Pending any errors or glitches, I’m done with my group project for my Statistics course (10% of the final grade), so now all I have to do is take the Statistics Final and I’m done with the Spring semester! To mix things up a bit, tonight I’m posting the last essay for my Fundamentals of Marketing class. The assignment description was “Pick any retail store that you deal with. Using the ideas in Chapter 22, what strategies do you see them using? Try to identify one or two and explain what signs or actions by the company lead you to that conclusion.” My grade for this assignment is pending, but even if I receive a zero for this essay, I’ll be getting at least an A- in the class; if I receive a 6/10 or above on the essay I’ll earn an A for the class! [Update: I got a 10/10 on the essay and an A for the class]. Onto the essay…
I’ve used this company as an example before, but I admire their marketing strategies so much and feel they execute those strategies so well that they merit another discussion. Apple, and their Apple stores are part of the computer and now, with products such as the Apple TV, iPod, and iPhone, the electronic devices markets. Their corporate ethos places design as a highly valued component of Apple’s complete business strategy from manufacturing exemplary hardware and software to excellent and knowledgeable customer service to unique, interesting, and memorable advertisements.
One aspect of Apple’s corporate strategy is clear to everyone; Apple employees, consumers, analysts and critics can all see that Apple competes in the consumer electronics industry on a differentiation basis. The current PC (Personal Computer, meant to symbolize Microsoft Windows) versus Mac commercials airing highlight the differences between computers computers running Microsoft operating systems (such as Windows or Vista) and Apple computers running Apple’s Mac OS X operating system. Many of the ads promote the benefits of the Mac OS X operating system, such as increased security, intuitive use, valuable bundled programs and reliability in comparison to Microsoft’s market leading (in terms of market share) operating systems. These ads also promote the benefits of having a computer from Apple, such as the inclusion of a camera, built into the display. Apple differentiates itself form every other computer hardware and software manufacturer by producing the computer, its operating system, and user software. By controlling all aspects of the process, Apple is able to produce a machine that works with its software, and software that takes advantage of its hardware out of the box.
Apple then further advances its differentiation strategy through its Apple Stores, which are built with design in mind from the start. Many Apple stores have a pleasant and clean , stream-lined, look and layout to them, just as its software, from iTunes, GarageBand, iMovie and Mac OS X, and hardware, from Macbooks, iPhones, Apple TVs, and even keyboards, monitors, and network devices such as the Cinema Display and Airport Extreme. Whereas a large portion of the personal computer market is focused on keeping up with its competitors on both price and features, Apple separates itself from the whole field and focuses on improving and polishing their products.
Apple also highly values and focuses on implementing their marketing plan. Apple is well known for keeping their future products well under wraps until they are ready to reveal them to the world; so much so that a niche industry has developed devoted to discovering and reporting on new Apple products. Every year, Steve Jobs keynote address at the annual MacWorld Expo is one of the most anticipated events of the computer industry, as Steve is well known for revealing Apple’s latest inventions at that time. Once Apple reveals a new product, they do not pander to its fans by rapidly releasing that product to the marketplace; rather, Apple will hold back and delay a product until it is absolutely confident the item is ready for release. The much anticipated new version of Apple’s operating system, Leopard (its current version is name Tiger) has been delayed in order for Apple’s engineers to focus on the iPhone. Although delays are costly and can create lost opportunity costs because of consumers who wait until the new product is released, I highly commend Apple for releasing products when they are comfortable with releasing them, anxious fans be damned! In today’s world, too many companies rush products to the market that are filled with glitches and bugs in order to meet deadlines and fulfill consumer demand. Those companies do experience initial sales to consumers who are anxious for new products, but eventually end up angering most consumers for selling an imperfect product.
These delays could be viewed as flaws, as signs of a company which is not performing efficiently and is not meeting deadlines they established, if one did not consider that this is a technology company. Computer technology, both on the hardware and software fronts is till such a relatively new field that unexpected delays and glitches are expected but also unpredictable. Apple very well could have developed their new operating system with no glitches and it could have been released on time, but it’s highly unlikely. A precedent does exist that companies who focus on the product, and not on deadlines, produce better products in the end. As a consumer I appreciate companies which place product quality as their main priority. From a marketing analyst’s perspective, however, Apple will most likely lose money by not releasing their product on time. Consumers will look to and buy alternative products (which may include Apple’s existing products). Yet, this strategy also adheres to Apple’s focus on design, which is visible throughout the corporation. If Apple abandoned their attention to the details and quality of their product’s design, they would violate their marketing strategy. A coherent and cohesive marketing strategy is crucial for any company. By sticking to its guns, Apple re-enforces to its employees, consumers and partners that design and quality are its focus, which allows all their employees to focus on those aspects and re-assures consumers that Apple products are designed well and are reliable.
Apple’s devotion to quality in it’s products and public image spurred its recent success and sales growth. Their focus on unique, innovate and intuitive design affects all aspects of Apple, from its products to its retail stores. This focus on design, in a field where its competitors rely on maintaining performance and price with the industry sets it apart in a very crowded field. Although Apple only holds a very small market share of the computer industry, I see its share growing in the coming years. Apple has also taken its excellent design experience in the computer field and transported it to the overall consumer electronics field, where products such as the iPod, Apple TV and soon the the iPhone, are causing Apple to increasingly become a market leader in innovation and quality. One of the unique aspects of Apple, is that Steve Jobs, the Chief Executive Officer of Apple, can be considered a product and program champion who is more than willing to cut through red tape to affect changes. His encouragement to record companies to drop Digital Rights Management (DRM) and his leadership of Apple into new fields , such as cell phones, will open up new market and increase sales for Apple.