Apple Way of Marketing and the rest of us

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Much has already been written about the secrets of Apple’s marketing success – in the form of blog posts and books. But the topic continues to fascinate tech & marketing pundits. Two aspects of Apple’s marketing – retail and advertising strategy were talked about in two recent articles. The Wall Street Journal wrote about the tightly controlled processes at Apple Stores; The AdContrarian followed it up an article on Apple’s approach to advertising & social media (mainly the lack of an active official social media presence).

Apple’s approach to marketing could cover the following broad topics:

1. Focus on getting the product right (better design, usability, superior to competition) and let everything else follow

2. Use PR smartly: despite the legendary secrecy, Apple smartly uses PR to feed ‘Apple-friendly’ sites on product rumours at the right time; get Apple fans to be your brand advocate in public fora

3. Dramatize the product in advertising: right from the 1984 ads (the famous Garamond font identity) to the current crop of ads, the hero of the ads has always been the product or a feature/benefit (as in the Mac vs PC ads). Apple has never done ‘lifestyle’ advertising – the type which shows a montage of smiling, laughing people enjoying Apple products. The same approach is visible in their website copy – the headline almost always is about a specific feature of the product followed by a ‘clever’ line to close the argument.

Google and a handful of other companies too let their products speak for themselves. But not all companies are like Google or Apple. Most of the products out there address mundane everyday needs and mostly are on parity with competition. So how do we create preference, loyalty for your everyday product – where, the onus is clearly on advertising to create likeability for the brand? If I were to pick up one leaf from the Apple Way, it’d be from this quote from Steve Jobs:

”People think focus means saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully.”

In advertising – saying no to the hundred things you can say and identifying that one right thing to say is a constant struggle. The desire (or the pressure) to say ‘this and also that’ and the lack of focus on that one sharp proposition is a common phenomenon. Another aspect of Apple marketing which we all could learn from is the ability to create ‘newsworthiness’. Before the days of re-tweeting and ‘Likes’ there was good old word of mouth. If you liked a piece of advertising you told your friend about it.  Just the sight of Apple’s products in online media gets the ‘oohs and aahs’ – it  almost automatically creates a a desire to share it among friends. Good advertising has the same effect too.

So if we have to advertise a parity product in a low involvement category, Apple’s marketing lessons could still be relevant. What say?

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