It's almost hard to get a sense of the scale of a company like Apple. It is the most profitable company on earth. It was the first company with a trillion-dollar market cap, and remains one of the most valuable companies by that measure. And for the ninth year in a row, it's also the most valuable brand in the world. Ever.

At least that's according to Forbes, which recently released its rankings of the most valuable brands. That report has the value of Apple's brand as $205 billion. 

The brand, not the company.

That means the value of the tangible and intangible assets associated with what makes Apple -- well -- Apple, is the highest of any company ever.

There are some other great brands on the list too. Google is on there. Microsoft and Amazon are near the top. Even Facebook rounds out the top five.

But none of them are anywhere near the value of Apple's brand, which is the first to top $200 billion. 

You might be tempted to think that it's because of the company's products or services, and sure, a lot of it has to do with the astronomical success of the iPhone over the last 12 years. But I think that misses something important to leave it at that.  

It's about a feeling.

Apple has always generated strong feelings from its fans. In fact, that's been one of its greatest assets.

I often say that your brand is how people feel about your company. If that's true, think of the value of a brand as the net positive feeling expressed in terms of dollars. In Apple's case, that's a lot of positive feelings. 

Sure, not everyone likes Apple. In fact, there are plenty of people who are adamantly anti-Apple. There are people who will never use an iPhone, or a Mac, or an Apple Watch. Some of them have pretty strong feelings about it and are more than willing to tell you about it. 

But, at least according to Forbes, the positive feelings that customers have towards Apple seriously outweigh any negative feelings by a net factor of 200 billion. That's a lot.

Be more like Apple.

And that's good news for you. Here's why:

Apple's brand value is the sum of all of the interactions that customers have with Apple's products, software, and even the buying experience.

Let's face it, Apple does an incredible job cultivating that feeling, from the way you shop in its stores, the way it handles customer support at its Genius Bar and the way it feels to unbox a brand new iPhone or MacBook Pro. 

I'm not kidding, it's like the packaging is laced with some sort of technology aphrodisiac. 

Even if you don't create the coolest devices, or have the most valuable retail stores, or design apps, you can still do the thing Apple does so well -- the thing that makes it so valuable.

Find ways to delight your customers.

Apple is always thinking about the customer experience. Every interaction is carefully designed to delight the customer. 

Steve Jobs was the ultimate champion of this, looking to delight customers even when they weren't expecting it. It shows in the details. Seriously, even the way you unlock an iPhone is meant to elicit joy. 

You can totally do that. I don't mean create a way to unlock an iPhone that delights people, but I'm sure there's a little joy just waiting to be unleashed in whatever it is you do. 

If you're a coffee shop, it might be the design you leave in the foam on the top of a latte. If you're a photographer, it might be the sneak peek you give your client of their images. If you're a retailer, it might be your no-questions-asked return policy.

It doesn't really matter what you do, what matters is that you look for ways to bring delight to your customer beyond simply meeting their expectations. That's simply what's, well, expected, and there's nothing truly delightful about that.

Delight is going beyond that. It's unexpected.

It's what makes your customers fall in love with your brand. That's valuable.

Published on: Jul 25, 2019
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.