 2010

How to raise a cult following

Apple is the new religion.  Its products, the iphone, ipod, and ipad are the identity of the new religion. The i's of Apple remind  you of the five k's of the Sikhs – Kada, Kirpan, Kesh, Kangi and Kaccha.  The reverence it evokes among its followers, the blind allegiance to its godliness, the fierce pride in being part of the group brandishing the symbols (or should I say isymbols?), the contempt tinged with pity crowned with a condescending superiority over others who are not part of the movement – all remind you of a religious group.


How has  Jobs been able to achieve this? He has of course created good products.  The product which is the symbol of God, has to be good.  Good  does not mean cheap. No cult likes its symbols  to be devalued. It does not mean having all features either.  Apple is notorious for including only a few features and leaving out what others think are essential. The features may be introduced in later versions, one at a time, or not at all.  Followers are sold on the superiority of their icons and they take pride in the fact that they do not contain all things that other mundane products do; but what they do  contain are a few essential core elements. They also take pride in being deprived of some things – paradoxically in the mind of an acolyte this becomes an essential attribute – the sacrifice of something is required in order to underline how religious they are.  Virtue lies in being abstemious! Also, the self-denial should not come cheap, lest it be devalued.


The new religion has a great messenger. Jobs is Prophet, Messiah and deliverer all rolled into one. He is the one who is directly in touch with God – he comes down once in a while from the remote fastnesses in which all sages dwell and announces the new revelation.  His followers gather in hordes to hear him. They revel in the anticipation of the next announcement. They swoon when they see him in person. They gaze at him in reverence and hang on to his every word.  They boast to each other about how they were there when he made his descent to the auditorium. They devour his words on youtube and try not to miss anything significant – and he responds to this with a supreme air of nonchalant gracious acceptance. This scene is not very different from what you will find in any ashram in India. 


The Prophet understands their innate needs and desires.  In this case, they happen to be all material desires, but who said religion is all about spirituality alone? He has the instinct to distil their desires into a few simple must-haves.  He has visualized the final product in its simplest pristine form and glory and guided his designers to the ultimate glory of the bare essentials. He is not known to encourage too many buttons, too many features, or complex interfaces. All this is of course in the back-end.  No one knows the conversations that Moses had with God or what deal they struck with each other. They only hear the message that Moses gave when he descended from the mountain, or wherever that ordinary mortals cannot go to.  


He resides in his sanctum sanctorum where ordinary mortals are not admitted.  Apple's obsession with security is legendary.  One can only imagine what it must be like in there.  His acolytes gather themselves together in a congregation that sings his praises, and awaits his presence for the meetings.  He comes, he hears, and he disposes.  He also exhorts them to think. To come up with even simpler designs with even lesser features, with even sexier interfaces, at even greater cost.  And they respond.


Religious symbols have to be sacred  - they cannot be disassembled or taken apart in any manner. That would be sacrilege. Does the Baba who produce miracle ash by waving his arm in the air allow you to inspect his shirtsleeves before he does so?  Even so, Apple seals its products tight and allows no one to peek into the innards.  Jealous kafirs from other religions have been known to break into it but to any follower, that would be sacrilege.  I think they might even be under the belief that if they dare break into the sacred icon they might be stricken with some pestilence, or thunder and lightning may strike them dead.


Anyone who dares to question the new religion, and this could be the rest of the world, is treated with the contempt that he deserves. So what if the iphone reception falls off if it is held at a particular angle? We will wait for Jobs' decree that holding the phone at that angle is haram, forbidden, and we will willingly follow.  In this case, he chose to come out with a covering case that solved the problem. Anyway, who said there is a problem?  Only the kafirs, curse their nasty intentions!  We will allow nothing to destroy our religion. In fact, such setbacks only bring us closer together  - it brings out the devotion in us.  Contrast this attitude with the Toyota recall based on mostly fabricated reports of stuck accelerators.  Toyota is merely a brand, Apple's ibrands are religious symbols.


If you want to be part of the new religion you pay a steep price. In this case the price is only in dollars. Frequently, religions demand more. If Jobs were to decree that his followers should fast on every anniversary of Apple's founding day, they would willingly do it. Provided they are allowed to advertise their sacrifice by wearing a founding-day-fast armband on that day. There – I've just given a marketing idea to Jobs. In case he ever decides to do this, I am going to claim some royalty (like a personal darshan) – you readers shall be my witness that I thought of this first. 


In return for the price you paid, you get the right to be identified as an adherent. Imagine the looks of envy when you step out with your new ipad. You are also granted the right to look down in pity on the rest of the non-Apple world.


The Prophet is rich. His religion is rich. His company is rich. We made him so.  And we shall continue to fill his coffers so that he can go forth, proselytize, and convert more people to the cause.


Amen – Om Namo Apple aayana Mahaa!.


Aseem Madan said...

Market pundits as per WSJ article released today states the following:

1. Market pundits are betting that Sensex will reach 20000-21000 by Dec end 2010.
2. It's currently trading at 18x P/E of Mar'11 earnings. Before the dreams got shattered in 2008, P/E was around 30x.
3. $12BB of inflows of FII so far this years, and last year it was $18BB, which is one of the reason why markets was up 84% last year. Up 6% this year on fund flows.
4. 8.5% GROWTH in the economy, yields are higher than all western countries, another reason why money is coming in.

Now, if you take liquidity out of the system ( that means foreign money being withdrawn and manage with domestic money), do we think with 8.5% growth and all that jazz about consumption story with 650MM people earning less than$2 a day in our economy could market sustain/go up from current level which apparently today is 52 weeks high?

I highly doubt it.....I guess there is no stronger catalyst than money getting pumped from abroad, whatever, the underlying economic story is...

Aseem Madan said...

Sorry, posted under a wrong thread...

Dinesh Gopalan said...

I agree with you - foreign money flows seems to have a lot to do with how our sensex performs

SohamRoy said...

yes FDI inflows did really catapulted the market to 20k mark....
but as aptly said by our governor, subbarao:
there is a law of unintended consequences, which is that if i buy to intervene in the forex markets and then stabilise, the interest rates go up, thus leading to more inflows. which is a variant of the dutch disease, so true...