Tag: iphone

by the way, how’s the apple watch doing?

This week was probably the most important one of the year for many early adopters out there (probably because Star Wars will only be out at the end of the year). Tim Cook – first disciple of Saint Steve – unveiled a whole bunch of new Apple gadgets, including a new iPhone, iPad, 3D Touch, and pencil (because “nobody wants a stylus”, right Steve?)

But what about the Watch, Tim? So far the Watch is slowly taking off with about 4M devices shipped. Good but still some way to go before they can replace something that’s been on our wrists for so long.

The recent announcement of an Hermes partnership (and a less “gadgety” look) is going to give it more credibility as a fashion accessory, a key step to reach before competing in the watch market (and not the smartwatch one). You could see the foundation of that strategy when they launched a high end Edition range. Let’s face it, no advertising will do more than showing off its features and how it could benefit our lives, but I doubt the millions of Apple users need convincing on that front. The real challenge to me is to convince people it can replace their watch – something that is everything BUT a gadget in most people’s minds.

One shouldn’t undermine how important that product line is to them. They are building on their new status of luxury brand (especially in Asia and according to Brandz) and will have to gain full credibility within the category.

Screen Shot 2015-09-13 at 19.47.49

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is apple getting tired?

Apple’s slick product development strategy consists of permanently avoiding the maturity phase of its products by spreading the deployment of their existing innovations over time. This ensures consumers will keep upgrading their devices and flourish the company’s cash flow with minimum R&D. Perhaps what they didn’t realise is that this strategy is, today, leading the company itself to its maturity phase, as they are seen as lacking innovation as a whole.

Is Apple getting tired? The fact that this happened when Steve Jobs left the Earth is a mere coincidence to me. This trend had already started before he left. Maybe the answer simply relies in the fact that competition managed to catch up. Apple’s current trial with Samsung – the company behind the development of the iPhone’s nemesis – unveiled an interesting letter that says it all about Samsung’s threat on Apple.

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These two companies are differentiated by a key aspect of their marketing. Samsung never really had a strong brand equity, nor vision. If they have one, it is nowhere near the one of Apple (I wouldn’t wear a Samsung T-shirt – would you?). But they embraced Android like no other and managed to create a simple yet innovative and powerful product line in the name of the Galaxy range, which has quickly matched the appeal of the iPhone. Apple on the other hand, have established one of the strongest brands ever and have been challenging the status quo since releasing the first Mac with an ad to remember in 1984. That said, the recent releases of their products have been disappointing to say the least, with some little evolution that has been beaten by Samsung and other players in the market. A focus on a strong brand vs. a focus on a strong product.

What did go wrong for a company that was seen untouchable 5 years ago? Any new technologies they proudly launched have been matched by the competition, be it Siri or Face Time. They released a new iOS, which, to me, seems to take some hints from both Windows Mobile (design) and Android (functionality). Just like they seem to align on their competitors, with the rumoured launch of a bigger screen size after resisting it with the argument that you could reach the whole of your iPhone 5 screen with your thumb. And their anticipated attempt to release a cheaper version of the iPhone – the iPhone 5c, which is basically the iPhone 5 with a plastic colour cover reminiscent of the relaunch of the iPod Nano range – failed to deliver with a hefty price of around £450.

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Maybe that last point is the beginning of the answer. When Apple released what everyone expected as an entry-level iPhone, they were actually never going to trade off their premiumness which is what their brand stands for and simply released a colour range rather than compromising on who they are. Can focusing on their brand keep them out of the water for long? The launch of the iPhone 6 at the end of this year is still fuelling conversations and will definitely be a turning point should they fail to deliver ground-breaking innovation. Their activeness on the patent front might be reassuring. There are also new battlefields this year, such as the wearable tech, with Google and Samsung being key players. So let’s not list them as dead just yet. After all, maybe that mind-blowing ad (and the way it was launched at the back of the Super Bowl storm) is reminding everyone of who they are. The question, though, is not about who they are but about what they will do.

 

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the common point between the iphone 4 and a bottle of coke.

I have spent 3 years on Nokia’s global communications. One of the interesting things you learn while working on global campaigns is the differences in shopper behaviours across markets. For example, research has shown that in most developed markets shoppers purchase their mobile phones on a contract, therefore trust the operator or phone specialists to sell them the device, usually at a much lower cost and alongside an engagement over time. The operator therefore plays the role of sole trusted distributor on the market, which allows him to dictate most rules such as the format of the end product (adding in their branding on both soft and hardware), price promotions or even back margins. Now why would this matter?

When Nokia’s ex-CEO (may he rest in peace) announced in 2009 that his company would now focus on selling mobile solutions (i.e. devices and services) as opposed to manufactured products (i.e. device only), this only highlighted an established trend that eventually allowed more players to enter the market (since developing a software is relatively cheaper and less painful than prototyping a new hardware). That is in that context that operators such as Orange or O2 started to launch their own mobile services and to preload it on the devices they were selling, sidelining the manufacturers’ offering.

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The power to dictate the rules has switched from the manufacturer to the operator, in a context where both of them are trying to sell mobile services that have the same consumer benefits. So why do we persist on doubling up? How does Nokia justify its Ovi Music marketing budget in the UK, where Orange (one of its main distributors) will sell Nokia devices with Orange Monkey? Why don’t the 2 players work hand in hand to develop common platforms that would be even more compelling and less confusing for consumers?

Mind you, these assumptions aren’t a rule of thumb. A great software such as the successful Ovi Maps proved that the manufacturer can overturn the market’s standards and allow consumers to download the service they wish to use. Another exception is the Apple iPhone that managed to rely on strong brand equity to reverse the trend and dictate its rules to operators (exclusive/ selective distribution, exclusive use of Apple services, share of revenues etc…).

An acclaimed brand gives it the right to switch the balance of power between suppliers and distributors. This is not new at all. After all, Apple only did exactly what Coke did to all its grocery retailers (ever considered a grocery store without bottles of Coke?). There again, it’s not the product or the service, it’s the brand and the way you sell it.

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Apple v.2.0.

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:

Apple table

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.

iconic design

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:

  1. Regularly refresh their products with features perceived as groundbreaking by their early innovators – eventually purchased by innovators and the rest of the gang
  2. Avoid the maturity phase of the Product Life Cycle (PLC)
  3. 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”.

iphone4-changes-everything

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