• Choice Hacking
  • Posts
  • Why Steve Jobs stole from a hotel to build the first Apple store (and a free download)

Why Steve Jobs stole from a hotel to build the first Apple store (and a free download)

Hi there - Jen here :)

Did you know that Steve Jobs actually stole from a hotel to build the very first Apple store? 

He wanted them to be the best shopping experience in the world, so he knew that meant he had to find some killer inspiration.

So he and Ron Johnson - Apple’s then Head of Retail - started asking employees at Apple:

“What's the best customer experience you've ever had?”

They heard the same answer over and over again.

But it wasn’t another retailer like Walmart, Target, or Circuit City.

It was a hotel — the Ritz-Carlton.

So Jobs and Johnson sent their future store managers “undercover” at the Ritz, and here’s what they found…

Today I’m sharing:

  • How the famous Ritz ‘credo card’ inspired Apple

  • The psychology behind the Ritz’ success

  • A free worksheet to help you “steal” from other industries

  • 10 examples of famous brands - like Toyota, McDonalds, and Netflix - who borrowed brilliant ideas from other industries (premium subscribers only)

Today’s newsletter is brought to you by my new Skill Session:

🚀Psychology of High-Converting Landing Pages

In the 2023 Choice Hacking Reader Survey, I asked you to vote for the Skill Session topic you most wanted me to create.

“The Psychology of High-Converting Landing Pages” was our winner!

After hundreds of hours of research and experimentation, I’m sharing everything I know about creating high-converting landing pages with marketing psychology and behavioral science in a tightly-focused 60-minute video Skill Session.

Here’s what you’ll learn:

  •  Research-backed strategies to create a landing page that converts up to 2x - 5x higher than industry average

  •  The 3 things you must have in any high-converting landing page

  •  A 7-step formula that even a total beginner can use to design a landing page better than 99.5% of experts

👉 The Skill Session launches on February 1st, 2024 but you can save 30% if you pre-order the session today for $50.

After February 1st, the price will go up to $65 and stay there.

PS Choice Hacking Pro Plan members will automatically get access to this and all future Skill Sessions and courses. Click to learn more about the Pro plan.

🧠 Behind the Ritz’s “Gold Standards”

The Ritz-Carlton’s customer experience is led by its “Gold Standards,” which are taught to every team member and strictly enforced. They are:

  • Credo

  • Motto

  • Employee Promise

  • Three Steps of Service

These principles are printed on Credo Cards (see below) and are considered a part of every employee’s uniform - they must be on their person at all times:

Let’s break them down (and the psychology behind why they work):

1. The Credo

“The Ritz-Carlton is a place where the genuine care and comfort of our guests is our highest mission.

We pledge to provide the finest personal service and facilities for our guests, who will always enjoy a warm, relaxed, yet refined ambience.

The Ritz-Carlton experience enlivens the senses, instills well-being, and fulfills even the unexpressed wishes and needs of our guests.”

This Credo could also be considered the brand promise, and it’s obvious how much they care about the experience of guests staying at their hotels.

The last line could’ve easily inspired the Apple Store’s ambition to be an immersive and inspiring customer experience that “enlivens the senses” and “instills well-being” in its customers.

2. The Motto

“We are ladies and gentlemen serving ladies and gentlemen” reads almost like the Ritz-Carlton’s version of the Golden Rule, “Treat others as you’d like to be treated.”

Not only does this motto help set a standard of care for guests, but it also reminds Ritz-Carlton employees that their employer sees them as equals.

The Motto helps set the culture of the Ritz-Carlton as something that empowers employees rather than distrusting or restricting them.

It’s easy to see how Apple could’ve been inspired by this Motto when naming their employees Geniuses — giving them a title that empowers and inspires their work.

3. The Employee Promise

The Ritz-Carlton’s Employee Promise makes it clear that their staff are to be valued, empowered, and respected as the most valuable part of its brand:

“At The Ritz-Carlton, our Ladies and Gentlemen are the most important resource in our service commitment to our guests.

By applying the principles of trust, honesty, respect, integrity and commitment, we nurture and maximize talent to the benefit of each individual and the company.

The Ritz-Carlton fosters a work environment where diversity is valued, quality of life is enhanced, individual aspirations are fulfilled, and The Ritz-Carlton Mystique is strengthened.”

The brand doesn’t just pay lip service to investing in its employees — it makes sure that they’re highly trained and coached. In their first year on the job, employees go through 250 hours of training.

That training caters to different learning styles and can be taken as one-on-one coaching, online training, in-person seminars, and other types of learning formats.

Apple was inspired by the Ritz’s commitment to its employees and its focus on managing guests’ emotions.

In 2012, the secret Apple employee manual, called the Genius Training Student Workbook, was leaked to tech blog Gizmodo.

Gizmodo described the contents of Apple’s employee handbook this way:

“The manual could easily serve as the Humanity 101 textbook for a robot university, but at Apple, it’s an exhaustive manual to understanding customers and making them happy.

Sales, it turns out, take a backseat to good vibes — almost the entire volume is dedicated to empathizing, consoling, cheering up, and correcting various Genius Bar confrontations.”

4. Three Steps of Service

The Ritz-Carlton’s Three Steps of Service are simple but powerful ways to ensure guests leave with positive feelings and memories:

  • “A warm and sincere greeting. Use the guest’s name.

  • Anticipation and fulfillment of each guest’s needs.

  • Fond farewell. Give a warm goodbye and use the guest’s name.”

These principles might seem simple at first, but there is some powerful psychology underlying why they’re so effective.

🧠 The Secret Psychology of the Ritz

Behavioral Science and psychology tell us that emotions power our opinions and memories of an experience.

And these emotions also help drive our decision-making (like, whether to buy a Mac instead of a PC, or what hotel to stay in).

Underlying this idea is the Peak-end Rule.

It says that our opinions, judgments, and memories of an experience aren’t built on the average of every moment but on the emotional peak (positive or negative) and the end of the experience.

The approach to customer experience that Apple and the Ritz-Carlton share are built — knowingly or not — on the Peak-end Rule in action.

When we manage customers' emotions and endings, our customer experiences will go from good to great.

How Walmart & Kmart Stole From This Retail Innovator (Forgotten to History)

This little-known Rhode Island department store was the inspiration for both Walmart AND Kmart 👇

Founded by Martin Chase in 1946, Ann & Hope was a pioneer in the discount retailer format:

  • ✅ Ann & Hope was one of the first stores where customers could shop on their own, without a sales person's help.

  • ✅ It was one of the first stores to use shopping carts.

  • ✅ Ann & Hope also created features like a central checkout area, cafeterias and subleases, a parking lot for customers, and even the store return policy.

When Sam Walton was thinking about opening his own store, he was inspired by a visit to Ann & Hope to create Walmart.

And Harry Cunningham, retail legend and creator of Kmart visited Ann & Hope in 1961, incorporating their innovations into the design for the first Kmart stores.

Both brands took Ann & Hope's ideas, put on their own spins on the format, and created two of the three big box retailers that would dominate the next 70+ years of American retail.

🧠 The lesson?

The best ideas don't always hit you like lightning - they're shaped and perfected over time.

The creative process in business is often more about trial and error, and adopting proven strategies to your own context.

Not a single ah-ha moment.

PS. I think it goes without saying I’m using the word “steal” a little tongue-in-cheek in this newsletter. Please don’t plagiarise or literally steal.

Want more inspiring case studies?

👉 Premium subscribers get 10 more examples of brands like Toyota, McDonalds, and Netflix that borrowed ideas from other brands to create industry-leading innovations.

(Just scroll to the end of the email to find them)

A Free Worksheet to Help You “Steal” Great Ideas

S.C.A.M.P.E.R. is a framework that helps us manipulate existing ideas to create new ones.

The underlying premise of S.C.A.M.P.E.R. is the idea of combinational creativity — that is, we can solve problems by transforming existing ideas instead of starting from scratch every time.

As Michael Michalko, author of Thinkertoys, put it:

“Manipulation is the brother of creativity.”

S.C.A.M.P.E.R. is a framework that helps us work through the many ways we can reshape an existing idea or product.

It stands for:

  • To read more about SCAMPER and how to use it, click here.

  • To download a free SCAMPER worksheet, click here.

3 Second Survey:

Would you be interested in a set of 80+ printed cards to help you better run workshops, brainstorm, etc. that cover common behavioral biases, motivators, customer barriers, nudges, and mindsets? I'm just gauging interest at this time :)

Login or Subscribe to participate in polls.

Read, Watch, Listen

  • [Read] Designing for trust in the Airbnb age [Read how]

  • [Watch] The BILLION DOLLAR marketing secrets of ALDI [Watch now]

  • [Listen] Season 5 of the Choice Hacking podcast is now LIVE. Listen to latest episode, “How Coca-Cola Became the World’s Most Memorable Brand.” [Check it out]

Subscribe to Choice Hacking Premium to read the rest.

Become a paying subscriber of Choice Hacking Premium to get access to this post and other subscriber-only content.

Already a paying subscriber? Sign In

A subscription gets you:
The "Thursday Edition" of Choice Hacking Ideas: An exclusive weekly issue of the newsletter that focuses on actionable solutions to common marketing problems (using psychology, AI, and BeSci of course)
An Ad-free Experience: Ads help me keep the free newsletter free. But premium members won't have weekly ads (including ones for Choice Hacking products) cluttering up their reading experience.
Access to the Choice Hacking community: Only Premium Members will be able to comment on posts.
Access to the Choice Hacking Ideas post archive: Read every issue, ever, of Choice Hacking Ideas at your leisure

Join the conversation

or to participate.