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, based on iconic products such as the MacBook, the iPod, and the iPhone, it has excelled at responding to market demand, leading game-changing developments, attracting the attention of the public, and creating a legion of devoted customers. Nonetheless, understanding the success of the company requires analyzing how it approaches marketing. This article identifies and discusses the main elements in the marketing strategy of Apple.
Decoding the Marketing Strategy of Apple: A Guide to Understanding the Key Elements that Make the Company a Leader in Effective Marketing
1. Product Development Strategy
The traditional marketing mix model places product strategy before all other elements of marketing. Apple does the same. It has a product strategy based on a combination of a reactive approach and a proactive approach to product development. This involves taking cues from existing products in the market and improving them through innovation and simplification or the elimination of undesirable qualities and adding novel product features and benefits.
A reactive approach allows Apple to develop products that have an established market appeal while a proactive approach enables it to make these products stand out from the rest through the inclusion of unique selling propositions. A combination of these approaches permits the company to introduce products that are easier to market. This has been exemplified in consumer electronic devices such as the iPod and the iPhone or in services such as Apple Music.
The company did not invent the first digital music player. It was not the inventor of the first smartphone. The iPod was introduced with a minimalist look and was supplemented with the iTunes digital music store. The same is true for the iPhone. It might not be the first smartphone in the market but it was the first to maximize the advantages of a capacitive touchscreen. Apple Music banks on its devoted customers and the popularity of streaming music services.
Moreover, through the development of complementary products and a closed product ecosystem, Apple has created and nurtured a legion of devoted customers while encouraging repeat sales. This is called the halo effect. A particular Apple product reinforces the appeal of other Apple products. The entire Apple brand sells a lifestyle built around the benefits of using various technological products with a uniform user experience for maximum convenience.
2. Premium Pricing Strategy
Another notable element of the marketing strategy of Apple is its premium pricing scheme. It is important to highlight the fact that its products are more expensive compared to counterpart products from its competitors. A single MacBook Pro or an iPad Pro is equivalent to at least three mid-range laptops running on Microsoft Windows from original equipment manufacturers. The latest iPhone is equivalent to four to three mid-range Android smartphones.
The higher price points of its product help in promoting and sustaining its intended brand image. Apple reinforces the exceptional characteristics of its products and its premium branding through premium pricing. This pricing strategy also helps in targeting customers who associate high prices with product quality. This means that premium pricing helps in positioning the products and the entire brand as superior to alternative products and other competing brands.
It is also important to reiterate and underscore the fact that a premium pricing strategy positions a particular product in the luxury market. This complements the minimalistic but refined design philosophy of Apple that has been applied across its range of consumer electronic devices and the user interface of its software products. There is a sizeable market for people who do not mind shelling out a premium for expensive-looking products and to maintain a status symbol.
3. Stakeholder Relationship Building
High-profile companies are compelled to build and maintain relationships with stakeholders to improve their public reputation, reinforce their standing and the status of their brand, build and maintain valuable networks, and maximize or expand further public reach. This is also another important element in the marketing strategy of Apple because of its role in reinforcing its brand and supplementing various promotional or marketing communication initiatives.
An important tactic within the promotional and greater marketing strategy of Apple is its relationship with various media organizations and online influencers such as tech vloggers and tech enthusiasts around the world. The company has been staging media events or product tradeshows for important critical product launches and announcements or previews. Inviting reporters and influencers to these events helps in generating maximizing media coverage.
The company also hosts and stages events for software developers through its Worldwide Developer Conference. This event serves as an avenue for Apple to introduce new software products and technologies, create networking opportunities, and encourage attendees to develop innovative and compelling applications for the Apple product ecosystem. It is important to note that software development from third parties reinforces the value chain of the company.
Apple Events are more cost-effective than traditional advertising and other promotional activities when it comes to creating awareness. Each event receives a significant amount of attention from mainstream media organizations and online influences. This helps in maximizing reach and generating greater public attention. The dates prior to these events even generate a buzz and the announcement made at each event stimulates hype and encourages public discussions.
4. Advertising and Other Promotions
Apple used to do a lot of advertising. This was evident during the earlier generations of Mac computers, in the promotion of the iPod, and the launching of the first generations of the iPhone. However, as its brand garners enough recognition and equity, it has lessened its advertising activities. It still does advertising. However, unlike most multinational business-to-consumer companies and its direct competitors, it has trimmed down its advertising budget.
The unique status of Apple has lessened its need to spend on advertisements for promotion. This has been demonstrated through the iPhone and iPad. Most advertisements for these products come from authorized Apple distributors and network carriers. The high demand for these products gives intermediaries a strong incentive to produce and publish advertisements to attract the attention of the public and generate sales. These intermediaries also develop and implement other sales promotional tactics such as special discounts and flexible purchase options.
Apple still does advertising and most of them are coursed through online channels such as ad placements on Google Search and social media. It also pursues various social media marketing and partners with television and film products for product placements and hires endorsers or brand ambassadors for a particular marketing campaign. Another part of its sales promotion is its student discount program, after-sales services, and its trade-in and recycling program.
5. Apple and Cult Marketing
The concept of cult marketing pertains to the creation of a dedicated and passionate fan base around a particular product or an entire brand. This fan base corresponds to a community of dedicated followers composed of customers who have a strong emotional connection to the brand and its values. A defining characteristic of the marketing strategy of Apple is its success in utilizing cult marketing through its products and its different marketing initiatives.
Apple has cultivated a legion of devoted customers through the development of iconic products and the subsequent closed product ecosystem made of different but complementary products. These devoted customers prefer purchasing relevant products from the company because of the established status of the brand that comes from its innovative qualities and premium pricing and the more practical unified user experience that translates to convenience or ease of use.
Furthermore, instead of focusing on product features and benefits alone, the company also appeals to the emotions of the target customers and existing customers through the dissemination of emotionally charged messages. An extended customer experience also promotes further the specific cult marketing strategy of Apple. This experience starts at its stores and it does not end at the cash register. Unboxing a particular product brings forth an added experience.
It is also important to reiterate that the company does not just sell technological products but also a lifestyle. Products such as the Mac and the MacBook, the iPhone and the iPad, the user interface and user experience of the macOS and the iOS or iPadOS, other entertainment and productivity applications, and services such as the App Store create a technology-centered or technology-dependent universe wherein customers are placed at the center.
6. Global Distribution Strategy
An expansive global market presence to make its product as available as possible represents another critical element in 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 a relationship with authorized distributors while a pull strategy involves promoting the products directly to consumers to pressure distributors to stock and resell.
Remember that most Apple products relish a positive reputation and a strong demand. This allows the company to pursue a single-level intensive distribution approach for global mass distribution in which it directly partners with different distributors. These include primary intermediaries such as authorized resellers or so-called Authorized Apple stores and network carriers, as well as geography-specific secondary intermediaries that include retailers such as dedicated consumer electronics stores, department store chains, and online stores.
Part of the distribution strategy of Apple is the provision of universal and accessible customer service and after-sales support. Authorized distributors perform these functions. These stores provide training for new customers and render after-sales services such as troubleshooting and repairs. The sales and after-sales services at its authorized stores rationalize further the premium pricing strategy of its products and reinforce the premium image of its brand.