The marketing strategy of Apple provides a modern textbook example of how organizations should approach the processes and practices of reaching people and turning them into customers. After all, the global success of iconic products such as the MacBook, the iPod, and the iPhone is a testament of how the company excelled at responding to demand, spearheading game-changing industry movements, and creating a pool of loyal customers.
Nonetheless, appreciating the successful business strategy of Apple requires determining and analyzing how it specifically approaches marketing. This article identifies and promptly discusses the key characteristics and elements in the marketing strategy of Apple.
Understanding the Marketing Strategy of Apple
Immediately after college dropouts Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak founded Apple in April 1976, the duo initially sold some 200 circuit boards that they produced inside an unused garage. They subsequently introduced the 8-bit fully functional home computer Apple II in 1977 and it eventually became one of the first highly successful commercially produced microcomputers in the market.
But the company did not rest alone with designing and manufacturing computers. Apple expanded its product portfolio and successfully emerged as an innovative and influential multinational technology company. The introduction of iPod in 2001 and the online music and app store iTunes have revolutionized the music industry through the promotion of digital music. These two products created and supported an emerging ecosystem for selling and purchasing music via the Internet. The company was also instrumental for ushering in the era of smartphones and tablet computers with the introduction of iPhone in 2007 and iPad in 2010. These two consumer electronic devices have reimagined the way manufacturers develop and produce mobile devices.
Understanding the success of revered and culturally iconic products such as the iPod and the iPhone fundamentally requires understanding the overall marketing strategy and specific tactics that hurdled the company, specific brands and trademarks, and products toward an unprecedented level of popularity, acceptance, and approval.
1. Product development strategy
Product strategy is a primary element of the marketing mix. With regard to Apple, a notable characteristic of its product strategy is a reactive and proactive approach to product development. The company does this by taking cues from products that are already existing in the market and improving them through simplification and innovation, especially by eliminating non-valuable wastes or undesirable qualities and adding novel features such as an improved user experience.
The reactive-proactive approach allows Apple to establish unique selling propositions and brand identities that revolve around simplicity and innovation. Apple products are marketed as visually appealing devices or services that simply work straight from the box.
Moreover, through the creation of complementary products, as exemplified, the company also promotes customer loyalty and sells a lifestyle built around dependence on technology by creating a uniform customer experience. Note that Apple products such as the MacBook, the iTunes, the iPhone, and even communication and productivity applications complement one another, thus creating a halo effect. Internet company Google also follows a similar strategy.
2. Premium pricing strategy
Apple products are considerably expensive when compared against counterpart products from competitors. In fact, one macOS device such as a MacBook Pro laptop can buy three to five mid-range Windows-based laptops from OEMs and the latest iPhone can buy two top-tier or three mid-range Android smartphone devices. But this premium pricing strategy is part of the marketing strategy of Apple.
The high price point of Apple products help the company promote and sustain an intended brand image. Remember that there are consumers who associate premium pricing with exceptional quality and thereby, exceptional reputation and distinction. This means that the high price tags further position these products as superior over their competitors.
It is also important to mention the fact that premium pricing positions a particular product as a luxury item and it further complements premium design and built quality. Nevertheless, patrons of luxury items do not mind paying a premium to maintain a sense of indulgence or promote a status symbol.
3. Stakeholder relationship building
More than just relationships with customers and suppliers, high profile companies are also compelled to build and maintain relationships with a range of stakeholders. Nonetheless, stakeholder relationship is also a key element in the marketing strategy of Apple because of its role in supplementing its promotional or marketing communication initiatives.
Maintaining relationship with media organizations and online influencers including tech bloggers and enthusiasts is a notable aspect of the stakeholder strategy and the subsequent promotional initiatives of Apple. The company has been hosting and staging press events or tradeshows for critical product launch and announcements or previews. Reporters and influencers from across the world have always attended these events.
The company also hosts and stages events for software developers through the Worldwide Developer Conference. This event allows Apple to introduce new software and technologies too while also giving it an opportunity to interact and maintain relationship with developers. Note that these developers are important part of the supply and value pipeline of the company.
Nonetheless, staging these events are more cost effective than traditional advertising and marketing promotions because they enjoy massive publicity from mainstream media organizations and online or social media influencers. The dates prior to these events even generate buzz and the announcements that accompany each even stimulates further the hype around a particular Apple product.
4. Advertising and other promotions
Apple sill does advertising and other forms of promotions despite the cost-effective publicity generated from events and the established resonance of its brands. Similar to direct competitors and other multinational business-to-consumer corporations, the company spends on traditional ads and digital marketing activities. It places ad units on Google Search and promotes multimedia contents on social networking sites such as YouTube. The company also partners with television and film producers for product placements.
The unique marketing situation of Apple has been demonstrated through the iPhone and the iPad brands. Note that the company still pursues its own ad campaigns. However, authorized resellers and network carriers also develop and implement their respective ad campaigns for Apple products. Unrelenting public demand for these product means that primary intermediaries are enthusiastic about telling to the public that they are selling these products. In addition, they also devise other promotional strategies to include specific sales promotion tactics such as discounts, exchange programs, and flexible payment terms, as well as specific after-sales services such as warrantees and customer support to encourage sales and maintain customer loyalty.
Of course, to protect its branding, Apple maintains a stringent branding guideline that dictates the manner in which these intermediaries should develop and implement their advertising and other promotional activities. This is the reason why marketing messages embedded in contents produced by intermediaries virtually look the same.
5. Global distribution strategy
An expansive global market presence is another notable characteristic of the marketing strategy of Apple. The company does this through a combination of push and pull distribution strategies. A push strategy involves building and maintaining relationship with distributors while a pull a strategy is involved with promoting the brands directly to consumers to pressure distributors to stock and resell the products.
Remember that most Apple products enjoy positive recall and reputation. This allows the company to pursue a single-level intensive distribution approach for global mass distribution in which it directly partners with different distributors to include primary intermediaries such as authorized resellers or so-called Authorized Apple stores and network carriers, as well as geography-specific secondary intermediaries to include retailers such as tech stores, department store chains, and online stores.
Part of the distribution strategy of Apple is the provision of universal or globally available customer service and after-sales support. Authorized resellers carry out these functions. Nonetheless, the fact that Apple products are serviceable further justifies their premium price tags and supports the entire customer experience.
6. Apple and cult marketing
The concept of cult marketing pertains to the goal of achieving a status in which a product or a brand attains a committed customer base with consumers characterized not only by loyalty but also a near fanatical behavior. Apple has successfully pursued and demonstrated this concept through different marketing initiatives.
One of the ways Apple has created a cult of following is through the development of complementary products and their subsequent halo effects. As mentioned, loyal consumers prefer buying relevant products from the company because of a streamlined customer experience that translates further to convenience and ease of use.
In the case of Apple, rather than focusing entirely on features or product benefits, the company also appeals to the emotion of the target market and existing customers through emotionally charged messages integrated into different marketing communications and brand positioning.
Extended customer experience also promotes the cult marketing strategy of Apple. The authorized retailers of the company include free immersive product demonstrations coupled with sophisticated interiors to encourage walk-ins from the target market. But the experience does not end at the cash register. Apple products are widely recognized for their packaging that unboxing them all the way to setting up bring forth an added experience.
The company also sells not just products but also a lifestyle. Products such as the Mac line of computers, mobile devices such as the iPhone and the iPad, the user experience of the macOS, the iOS, and other entertainment or productivity applications, as well as services such as the iTunes, iCloud, and the App Store create a technology-centered or technology-dependent universe wherein customers are placed at the center.