April 15, 2012
Apple is Facing Major Declines…
Those are fighting words for most Mac, Iphone or Ipad users. If you are in the Apple tribe, that headline probably gets your blood boiling, ready to call me an idiot and tear into this blog. But, I don’t really mean it. I hope that you’re totally upset, so I can prove a point, as to how loyal Apple users are. So relax and enjoy the article. It’s all about how great Apple is. In fact, I’m typing on my Mac as I speak, with my Ipad charging away about a foot away. I could not live without my Ipad–stylus and all.
A few weeks ago, someone asked for a good marketing book to read. I said “Have you read the Steve Jobs biography, because that would be a great starting point.” I do believe that aside from his craziness, Steve Jobs is the best marketer of our generation. Everything he did was about the consumer, not just in taking their feedback but in guessing what they might want next. He was committed to the art of marketing, from the design in the product and software right down to some of the best advertising of our generation whether it’s “1984″ or “I’m a Mac”. He was obsessive in his committment. He had to love the work or he’d reject it. His bar was exceptionally high.
For Apple to this point, it has all been about Steve Jobs and thinking differently. With his own voice, here is what makes Apple great.
Brands travel along the Love Curve, going from Indifferent to Like It, to Love It and finally become a Brand For Life. When you achieve the ultimate status as a Beloved Brand, demand becomes desire, needs become craving and thinking is replaced by feelings. And, Apple is the most loved of all Brands. When you love a brand like Apple, you are loyal, unrelenting and outspoken. Try saying something negative about Mac to someone in the tribe and watch out. That’s like knocking their favourite sports team. To Apple users, it’s very personal: you are possessive of your Apple brands you own. It’s extremely emotional for you, certainly not rational.
Nothing comes close to what Apple has done over the past 10 years, whether it’s in desktop computers, laptops, mp3 players, smart phones, tablets and even the retail space. Three times this year, I’ve walked past an Apple store before the mall opens, and there are usually 10-15 people waiting for the doors to open up. I’m sure every retailer would love that.
Samsung and Microsoft are strong brands, but stuck at the Like It stage. While consumers gladly buy their products, no one is going to stand up and defend them. People are indifferent about Brands like Dell and HP who have commoditized laptops, charging a slight premium, but barely. Even Sony has fallen from grace, recently announcing billions in losses. If you are born before 1975, and rarely buy electronics, you still think “wow, that’s a great price on a Sony”. But that group gets smaller every year. The HTC brand only wins from carrying Android, but no one really cares they have an HTC phone.
Apple has an amazing brand following. It’s like a tribe of loyalists ready to speak out and defend the brand. How have they done this?
1. Products that the consumer doesn’t even know they want yet: While in the technology field, Apple has never done the better mousetrap. Apple is all about the consumer. Apple has an invention mindset. It’s more than just making money. They want to make a dent in the universe. It’s about thinking different and delivering something the consumer could never have imagined. Apple carefully considers what consumers are looking for. They are completely meticulous in the planning and design stage. They keep things plain, simple and so easy-to-use products not only to make the consumers happy, but also make them want to buy more products in the future. Apple is an idea connected to simplicity, not just a series of products.
“You’ve got to start with the consumer experience & work backwards to the technology. You can’t start with the technology & try to figure out where you’re going to sell it”
Steve p. Jobs
2. Are You a Mac?: Let’s face it, Apple is a cool, hip brand. It pushes a strong identification with everything young, up-to-the-minute and smart. The “I’m a Mac Campaign” was brilliant in not only defining the Mac brand as smooth, confident and cool, but defining the PC brand as old, uptight and awkward. At the height of this campaign I was in a crowded bar that went immediately silent when one of the “I’m a Mac” TV ads came on. Also, many of the Apple products have separated themselves from the competitor, whether it’s the white headphones on the iPod, the number of apps for Iphone and Ipad or the cool sleek designs of the Mac. Not only that, the Apple store is a store just for Apple users. My mom, who is 77 and a recent ipad user has been to the Apple Store numerous times, taking some of the courses or just asking for help.
For fans of the “I’m a Mac” campaign, here are 15 ads.
3. An Obsessive Commitment to the Consumer and the Apple Brand. Stemming from Steve Jobs, the entire company is committed to simplicity in design and functionality. Whether it’s the rounded edges, colour choices for product or the Glass on the Apple stores, there is a certain obsessive behaviour. Sometimes you wonder if it’s worth it, but would Apple be Apple if it wasn’t for these obsessions?
Apple leverages this obsession to create consumer loyalty. Looking at the phone industry loyalty data, Apple has by far the highest loyalty of any brand: over 90% of their consumers love the Iphone. Brands like HTC, Blackberry and Sony have scores in mid 60s while Samsung has only 57% prefer the Samsung. Creating the tribe is great, but Apple delivers satisfaction to their consumers.
To be a Beloved Brand, you must love the work you do. If you don’t love the work you do, how do you expect your consumer to fall in love with your brand? Brands that are stuck at the like stage settle for ok. Beloved Brands like Apple start at great and still push to make it even better. They are never satisfied.
The more loved the brand, the more valuable the brand. The tight emotional connection with the consumer becomes a source of power it can leverage whether that’s with consumers themselves to pay more, stay loyal or buy more products. Plus, that power can be leveraged with retail partners, suppliers or competitors.
In 1976, early in the life of Apple, Ronald Wayne decided to cash in his 10% of Apple for around $800. If he held onto it, that 10% would be worth $56 Billion. Mind you, we have all missed out on quite a few investment windows over the years. If you had put $100K into Apple in 2003, you would have around $10 Million!!! You wouldn’t be complaining about the economy, wondering who to vote for in the fall. But unfortunately, I didn’t know Apple would do so well. Has the Apple brand peaked? Hardly: Apple has gained 81% in market cap the past 12 months. I missed that window as well.
My hope is that momentum can continue. Not because I have invested money, but because I’m emotionally invested. I crave what’s next, even though I can’t even imagine where they will go.
About Graham Robertson: I’m a marketer at heart, who loves everything about brands. I love great TV ads, I love going into grocery stores on holidays and I love seeing marketers do things I wish I came up with. I’m always eager to talk with marketers about what they want to do. My background includes CPG marketing at companies such as Johnson and Johnson, Pfizer Consumer, General Mills and Coke. I do executive training of executives and brand managers, helping on strategy, brand planning, advertising and profitability.