Turn Your App Users into Brand Fanatics: Here’s How

August 23, 2017

The easiest way to promote your app is to have brand fanatics do it for you. Turning static app users into brand fanatics involves psychology, brain power, and hard work, but if done correctly, word of mouth will spread like wildfire.

How Apple Turns Customers into Fanatics

Apple is known for their dedicated, cult-like following. The company boasts a loyalty rate of 92% and is one of the most valuable brands in the world. While Apple’s continued success can be attributed to beautiful products, the driving force behind their prosperity is brand loyalty. Here’s how the company does it.

Emphasizing Social Identity

As humans, we have a fundamental “need to belong.” We want to form associations, make meaningful connections, and form relationships with other like-minded people because it makes us feel good.

Because of this inherent tendency to categorize ourselves, people can develop group loyalty quickly so long as they strongly associate with the “why” behind the cause.

Apple capitalizes on social identity by communicating in their audience’s language, creating products that can be used universally, and building products that are the first of its kind ー giving innovators and early adopters something to talk about.

“Us vs. Them”

Apple capitalizes on these psychological tendencies by keeping their focus on people, not products. According to the company’s messaging, Apple users are different ー in the best way possible. They’re better, smarter, more efficient, and everything PC users aren’t. Take for example the commercial below:

This type of positioning differentiates Apple by separating their customers from “the other guys,” and makes for a winning strategy.

What You Need to Do

To gain a tribe of loyal brand fanatics, you need to focus on your user ー not your app. While it may be tempting to tell everyone about the amazing technology behind your app, your users only care about what they’re getting once they tap the download button.

Here are the three things you need to do:

Start With Why

Why does your app exist? Your company’s “why” defines a purpose, cause or belief.

Stating your passion behind the “why” throughout your messaging is a way to influence the user’s limbic system, the part of the brain that processes emotions and feelings such as trust, loyalty, behavior, and decision-making.

By tapping into this mindset, you’ll attract, retain, and delight users that share your fundamental belief. And when those users believe in your “why” they become more than a static user; they become an evangelist.

“People don’t buy what you do. They buy why you do it.” ー Simon Sinek, Author “Start With Why”

Provide Value

Providing value means solving a need and solving it well. Keep in mind that value is defined by the end user ー not your team.

Value is the difference between a potential user’s evaluation of the benefits and costs of an app when compared with its competitors. In other words, what will the user receive from your app that they won’t elsewhere, and will it meet their expectations?

Generally speaking, value takes shape in four forms:

Functional Value: What the app does ー it’s the solution an offer provides to the user.

Monetary Value: The function of the price relative to the app’s perceived worth.

Social Value: The extent to which using the app allows the consumer to connect with others.

Psychological Value: The extent to which the app allows consumers to express themselves or feel better.

There are many ways your app/company can provide value, but at a basic level, you should strive to meet and exceed functional value. Meaning, your app should always deliver on its core functionality:

  • No bugs
  • No glitches
  • No deceiving marketing messages (Ex. lose weight in two hours)

Things that Don’t Scale

Doing things that don’t scale means doing things yourself. Going hand-in-hand with providing value, this means taking the time out of your schedule to exceed users’ expectations. To do this, you need to have an “over the top” mindset (i.e. Apple makes its packaging just as great as its computers)

Keep in mind, this isn’t scalable. It costs a lot of time but it’s in your best interest to do it anyway. By doing things that don’t scale in your company’s early stages (and beyond), you’ll go beyond users’ expectations, earn their trust, and have them promote your brand for you.

Example – Airbnb

Before Airbnb became the billion-dollar company it is today, the company founders did things that didn’t scale. For instance, back in 2008, co-founders Brian Chesky and Joe Gebbia went to NYC and actually visited their user’s homes to better understand the problems people were having with the service.

They found that the photos listed on the site were low-quality and blurry, so they rented a DSLR camera and went door-to-door to take pictures of apartments themselves.

“We got so close that we got to step into their shoes for a moment and see the world through their eyes, and really see the pain points that they were feeling.” ー Joe Gebbia, co-founder


There are many different ways you can do things that don’t scale, but here are a few proven tactics:

  • Give away (valuable) free stuff
  • Offer referral bonuses
  • Personalized customer experiences
  • Social media shout outs

Apps that have Brand Fanatics


  • Tinder’s simple and innovative UX (swipe right for yes, swipe left for no) spread by word of mouth by itself.
  • Tinder focused on sorority girls (key influencers) as early adopters, so naturally, more men became interested in finding out who was using the app ー which also led to powerful word of mouth.
  • Because Tinder was the first of its kind in the online dating realm, it became a popular “household name.”



  • Took a proven concept (Wattpad) and focused on appealing to one group of people (teenage girls).
  • Emphasized the audience’s “native” form of reading一chat一and branded it the next big thing for YA story readers.
  • Because there’s a limit on how much users can read, it almost forces the reader to talk to their friends about what will happen next.  

Key Takeaways

  • Capitalize on making people feel like part of a group.
  • Focus on people, not features, processes, or the company.
  • Start with the “why” behind the app.
  • Over-deliver on your promises.
  • Take the time out to do things that don’t scale.

Further Reading