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What's the Apple of...?

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We look for that Apple glow in non-tech companies.

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If running your fingers down your slick, responsive, and powerful iPad 2 evokes the kinds of sensations you usually only associate with a good date, congratulations. You have been ingratiated into the cult of Apple (AAPL).

Led by Jedi knight Steve Jobs, Apple has innovated its way into leadership of the MP3, tablet, smartphone, and mobile application industries. Its sexy, powerful products create hype not unlike the Beatles in the 1960s (but with more geeks in the audience).

What other companies could possibly measure up? As it turns out, a handful of companies actually are the Apples of their industries, based on a combination of marketing, product quality, leadership, and industry dominance. From movie-making to furniture, these five companies fit the bill.


What's the Apple of...?

Furniture: Ikea

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When it comes to charisma, the modest, Volvo-driving, self-confessed alcoholic Ingvar Kamprad is no Steve Jobs. But Ikea, like Apple, is a huge multinational that generates the costumer excitement of a fresh-picked startup. While Apple pioneered clean product designs and user interfaces, Ikea innovated easy-assembly, stylish, practical furniture.

Their stores also have similar ways of luring in consumers. Four hours and $350 after walking into an Ikea or Apple store, you leave feeling good, like you've won something, even though you're not quite sure exactly how you came to buying it in the first place. By highlighting the environmentally-friendly aspects of their products, both companies make sure that you're guilt-free, too.

See: Apple's Steve Jobs vs. Ikea's Ingvar Kamprad

Coffee: Starbucks

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Can't make it on Mondays without your morning latte? Bet you can't make it to the gym without your iPod, either. With its VIA instant coffee line, Alaska-sized Trenta cups, and in-store music sales, to name a few innovations, Starbucks (SBUX) is the Apple of the morning caffienation industry. Its mermaid logo, like Apple's fruit, is so powerful that it doesn't need words to explain what's going on . Starbucks is also everywhere, making it easy to nurture your addiction (Apple stores seem to be growing ubiquitous, too).

Clothing: H&M

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H&M provides just-in-time (JIT) clothing to the trendy masses. That means very little time between the catwalk and the clothing store, kind of like how Apple's build-to-order strategy ensured there wasn't much time between Steve Jobs' February press conference and the iPad 2.

Different H&M stores boast different fashions. Many of their styles come and go quickly. As a result, H&M stores excite consumers-they never know what they'll find next. This element of surprise, as well as limited-edition store lines by designers including Jimmy Choo and Madonna, keep the brand fresh and crisp. Sound familiar, Apple fans?

Movie Making: Pixar

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What do Disney (DIS) and Pixar have in common, besides the conspicuous presence of Steve Jobs, who in the 1980s owned Pixar as a "hobby" before selling it to Disney? Like Apple, Pixar is an innovative, lucrative, award-winning company with diehard fans. Its "out of the box" innovations created a whole new computer-animation genre. Pixar became so successful that other companies soon started imitating it. As with Apple, consumers and critics alike hold their collective breaths for the next product, which rarely fails to impress.

Music: Virgin

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Apple and Virgin, besides boasting names with biblical connotations, share the ability to sell hardware with an almost fetish-like appeal. In Virgin's case, the now-Capitol-owned Virgin Records became notorious as Notting Hill's hippest, hottest, and most controversial record store in the 1970s. After EMI bought the brand in the 1990s, the Virgin Records megastores, with their huge and diverse selection, drew in music lovers for hours. Virgin co-founder Richard Branson, meanwhile, branched the brand out into other businesses, which now comprise a global conglomerate. Not to say Apple is going the conglomerate route, but its horizontal expansion in hardware, software, music, TV and publishing is noteworthy. Despite both companies' girth, their brands still connote independence and youth, rather than multinational megacorporation. That probably has something to do with their charismatic, highly visible owners.

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Click here to return to "The Mythology of Apple" and our complete list of Apple stories.

Why is Apple so important to us? What's next for the iconic brand? Click here to continue reading from our series on the mythology of Apple. You'll also find a link to our video, "Is Apple a Religion?"

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No positions in stocks mentioned.

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