Many people have anticipated The 2nd of March for a while now. Steve Jobs – or his future successor – is due to announce his latest “revolution” to the World, namely the iPad 2. The press has rumoured Cupertino’s latest baby to sport a slightly different design, a frontal camera for video calls as well as a higher resolution screen (probably that “retina display” they’ve introduced with the iPhone 4). They might also release more versions (screen size and internal memory) to reach a wider market. So sleeker design, more versions, and addition of technologies already used on their current portfolio (camera and “retina display”). Rings any bells? That’s exactly what they’ve done when releasing the 2nd version of the iPod Touch.
I’ve been trying to understand how does Apple succeed so well. Sure their branding and marketing gurus have made it a purely inspiring brand with a vision, but there is more to that. I have been on their website and listed all the products they were selling for their main product lines. You will be surprised to see that that brand’s simplicity that everyone is praising actually extends to its products portfolio:
The above table shows that Apple sells 38 products (a number about to increase on the 2nd of March). Now looking closer, Apple actually sells 13 products, from 4 product lines, each declined in multiple versions. Looking even closer, you will see the differences between all these products: camera or not, retina display or not, screen size, internal memory or processor’s power. Logistically speaking, it would be safe to say that Apple actually release one great total product, and then remove/ lighten a few of its features to “multiply ” it in other versions and allow for it to be released upgraded a year later. This assumption also applies when you analyse the above chart across all products. The iPad for example, is literally a bigger iPod Touch (earlier version) with a bigger on-board memory, a bigger screen, and uses the same OS than the iPhone and the iPod Touch – that’s a lesson in economies of scale. All that doesn’t apply to their “lower end” devices (iPod Shuffle and iPhone 3Gs) that are only available in one version, or the iPod Classic that has been here for ages, using brilliant marketing techniques to sustain like the famous bottle of Coke, or even Hugo Boss “Hugo Man” fragrance.
So how does Apple succeed so well? Steve Jobs relies on a few core platforms – Mac and “i” ranges (iPod, iPad and iPhone) – to then play with technologies that can be applied to all them. The trick is then to know when and how he will release it. Therefore, anyone shouting that Apple is amazing as they have so many great products would be mistaken since they actually only have a couple. Now let’s open our marketing books to see what this technique allow them to do:
- Regularly refresh their products with features perceived as groundbreaking by their early innovators – eventually purchased by innovators and the rest of the gang
- Avoid the maturity phase of the Product Life Cycle (PLC)
- Reach a wider audience with products that are not significantly different but for which you are ready to pay a significantly higher price (up to £1k on Macbook Pro, £2k on Mac Pro)
So next time you see an ad stating – with their usual modesty – “this changes everything, again”, read it as “it changed everything a year ago on this so we ran it on that, thanks for your continuous custom”.