May 22, 2014
I love Apple. I own a MacBook Air, an iMac, iPad mini and an iPhone 4S. My kids both have iPhones and MacBook Pros. But yesterday, I bought a Samsung Galaxy Note 3. Whaaaat? Yes, that’s right. A Samsung.
I still feel weird about it. But I’ll recover. I know this article will bring out the Apple lovers. Don’t worry, I’m one of you. But with my new phone, I feel like a cult member who snuck out of the compound one night and drooled when I saw the Samsung phone. I could see it was light years ahead of my phone. I feel the same way I felt back in 2010 when I escaped my Blackberry cult and bought my iPhone.
Two hard realities for most people in the Apple army to realize.
- Apple is a big mass corporate brand. It’s no longer an artistic challenger brand. That will be some tough medicine for the most loyal of Apple users who first bought into the brand in the 1980s.
- Apple’s post Steve Jobs innovation has been incremental and not leap frog. The reality is that R&D pipelines are long lead cycle times, so this is really still Jobs’ pipeline. But it’s relatively dry compared to the previous decade of riches.
Apple has changed: They’ve moved from the challenger brand to the “king of the castle” brand. Apple used to be the alternative, anti-corporate, artistic, “we try harder” type brand. IBM was the BMW, blue suit and polished shoes brand, while Apple was VW Bug, tee shirt and sandals brand. But as much as Apple fought off the arrogant brands like IBM, Microsoft and Sony, they’ve now become that brand. And with that shift, we now see an attitude change–we are seeing a certain Apple arrogance that almost says “come on, where else are you going to go?” That’s human nature to feel that way as most who now work at Apple are now cult members who joined Apple because they loved the brand. But that arrogance has a danger to it of thinking you can do no wrong and feel no real competition. Confidence is healthy, arrogance is not.
Apple has slowed down: Sales are still strong but thats as the laggard type mass market now enjoys the lead generation products of a few years ago. Next time you’re in an Apple store, look at the table where they are teaching classes and you’ll see a few Senior Citizens. Sales and margins are seeing record highs the past year, but since the middle of 2012, the stock price has floated up and down around $600. If you held stock for the past 24 months, you’re at a break even position. The high sales are how of how Apple is doing now, but the stock price is an indication the market is still confused by Apple’s future. If the big play for Apple is China, there’s a good likelihood North America won’t see any leap frog advances for a few years.
I write about Brands all the time. Samsung has a better product than they do a brand. The reality is the Samsung phone is a better product. It is faster, bigger, and has so many more features than the iPhone.
Yesterday, I went into my Apple store to upgrade my Iphone 4S to a 5S. And I asked the strange question: “so, I’m a current iPhone user and Apple lover, and wondering what price discount that gets me”. I guess I was using my opening line from when I last bought a car. It seems like buying a car, so why not. Plus my Scottish blood makes me always eager to save a few bucks. The guy in the blue shirt looked at me strangely and said “the price of the new iPhone 5S would be $299 with a two year plan.” So I said, “so there’s no real benefit for me, being an owner of so many Apple products to staying with the Apple brand?” And he got a bit huffy and said “other than owning a beautiful phone…no”. The guy got up and walked away on me, almost mad that I would even ask. I felt snubbed. I wasn’t really expecting a big discount or anything. But nothing. Here I am in club. And I would get the same deal as a customer walking in off the street. I’m loyal to Apple, but is Apple loyal back to me? Nope.
And I smiled like that cult member who could now see a bit of freedom.
So, I went and bought a Samsung Galaxy Note 3.
The most Beloved Brands have to attack themselves before being attacked by competitors. There’s a reason why Starbucks closed every store for one day to retrain their baristas. They attacked themselves before competitors could. And there’s a reason why Sony has lost market leadership in every category they play in. Arrogance. I’m afraid Apple’s arrogance has them blindly marching forward, feeling invincible knowing the passion of their cult will follow. I’m only one customer. No big deal. But once you’re done fulfilling all the orders of the laggards, then what? The biggest point of being a beloved brand is to love the consumer.
I guess like many relationships, I hit my breaking point. And the guy in the blue shirt basically said “it’s not you, it’s me”. Now, let me figure out how to send an email on my new phone.
As Oscar Wilde said: “Never love anyone who treats you like you are ordinary”
To go deeper on the Apple, here’s an article I wrote 18 months ago, outlining how Apple is not delivering on their brand promise: Apple: What Goes Up, Might Come Down Not much has changed since.
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