Self-confessed Apple fanatic Rob Shoesmith plans to visit every Apple store in the UK. What inspires this level of brand adoration? And, determined to spend no money, can he really rely on crowdsourcing and social media to take care of his accommodation and bizarre transport plans?
Hailing from Coventry, England, Rob Shoesmith was a rubbish collector in a past life. He describes his then existence, burdened with anxiety and depression, as 'a living hell.' But his luck changed when he submitted an idea for an iPhone app via the App Incubator. He was invited first to London and then to California, where his crowdsourced counselling app Problem Halved was developed for the market.
Since then, Rob has developed an intense passion for Apple and its products. In his first 'social media experiment', he camped outside a store for ten nights, awaiting the release of the new iPhone. Publicising his efforts via Twitter and blogging, he survived on food and drink donated by strangers. Impressively, he also generated £30,000 of sponsorship from 150 organisations.
Now, Rob plans a pilgrimage taking in the UK's 35 Apple stores, relying on the social media world to sustain and liven up his quest. I caught up with him to find out more about his plans.
How are you organising this journey?
Logistically, it's extremely challenging. I've created an Indiegogo campaign to try and raise the funds, although it will be tough to raise money from total strangers online. The second component is to rely on my blogging and social networking skills to help me get by. I'll be asking for help with transportation and accommodation from a lot of people I don't know. Twitter will certainly play a pivotal role!
How will you get from place to place?
In different ways. I'm thinking helicopter, tank and even by camel. From the Belfast Apple Store I intend to make the sea crossing on a highly powered speedboat, arranged through a Twitter contact.
How do you expect the online community to respond to your mission?
Mixed. Some will love the sense of adventure while others will look at the headline of an Apple fan wanting to visit every Apple store and think I'm crazy. I've been accused of being an iSheep and a publicity-hungry job hunter. On the other hand, one man invited me round for a home-cooked Sunday dinner on behalf of his 86 year-old mother, who had heard my story!
Would you describe yourself as an Apple fanatic?
I would say so. I tend to follow around fifty Apple-related blogs and websites to keep up with Apple-related news.
Before all this I'd hit rock bottom. I'd suffered with crippling anxiety and depression and it was developing the iPhone app that helped me lift my depression and actually go out and live my life.
Why do you think Apple inspires such loyalty?
It's because of their products' quality and simplicity. Generally speaking, the build and design quality of Apple products is second to none. Marketing of course has it's place, but you need a good product to sell. Apple has this.
Isn't Apple becoming monopolistic and anti-competition?
There are plenty of other companies in the ecosystem with the funds to challenge Apple. The problem is they just haven't designed the right kind of products. Ultimately I believe the end-consumer has the biggest say.
What about the monotonous design? All the products look so similar
My argument is, 'Why change a product that isn't broken?' People ask why Apple haven't done anything revolutionary in the last couple of years. They don't need to.
What will you do for your next 'social media experiment'?
I love being different from the norm and testing the power of social media to the limit. I have a third experiment in mind. All I can say at this stage is that it will involve copious amounts of water.
What do you think? Is he adventurous? Is he crazy? Ultimately, it seems that Rob Shoesmith's mission is an extreme example of Apple's real secret: how to harness the power of branding.