What Makes a Fan a Fan?: The Connection Between Steve Jobs and Apple Fandom

What Makes a Fan a Fan?: The Connection Between Steve Jobs and Apple Fandom

Ruijuan Wu, Cheng Lu Wang, Andy Hao
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-1048-3.ch018
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The objective of this chapter is to examine how consumers become fans of Apple products through hero worship of Steve Jobs. To bolster the understanding of this interesting phenomenon regarding how consumers establish psychological connection with Steve Jobs, the psychological continuum model (PCM) and social identity theory are applied as frameworks to assess the evolvement process of Steve Jobs' fans across four progressive stages. To allocate these fans into distinct stages that represent an increased psychological connection, the authors conducted a content analysis of web reviews based on two Steve Jobs online fan communities. The findings indicate that progressive development of fans can be classified into four stages of awareness, attraction, attachment and allegiance with discrete psychological, and behavioral outcomes.
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Consumer fandom has received an increased amount of attention in the marketing literature and sports marketing literature due to its important role as an aspect of consumer behavior. Fandom typically constitutes of a subculture or a community that surrounds a particular person (e.g., a celebrity) or an object (e.g., a brand). Consumer fandom has been examined in a broad context in the literature (Chung et al., 2008; Deluca, 2018; Doyle et al., 2013; Funk and James, 2001; Hook et al., 2018; Hunt et al., 1999; Jang et al., 2008; Madupu and Cooley, 2010; Munnukka et al., 2015; Mzoughi et al., 2010; Miller and Benkwitz, 2016; Obiegbu et al., 2019; Seregina and Schouten, 2016). A fanatic fan community often demonstrates quasi-religious elements such as belief (faith and worship), emotion (awe and reverence), group identity (community) and behavioral rituals (gatherings in Apple stores or Jobs’ speech seminar). Brand communities of Apple, Harley-Davidson and Star Trek are typical examples of such fandoms that have strong brand loyalty and brand attachment. For example, Belk and Tumbat (2005) describe the characteristics of Apple fandom as a brand cult with extreme devotion which consumers have toward Apple computers. Muñiz and Schau (2005) find supernatural, religious, and magical motifs are common themes among Apple Newton users. Pogačnik and Črnič (2014) further demonstrate four religious dimensions of the Apple phenomenon: community, beliefs, sacred, and rituals. Apple fans accept Apple ideology and fanatically love Apple as a sacred brand. For some extremely zealous Apple fans, they spent a night outside an Apple store waiting for the newest iPhone (Pogačnik and Črnič, 2014).

As McCloud (2003) once noted, some popular culture communities, especially those surrounding dead celebrities, shared many substantive and functional parallels to religious movements. Belk and Tumbat (2005) find the Mac and its fans constitute the equivalent of a religion, which is based on an origin myth for Apple Computer, heroic and savior legends surrounding Steve Jobs. Indeed, to many Steve Jobs’fans, Steve Jobs is the mind, soul and savor of Apple Computers and a religion-like idol. For Apple Fans, they buy iPod, iPhone and iPad because of their faith to Steve Jobs. As such, for the Apple fandom, it is more than brand loyalty, but a belief like religious metaphors sacralizing both Mac devotion and Steve Jobs (Campbell and La Pastina, 2010). Meanwhile, Apple products have also been found to have religious aspects in the eyes of their true believers. According Muñiz and Schau (2005), supernatural, religious, and magical motifs are common in the narratives of Apple Newton users, including the miraculous performance and survival of the brand, as well as the return of the brand creator. In their study of how iPhone becomes divine, Campbell and La Pastina (2010) demonstrate the religious metaphors and myth of iPhone are incorporated into the popular discourse.

Key Terms in this Chapter

PCM: The Psychological Continuum Model (by Funk and James in 2001 AU36: The in-text citation "Funk and James in 2001" is not in the reference list. Please correct the citation, add the reference to the list, or delete the citation. ) that explains how an individual develops into a fan through four stages: awareness, attraction, attachment, and allegiance.

Quasi-Religious Characters: The religious aspects of brand consumption experience existed in the sacred brand.

Brand cult: The extreme brand-focused devotion. People express their “cult-like? following to the brand.

Brand Community: Consumer-centric community which is based on brand consuming experience.

Brand evangelists: Bran fans who share and spread message about the benefit of a brand and persuade more followers to be loyal fans of the brand.

Hero Worship: Someone who is worshipped as a hero because of her/his philosophy, and behavior.

Brand Attachment: A consumer’s emotional attachment towards his/her beloved brand.

Social Identity: Social identity theory proposes that individuals identify themselves into various social groups in order to facilitate self-definition.

Sacred brand: A brand which is revered or worshiped by brand fans like a holy object.

Fandom: The group of individual fans who are like-minded, sharing the similar interest, and deriving emotional support and value from the group.

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