Your Aura

Matt at 37 Signals posts on his recent experience at an Apple Store and the personal attention he received. The article he quotes speaks of the “aura” of the Apple Store, and its importance to the growth of the company.

Call it the “aura,” the “experience,” the “impression,” whatever – regardless, it’s interesting just how important it’s becoming for most successful companies.

I’m currently reading the Starbucks Experience. So far, it’s a pretty interesting read, and it credits much of Starbucks’ success with their passion and commitment for the overall experience they provide, what they call “The Third Place.” In short, they realize that they sell way more than a cup of coffee. They sell the colors on the wall, the smiles on the baristas’ faces, the plushness of the chairs, the type of music and the scent of fresh ground coffee. More than that, they sell the “off to the races” gun firing to start the morning, the mid-day haven with a cup of drip and a newspaper, the afternoon hook-up with a friend and the late night hang out.

They sell the aura, and they’re well aware of it. So is Apple.

Do you have an aura? Does your company? The answer is yes. The better question is “do you know what your aura is? Do you proactively leverage it and nurture it?”

Just thinking on the topic, here are a few common characteristics of a company with a solid aura:

  1. You can’t completely describe it: Usually, the customers that appreciate your aura can’t really describe it. It lives in a place beyond words and often beyond consciousness. But it’s there.
  2. Not everyone will get it: In fact, you can’t really have an aura unless there is a significant amount of people who don’t get it. Most people over 50 don’t get Starbucks, most accountants don’t get Macs, most boomers don’t get The Office, most indifferent sports fans don’t get Wrigley Field, and most health-ignorant people don’t get Whole Foods.
  3. There is a sense of community: Because there are lots of people who don’t get it, there’s a huge appreciation between the people who do. It’s often unspoken, but it’s a bond that is surprisingly strong. Think of fraternity “brothers” from completely different schools and parts of the country. Or two people who have both been to a Jimmy Buffet concert. This might be the only thing these people have in common, but the aura is so strong that it builds a bond that can, at the least, blind them of their differences for quite a while.
  4. It’s completely emotional; never logical: We Americans like to celebrate our appreciation for logic and things that make sense. However, at the end of the day, that’s usually not what drives our decisions, and it’s definitely not what makes us appreciate an experience. Don’t worry about what makes sense if you’re defining your aura. Figure out what feels so good about it, and just do more of it.
  5. It’s subjective and electric: Webster defines “aura” in this way:
    • a subtle sensory stimulus (as an aroma)
    • a distinctive atmosphere surrounding a given source
    • a luminous radiation
    • a subjective sensation (as of lights) experienced before an attack of some disorders (as epilepsy or a migraine)
    • an energy field that is held to emanate from a living being

    Minus the epilepsy and migraine bit, these definitions easily translate into what you’re trying to create with your company. Apple has figured out a distinctive way to engage the senses. So has Starbucks.


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