Case study: How Apple builds everything around simplicity

Apple Case StudyIn 1996, the Apple brand bordered on bankruptcy. It was just another computer company without any real point of difference. Years of overlooked opportunities, flip-flop strategies, and a mind-boggling disregard for market realities caught up with the company. The Windows 95 launch by Microsoft had severely eroded Mac’s technology edge. Apple was rapidly becoming a minor player in the computer business with shrinking market shares, price cuts, and declining profits.

Apple looked like it would not survive, as it was a poorly run organization through the early 1990s. Executives made terrible decisions with inconsistent strategies and, most importantly, there was no brand idea for what they should be. After Steve Jobs came to Apple in 1997, he shifted the focus to rebuilding around the  brand idea of “Apple makes technology so simple that everyone can be part of the future.” He took a consumer-first approach in a market dominated by an obsession with gadgets, bits, and bytes.

Here’s how the five elements of smart strategic thinking show how Apple completed its turnaround plan:

1. Set a vision of what you want

Apple’s vision was to make it easy to get everyone to be part of technology in the future. The main issue was how to create brand fans then mobilize them to spread the word to the masses.

2. Invest resources in a strategic program

Apple invested and aligned everything behind a brand idea defined as “Apple makes technology so simple; everyone can be part of the future.” The company uses this brand idea at every touchpoint, including the brand positioning, communication, innovation, purchase moment and experience.

3. Focus on an identified opportunity

For decades, Apple consistently focused on empathizing with—and taking advantage of—the consumer’s frustration with technology. In the 1980s, Apple attacked IBM personal computers as being too complicated. In 2005, they used “I’m a Mac, and I’m a PC” advertising to attack Microsoft. Each time, Apple used its “consumer-first” mentality to transform leading-edge technology into accessible consumer technology.

4. Leverage a breakthrough market impact

Apple takes a fast-follower stance that takes current technology and makes it simple to use. Every platform, including desktops, laptops, phones, watches, tablets, and music streaming delivers the brand idea of “simplicity.” And, Apple deploys high profile launch hype to use vocal Apple advocates to spread the word to their friends.

5. Performance result that pays back

Apple created a consumer bond with their brand fans to enter new categories. On top of that, Apple is now the most beloved consumer-driven brand, with premium prices, stronger market share, sales, and profits. They used brand love to help drive a remarkable 40x revenue growth over 10 years, skyrocketing from $5.7 billion in 2005 to $240 billion in 2015. This rapid growth helps cover the high costs of advertising and R&D, giving them very healthy operating margins, up over 35%. All this strategic effort has increased their market capitalization approaches $1 trillion.

 

The Apple Brand Plan

If you took the strategic thinking model and began to outline a brand plan for Apple brand, these would be the  core elements:

Vision: Apple wants everyone in the world to be part of the future.

Goals: Continue aggressive sales growth, geographic expansion into China, launch a major new consumer-friendly technology each year.

Key issues: 1) How do we convey Mac’s superior user experience versus the traditional PC?  2) How do we enter the music industry and increase the availability of online music to support our iPod?

Strategies: 1) Apple will launch a full communications assault to challenge the PC/Microsoft Windows dominant position by finding flaws in the PC to contrast with Mac computers’ simplicity to steal significant market share by enticing frustrated PC consumers to buy a Mac.  2) Apple will launch a full assault against the entire music industry with a disruptive innovator stance to show how iTunes provides higher quality digital music on your iPod much cheaper, faster and smarter than CDs to gain an entry point into the music industry.

Tactics: TV advertising to highlight new features and challenge competitors. Launch innovation each year including phones, tablets, online music, watches and personal computers. Laugh specific products for China. Increase retail space around the world. Build out the e-commerce program.

How Apple builds everything behind the “simplicity” brand idea

The brand idea for Apple is “making technology so simple that everyone can be part of the future.”  They take a consumer-first mentality, as they transform leading technology advancements into “consumer-accessible” technology, helping fuel the perception among the mass audience that Apple is an innovative leader. 

Apple has done a great job in taking that brand idea and stretching it across their brand story through advertising, and their innovation plan (as they have entered many new technology categories). They have also used their brand idea to guide how they manage the purchase moment (to make sure their retail outlets are easy for consumers), and how they create happy experiences for consumers. And when they don’t nail the ideal consumer experience, they go out of their way to help out. They also have the genius bar and on-site lessons, which help increase the knowledge of consumers.

Apple’s advertising has delivered “simplicity” since the 1970s

Apple’s advertising has been relatively consistent for over 40 years and incredibly connected with consumers. The early print ads of the 1970s talked about how we designed the computer, so you don’t have to worry about the details.

The “1984” TV ads for the Mackintosh launch spoke about the freedom from machines. Although the message was a little ahead of its time, it fit with simplicity.

The brilliance of the side-by-side “Mac versus PC” TV ads epitomized the brand idea by making the PC seem overly complicated and frustrating while setting up the Mac as the simple alternative.

Apple builds product innovation around simplicity

Apple has taken many failed technology ideas like online music, tablets, or mp3 players, and turned them into consumer-friendly platforms such as iTunes, iPads, and iPods. With each new product, Apple uses launch hype to generate excitement to spark the enthusiasm of the early adopters who spread the word. Also, Apple has successfully taken its cherished brand fans into new categories. 

Purchasing Apple products is very simple, including its own retail store experience 

Apple uses simplicity to manage the purchase moment through its retail stores, making sure the experience is simple and straightforward. All staff carry a credit card machine and complete the transaction very quickly. No lines or cash registers. Simplicity shines through the store layout, with the genius bar for one-on-one tech questions and support and the training area to teach classes. The brand also puts every Apple product on display to allow consumers to take them for a test drive. 

Even when Apple products are in other stores, the brand has used its power with that retailer to create a distinct store-within-a-store concept, which replicates a similar look and experience from Apple’s own retail locations.   

Apple obsesses about the consumer experience

As Steve Jobs famously said, “You have to start with the customer experience and work backward to the technology.” Apple even believes opening your Apple products should be like unwrapping a gift.

The brand wants the consumer to be able to use any Apple product right away rather than spending hours loading software or setting up your machine. Regarding product integration, Apple products work together, and they work the same way, which makes it very simple for consumers when they move from one Apple product to another.

Brand Love leads to power

As Apple has achieved an extremely tight bond with a loyal mass of followers, they use the tight consumer bond to generate brand power that they quietly wield in the market. Apple’s retail network of stores generates twice the sales per square foot of any retailer in the world, yet it is a very soft-sell environment. I was recently on a double-decker bus tour of New York City, and when the bus went past the 5th Avenue Apple flagship store, half the bus stood up to take a photo. And, Apple has such a power over the supplier network with an array of engineers following extremely tight procedures. Also, they have a power over the media, generating over $2 billion worth of free media each year. Moreover, Apple fans want to work at Apple, many times giving up lucrative jobs just to be part of the brand.

Apple Case Study Big Idea Simplicity

Brand Love leads to Profit

Apple extrapolates the power they generate into profit, with their incredible financial performance over the last 15 years. And, they generate significant price premiums, relatively lower cost of goods and moderate marketing spend ratios. This holds their margins at healthy levels for a technology firm. Furthermore, Apple has entered many new categories over the past 15 years, each time their army of loyal fans has followed, moving into laptops, phones, tablets and the music business. In each segment, Apple continues to gain share to drive volumes. Finally, the higher margins and higher volumes make for a beautiful profit statement.

Apple Case study big idea simplicity

 

Even though Apple gives the perception of an extremely friendly brand who is on the side of the consumer, they are now a huge mass market corporate brand, with a market capitalization of $500-600 billion, which 2-3 times the value of companies like Coke, Procter & Gamble, Pfizer, and IBM. So, if you invested a mere $10,000 in 2005, you would have $240,000 a decade later.

Apple uses their brand’s Big Idea to turn Brand love into higher power and profits.

At Beloved Brands, here is an expanded version of the Apple Case Study, including how Apple’s Big Idea guides everything they do, how to develop Apple’s Brand Strategy Road Map and how Apple’s brand love drives power and profit. Click on the Powerpoint file below to view:

 

I am excited to announce the release of my new book, Beloved Brands.

With Beloved Brands, you will learn everything you need to know so you can build a brand that your consumers will love.

You will learn how to think strategically, define your brand with a positioning statement and a brand idea, write a brand plan everyone can follow, inspire smart and creative marketing execution and analyze the performance of your brand through a deep-dive business review.

To order the e-book version of Beloved Brands, click on this link: https://lnkd.in/eUAgDgS

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Beloved Brands: Who are we?

At Beloved Brands, our purpose is to help brands find a new pathway to growth. We believe that the more love your brand can generate with your most cherished consumers, the more power, growth, and profitability you will realize in the future.

 

The best solutions are likely inside you already, but struggle to come out. Our unique engagement tools are the backbone of our strategy workshops. These tools will force you to think differently so you can freely generate many new ideas. At Beloved Brands, we bring our challenging voice to help you make decisions and refine every potential idea.

We help brands find growth

We start by defining a brand positioning statement, outlining the desired target, consumer benefits and support points the brand will stand behind. And then, we build a big idea that is simple and unique enough to stand out in the clutter of the market, motivating enough to get consumers to engage, buy and build a loyal following with your brand. Finally, the big idea must influence employees to personally deliver an outstanding consumer experience, to help move consumers along the journey to loving your brand.

We will help you write a strategic brand plan for the future, to get everyone in your organization to follow. It starts with an inspiring vision that pushes your team to imagine a brighter future. We use our strategic thinking tools to help you make strategic choices on where to allocate your brand’s limited resources. We work with your team to build out project plans, creative briefs and provide advice on marketing execution.

To learn more about our coaching, click on this link:  Beloved Brands Strategic Coaching

We make Brand Leaders smarter

We believe that investing in your marketing people will pay off. With smarter people behind your brands will drive higher revenue growth and profits. With our brand management training program, you will see smarter strategic thinking, more focused brand plans, brand positioning, better creative briefs that steer your agencies, improved decision-making on marketing execution, smarter analytical skills to assess your brand’s performance and a better management of the profitability of the brand.

To learn more about our training programs, click on this link:  Beloved Brands Training

If you need our help, email me at graham@beloved-brands.com or call me at 416 885 3911

 

Graham Robertson bio

Is it time we admit that the Apple BRAND is better than the Apple PRODUCT?

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Apple is clearly the brand of our generation. In our house, we have an iMac desktop, 2 iPads, 3 iPhones, and two MacBooks.  I love Apple. But this past spring, as my phone contract expired, I started to wonder if I get the iPhone 5S or wait for the iPhone 6.  I was a free agent, and started to look around. I looked at the Android, but like many “Apple fans”, I viewed them as the competition, like a NY Yankee fan might view the Boston Red Sox. The more I dug in, the more I realized the Android phone was quite better than the iPhone: bigger screen, faster processor, better camera.  So I bought a Samsung Galaxy Note 3. Whaaaat? That’s right. A Samsung. I felt like a cult member who snuck out of the compound one night and drooled when I saw the Samsung phone. I could see the Galaxy was light years ahead of my iPhone.  Now that I see the iPhone 6, I’m glad I bought the Samsung instead of waiting.  

Yes, the Apple iPhone 6 news kinda fizzled, but does that matter anymore?

I’m no tech expert, but the iPhone 6 feels a very incremental technology. I’m sure it does a few things I’m not aware of or could appreciate. Financial analysts were so bored by the launch, many downgraded the stock. Yes, the Apple stock price is extremely high, but maybe it’s time for the stock to stop living and dying based on the next great launch.  And maybe, it’s time for us to realize that Apple has shifted from a product driven brand to an idea driven brand.  The real reason people buy Apple is the BIG IDEA that “We make technology so SIMPLE, everyone can be part of the future”. With Apple, it has become less about how we think about the product and more how we feel about the brand. While Samsung has a better product than they do a brand, Apple now has a better brand than they do a product.  Samsung can’t get past talking features instead of benefits, offering almost zero emotional connection beyond the product.  Apple has created such an intensely tight bond with their consumers, they are more powerful than your average monopoly. Apple uses that power with the very consumers who love them, against competitors who try to imitate them and through every type of media or potential key influencer in the market. Below we have mapped out the Brand Strategy Road Map for the the Apple brand.  

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Apple isn’t really a technology leader, and likely never was. Yes, Apple had an amazing decade of new products from 2001-2011 that gave us the iPod, iTunes, Macbook Air, iPhone and iPad, but Apple is 
a quick follower who figure out the mistakes the technology leaders make and then cleans them up for the mass market. Apple exploits the fact that the first to market technologies are so badly launched (mp3 players, on-line music and tablets) the average consumer never really sees them, leaving the perception that Apple is the innovator. Apple’s product strategy is: “We bring technology that is simple and consumer friendly across a broad array of electronics products. Products have simple stylish designs, user-friendly functionality, convenience and speed.”  Apple’s brand story, told through great advertising like “Mac vs PC” is: “Technology shouldn’t be intimidating or frustrating. We make it simple enough so you can be engaged right away, do more and get more, with every Apple product you are use.”   As an example below, the  beautiful ads over the past year are less about the product features and more about how the brand makes you feel.  

The most Beautiful Apple Product Apple is now their P&L statement

Maybe we just need to relax on these Apple launches and admire Apple’s Profit and Loss statements.  Apple is going to sell about 80 million iPhone 6’s and I bet the iPhone 6 will be under many Christmas trees this year. Stores continue to be packed–it’s tough to even get an appointment.  The Apple retail stores have the highest sales per square foot, almost twice the #2 store, which is Tiffany’s selling diamond rings.  

Apple is now a huge mass market corporate brand, with a market capitalization of $600 billion, 3 times the value of companies like Coke, Procter & Gamble, Pfizer and IBM.  Apple has moved from the challenger type brand to the “king of the castle” brand. Back in the 1980s, IBM was the “drive the BMW, wear a blue suit with polished shoes” type brand, while Apple was “comfortable in your VW Bug, tee-shirt and sandals” brand. Apple was the alternative, anti-corporate, artist. But that’s changed. As much as Apple fought off and won against the corporate arrogant brands like IBM, Microsoft and Sony, they’ve now become that very type of corporate brand.

At Beloved Brands, we believe the more loved a brand is by it’s consumers, the more powerful and profitable that brand can be.  The best example of this model is the Apple brand. 

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In researching the Apple brand, and as a true brand geek like me, when I opened up their P&L statement I almost gushed:  I drooled over the compound annual growth rate, stared at the margin % and was in awe of how their fixed marketing spend stayed constant as the sales went through the roof.  It’s the P&L that every Brand Leader wants to leave for the next guy.  

Apple Brand > Apple Product

At Beloved Brands, we run a Brand Leadership Center to train marketers in all aspects of marketing from strategic thinking, analysis, writing brand plans, creative briefs and reports, judging advertising and media. To read more on the programs we offer, click on the Powerpoint presentation below:

We make Brands better. We make Brand Leaders better.™

We offer Brand Coaching, where we promise to make your Brand better by listening to the issues, providing advice that challenges you, and coaching you along a strategic pathway to reaching your Brand’s full potential. For our Brand Leader Training, we promise to make your team of Brand Leaders better, by teaching sound marketing fundamentals and challenging to push for greatness so that they can unleash their full potential. Feel free to add me on Linked In, or follow me on Twitter at @belovedbrands If you need to contact me, email me at graham@beloved-brands.com or phone me at 416 885 3911

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The Microsoft Tablet Disaster was so easy to Predict

bgr-surface-red-touch-coverWell, that was quick.  Nine months ago, Microsoft made a big deal about getting into the Tablet business. And now nine months later, Microsoft is writing off $900 Million worth of Tablets that have been occupying a warehouse.   Not only the major write off, but now that the outlook and confusion of what’s next for Microsoft looms, the stock price dropped 10%, losing $30 Billion in market value.  Ouch.  

I hate being right!!!  I just hate it. The reason I hate it, is because it seems like the obvious should be obvious to everyone.  This tablet launch just had disaster screaming all over it.  Sometimes the answers are so obvious, yet people are blinded by not asking the right question.  They just go ahead with wrong answers. For Microsoft, they missed a bunch of right questions?  

Q: What business are we in?   
A: We do software really well.  Especially when we are in a monopolistic position.  We kinda suck at hardware.  Did you see what we did on Zune?  That wasn’t pretty.   

Q: Do we have a leap-frog technology? Is the Microsoft Surface product better, different or cheaper?  
A: Not really different.  It’s like a really nice iPad with a very bad and cheap plastic lid. And better?  Well it is better than a tablet, which people use for fun.  But it’s nowhere near a Macbook Air which people use for work.  So we’re better than one and worse than the other.  We’re a bit confused but we hope the consumer gets it.  And we are going to charge a significant premium, because we are Microsoft and we always do.   So I guess it’s not really better, cheaper or different.  But, we have lots of resources and stores of our own.  Well, not a lot of stores, and they aren’t very crowded.  But we hope this does well? 

Q: Will it be pretty easy to communicate the point of difference?
A:  Not really easy.  We are going to do ads with geeky people dancing and closing the lid. A lot.  People might think they are laptops.  But we’ll press the screen so they know it’s like their iPad, only it has a lid.  We won’t try to out-cool Apple.  We’ll try to be cool, as in “the coolest kid in the Science club” kind of cool.

Q: Apple is already on their 4th tablet and likely has 3 years of incremental innovation in the pipeline?  Samsung Galaxy is an amazing product and they are killing it on cool innovation.  Do we have any R&D innovation beyond the initial launch?    
A:  No.  Is that a problem?  

Q: If we are so good at software, and the world has moved to Apps, which is sort of like software, why don’t we take all our energy and expertise in the software business and start applying that to Apps?  
A:  Wow, that’s a good question, but we’ve already ordered the plastic lids for the Tablets.  Why don’t we do both.  But truth be told, we kinda suck at Apps.    

These questions would have allowed us to look at the vision, promise, strategy, story, freshness and culture that would showcase how ill prepared Microsoft was for the Surface launch. Here’s an example of how a brand like Special K uses the promise, story, freshness, and culture to help guide their brand.

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Answering these 5 questions also helps to map out the Microsoft Brand Strategy Road Map.   It might also highlight how wrong the surface is to the overall Microsoft brand. Here’s an example of what the Brand Strategy Road Map looks like.

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Predicting Disaster Was Pretty Easy

In the spirit of predicting this disaster, I wrote a story last June on the how the Microsoft Surface would be a disaster.  Like I said, I hate being right.  Click on the story below:  

Why Does Microsoft Keep Copying Apple?

At the time, the response i got back was 50/50, with half of the people criticizing the Microsoft Surface launch and the other half criticizing me for criticizing the Surface launch.  I always figure 50/50 is a good ratio to stir the pot.  But, I was starting to think I might be going overboard on being an Apple lover.  Here’s a summary of my view.

Getting into the Tablet Business Feels like Zune

Getting into hardware is a big gamble and not something that fits with Microsoft’s strengths.  To be a success, you either have to be better, different or cheaper and this feels like none of those.  Just like the Zune, it feels as though they are late and aren’t really offering anything that’s a game-changer to the category.  Like most categories at the stage where tablets are, until someone really shakes it up, the next few years are likely all about constant small innovation, new news each year with Apple leading the way on the high-end and Samsung’s cost innovation will likely squeeze Microsoft right out of the category.  The analysts are so excited by the launch that the MSFT stock price is down 1.3%.

The Best Strategic Answers Start with the Best Strategic Questions

 

To read more on How to Write a Brand Plan, read the presentation below:

email-Logo copyABOUT BELOVED BRANDS INC.:  At Beloved Brands, we are only focused on making brands better and making brand leaders better.Our motivation is that we love knowing we were part of helping someone to unleash their full potential.  We promise to challenge you to Think Different.  We believe the thinking that got you here, will not get you where you want to go.  grOur President and Chief Marketing Officer, Graham Robertson is a brand leader at heart, who loves everything about brands.  He comes with 20 years of experience at companies such as Johnson and Johnson, Pfizer Consumer, General Mills and Coke, where he was always able to find and drive growth.  Graham has won numerous new product and advertising awards. Graham brings his experience to your table, strong on leadership and facilitation at very high levels and training of Brand Leaders around the world.  To reach out directly, email me at graham@beloved-brands.com 

At Beloved Brands, we love to see Brand Leaders reach their full potential.  Here are the most popular article “How to” articles.  We can offer specific training programs dedicated to each topic.  Click on any of these most read articles:

Ask Beloved Brands to run a workshop to find your brand positioning or ask how we can help train you to be a better brand leader.

Apple: What goes up, might come down

 

The Apple brand of today is still healthy, the stores are still packed and sales are still strong. But the fear is that if Apple’s innovation over the next 18 months looks like Apple’s innovation of the past 18 months, then the Apple brand may be at its peak, no longer on the climb.   

My hope is that Apple finds their way and regains the momentum of the brand that has surprised and delighted us like no other brand. But my fear is they become another Sony that rests on their laurels and coasts for the next decade. I’m a big Apple fan, typing away on my MacBook Air with my iPad mini and iPhone close by and my iMac sitting on my desk. But it sure does feel like Sony of the early 1990’s. There’s talk of geographic expansion into China, but that might take their eyes off the real need: we need to see real innovation. Enough of the incremental BS. What do you have that will surprise me beyond my wildest dreams?

Five Connectors of a Beloved Brand

To be a Beloved Brand, you must have an idea that’s worth loving.  Under the Brand Idea are 5 sources of connectivity (see diagram below) that help connect the brand with consumers and drive Brand Love, including

  1. Brand promise
  2. Strategic choices
  3. Ability to tell their story
  4. Freshness of the product or service
  5. Overall experience and impressions it leaves with you.  

Everyone wants to debate what makes a great brand–whether it’s the product, the advertising or the experience.   It is not just one or the other, but the collective connection of all five that make a brand beloved.  If one of them weakens against the brand promise, it puts the entire brand at risk.

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The big idea behind Apple is complexity made simple. Since every great brand tackles an enemy of the consumer, Apple takes on the frustration and intimidation that consumers have with technology. The Apple brand promise is we make it easier to love technology, so that you can experience the future no matter who you are.  

Problem #1:  Has Apple Broken their Promise? 

Over the last decade, Apple has done an amazing job in creating products that take the most complicated of technology and deliver it so that anyone can use it. Apple takes the technology out of technology so we can all benefit. That’s right–“so we can all benefit”.  Apple is now a brand owned by the Masses. Yes, the masses rely on the innovators for advice, but Apple caters as much to my 70-something mother (iPad owner) as it does to my 14-year old daughter (iPhone user).  

There are 4 instances in the past 18 months where Apple has gotten off track:  

  1. Apple Maps were a disaster in more ways than one. The first week of iPhone 5 owners was largely filled with the most loyal Apple users, the innovators who will influence the rest of us. And the maps disaster was the first major flaw of the post-jobs era that people were waiting for.   
  2. Siri remains a disaster. Siri does not deliver the promise as it adds frustration, not solves it. Siri is a nice little toy that combined with Apple’s auto-correct takes my enunciation and turns into words I’ve never dreamed of saying. I end up having to re-type the mistakes of Siri, which defeats the whole purpose behind voice recognition.  If these were brakes on a car, it would be re-called for the safety of society. It’s unlike Apple to release such a bad product.   
  3. Retina Display is not a mass play. The launch of iPad 3 feels odd. They kept the iPad 2 out in the market and didn’t even put the #3 on the iPad 3. It feels like something the niche Apple brand would have done, but now that you are a mass brand, you must cater to your consumer.  
  4. Apple TV has done nothing really. While a few friends have it, I hear no one talking about it. A quiet Fizzle.  

USP 2.0

Strategically, these 4 innovations were some of the big plays by Apple in the past 18 months. And where do they fall on the test of uniqueness? The Maps puts you in the losing zone where you are competing with Google Maps in the zone where they kick your ass.  Retina Display ends up being a niche play for photographers or fussy consumers, but for the rest of us it is in the “who cares”, certainly not worth an extra $150 compared to the iPad 2. And Siri is not on the map, because it’s just an under-delivery that while it’s an innovation that leads the consumer, it only ends up frustrating them even more.   

Problem #2: Is Apple still making a dent in the universe?

What caused Apple to rise so fast during the first decade of the century was innovation–the iPod followed by iTunes, the iMac vs the PC, the iPhone and then the iPad revolutionized the way we interact socially. In many cases, Apps have replaced software.   Wow, Wow and Wow!!!

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But, the last 15 months has been a period of incrementalism.  In 2012, we saw iPad 3, iPhone 5 and iPad Mini and the fear among investors is that 2013 might be iPad 4, iPhone 6 and iPad Mini 2. Slightly better, slightly lighter, but just as expensive. There becomes less and less of a reason to trade up. And sadly, at risk, less and less of a reason to love the brand. Technology is about leap-frog. And the world will not stand still in the next year. Brands like Google and Samsung are ready to leap.  

Steve Jobs always talked about “Making a dent in the Universe” and people bought in and followed. Apple’s beauty has always been to give us what we never imagined.  And yet, now we are starting to not only imagine it, but predict it.  Everyone saw the iPad Mini coming. In fact, we asked for it and Apple merely succumbed to our request. Technology is supposed to surprise us with advances that not only meet our needs but cater to the needs we didn’t even know we had. Apple has to get that back.  

Is Apple still making a dent in the Universe?  

Problem #3: Apple must quiet the “Anti” Apple Segment

Haters are always going to hate. In the technology space, the innovators and early adopters are those who tell the rest of us what to think and do. These consumers are constantly looking for the “technology fraud” and it feels as though some are starting to call Apple on it. The Samsung advertising has capitalized on this insight, openly mocking the iPhone5 launch. The only way Apple can shut this down is with action on the technology front. If Apple’s next product is the iPad Mini with Retina display or  the iPad4 comes with a better battery life than this group will become even more outspoken.

There are so many parodies of Apple being shared by millions that not only mock the technique of the advertising but the incrementalism of their technology.  This only fuels the haters.  

Problem #4: Leadership Style

When Tim Cook took on the Apple brand, people worried but became re-assured that he had been running the Apple brand for a while. The brand was on a high after an amazing decade under Steve Jobs, and as a leader he faced a “sustaining success” leadership challenge. Keep the momentum going. Can anyone re-live that visionary relentless pursuit of perfection that Jobs brought to the role.  

Now it appears that Cook faces a “re-alignment” challenge. Cook needs to re-invigorate the R&D at Apple to push for innovation that goes beyond expectations. Making a dent in the universe means pushing for greatness, not settling for OK incremental-ism. Cook has quickly fired all those connected to the Maps fiasco. But, he has to look at himself in the mirror for wondering how it got out past him. The pressure is definitely on. The questions of 18 months ago are back:  

Can Tim Cook do it?   
The World and the stock market are watching Apple.

To read How to Create and Run a Beloved Brand, read the following presentation:


Positioning 2016.112

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 commitment. 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 behavior. 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.

Positioning 2016.111
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