Posts Tagged ‘Apple’

Aspiration v/s Arrogance. A warning for brands.

Unless one was living on a rock..not even the 3rd rock from the sun..but some other rock, you couldn’t have missed the great sporting spectacle in London. Not sure I can use the O word without IOC’s permission, so hope you’ve figured out the event I refer to.

Last weekend, Bolt became the fastest man on the planet again. This weekend, he reinforced his position as the best sprinter in the history of the sport.

In between, however something else happened.

He took on another legend : Carl Lewis and did some straight talking. (Read what he said here.). Now I fully agree with Bolt. This season we have seen many records being broken and every time that happens, someone from that great democratic land between Pacific and Atlantic Oceans casts doubts on the performance of the athlete concerned.

However a friend of mine asked if Bolt should have shown some humility in his statements. Keeping aside Bolt’s personality for a second, I think he raised an important point.

Bolt runs the risk of dropping of the precipice of aspiration to arrogance. And that is a huge perception shift. He moves from everyone wanting to be like him, to everyone wanting to nail him.

That is a good warning to marketers.

Many brands position themselves in the space of aspiration for their audience, creating in their minds or hearts the emotion of ‘if I could I would like to buy that’. You see this in cars, white goods, many service industries.

This also works at another level of people buying into that lifestyle by buying that brand. I think more people wear Nike than those who ‘just do it’.

Steve Jobs announced every product he launched as brilliant, wonderful, terrific. Here’s a video about his iPad launch (See here).

He somehow managed through all that to keep his brand in the aspirational space. People thought he was arrogant, his company was arrogant but the brand was not.

I think there is a lesson there for brands. Be very very watchful when trying to create an aspirational brand. It is a fine line between that and arrogance.

And that is the whole difference between great success and abject failure.

While you digest that enjoy this video of Bolt winning 100m again.

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Simplicity a la Jobs

October 7, 2011 6 comments

Every medium, every channel is awash with tributes to Steve Jobs.

Today I read someone comparing him to Edison and Einstein. Come to think of it, that is probably true, given the impact he’s had on our lives.

While I, and nearly any one can talk for hours or even days on the great things he did, I want to talk about a single thing.

Product nomenclature.

I want to buy a laptop.

I visit and select laptops as my choice.

I have to choose between mini, everyday computing, etc.

Having chosen ‘everyday computing’ here are my options

HP 2000z series

HP 2000t series

HP Pavillion g6x series

HP Pavillion g4t series

HP Pavillion g7t series

HP Pavillion g6s series

None of the numbers are of any help in deciding if a model is better than the other.

The numbers differentiate but don’t grade.

Besides there is no real logic apparent to the user.

Why are some Pavillion and some not.

The numbering looks like it was done on an engineering drawing somewhere, passed along to the shop floor and it just stayed with the brand for ever after that.

Actually HP is probably done a good job of it.

Have you tried buying a Nokia phone?

Their numbering makes no sense and till recently was not even visible on the phone.

Nokia n91 was launched in 2005. N8 in 2010.

Does that make any sense? Who spends time thinking of these brand names.

I’d like to believe that like for most normal folks 91 follows 8, so N8 should have preceded the N91 by many years.

To make matters interesting E6 came after the N8.

So if you walk into a store you have no way of knowing which is the ‘latest’ model.

In many cases I understand that when a brand is catering to multiple segments they need to have multiple sub brands.

That is exactly what BMW has. They have the 1, 3, 5, 6, 7 series which kind of makes sense. I wonder what they have against 2 and 4 though. Also 6 came before 7. Not as clean as it could be but some structure is visible and followed.

Now switch to Apple.

You want a laptop?

No problem Macbook, Macbook Pro, Macbook Air. The names tell you everything about what you can expect. Even the most un-genius person can figure out the hierarchy.

You want a phone ? Would you like the iPhone 3G, or the iPhone 3GS, or the iPhone 4G or the iPhone 4GS. Any confusion?

There is no doubt that Steve Jobs was a genius and he had fantastic team that created these products.

But he also got the basics right.

While the product is created in the factory, the brand is created in the mind of the consumer.

Make it easy for her to grasp, assimilate, understand and own it. And that doesn’t require genius.

I respect HP, some very good friends of mine work there.

I respect Nokia..have been a loyal customer from my first phone.

There are millions of people like me around.

But Apple evokes the passion, coz it made great products and even stronger brands, because finally it was about doing great things, simply.


The last mile loss

November 16, 2009 1 comment

I have worked for all my career in communications.

Call it advertising, digital, direct marketing, crm whatever..It’s all been about building brand preference leading up to purchase.

Millions/billions of dollars are spent on this every year.

Typically one has to buy at the store.

In the case of FMCG brands this resulted in the Point of Sale battle and the Shelf Space battle.

Who could drown the store most with collaterals hanging in every visible spot.

And how much could one pay the shop keeper to ensure your brand was the one upfront and visible when a customer walked in to the store.

In electronics and white goods, there is the little nudge required from the store sales person. What she/he says would sway the purchase.

In Televisions they would/do adjust settings or light so that one TV seems to have a better picture than the other.

Sometimes, it could be a passing comment about after sales service.

I recall, in India, where the painter could decide what brand of paint should be used while painting a house by the simple comment, ‘The other house I painted used this brand, and in 3 months it started peeling’. Damning words indeed.

As shoppers we all have been there and been influenced to change our preference because of what we saw or heard in the store.

Or as it is sometimes referred to. The last mile.

Marketers now run ‘Mystery Shopper’ programs to check a customer’s experience and use the learnings to ensure the last mile is indeed the Golden Mile.

My experience yesterday with two well known IT companies demonstrated very simply why one is a Winner and the other, not!

We’ve had a Macbook for close to 4 years. Recently the macbook’s been having battery problems. On calling the Apple store someone who answered the phone said that the notebook itself needed to be replaced. After 4 years the notebook there was a yearning to replace the notebook anyway, hence Apple’s recommendation sealed the deal.

I was planning to move to a Window’s notebook for reasons of weak support in India, where the notebook is often used, mobile phone software support and of course price. Also my view that if there is a battery problem, we should be able to change the battery, and not the entire notebook.

And so we went to look at buying a Windows Notebook.

First walked into a electronic superstore where we were greeted with an array of brands. About 50 pieces on display, with prices and no sales person to assist. Oh there were sales people, but they were busy chatting. After hanging about a few minutes we walked out to the Own Store of this Top PC brand.

A sales person came up and we gave our brief. He recommended a choice between 2 models. Then I asked the important Q ‘Can you tell me how to transfer data from the Mac to the PC?’. He was nearly offended. His response covered the points

* I have no idea

* I only know about PCs

* We cannot offer that support

* If you are asking about my personal experience, I don’t think it can be done

* Why don’t you ask the Apple store, next door

Sure enough, we left without buying the laptop.

But having decided to get one as it was needed, we went to the Apple store to just get a new macbook.

What a delightful experience.

Someone to attend as soon as we walked in.

We said we wanted to trade in our current macbook for a new one. They immediately suggested a value for it, which was of course ridiculously low.

And then I made the comment ‘Actually I wish I could change the battery’. And immediately the sales staff offered that we should just replace the battery, if the notebook was working well otherwise.

A battery was bought, replaced at no cost, and a quick 2 minute lesson on extending battery life was given. And we were out in 15 minutes.

At no point in time, did anyone in the store try to sell us a new notebook. We had come to buy one, so if they had made the comment ‘yes the battery will keep your machine going for a bit, but what you really need is the new..” we’d have probably fallen for it.

But no.

If the problem was just to do with the battery, then that is all we needed. And that is what we got.

And oh at the entrance of the store there is a poster that quite simply states “How to move from a PC to a Mac”.

The PC manufacturer brand who we went to first, outspends Apple by many multiples in this market. It created preference, hence we went to their outlet. But at the last mile we experienced a road block.

Wonder how many sales they lose in this manner. And what do you believe the typical solution is? More advertising of course. And when it doesn’t show results, there’ll be a new campaign, a new marketing manager and even a new agency

Apple on the other hand, spends far less on the advertising and ensures the last mile is smooth. They earn trust at every interaction and ensures the last mile goes beyond the cash counter to a loop that brings you back into the store.

That last mile can trip brands if they don’t watch out. Many a long distance race has been lost in the final few metres.

Communication strategies need to map the entire customer journey and ensure that there’s not just a seamlessness of brand experience, rather the customer is eased along to the next stage that gets her to the cash counter.

It would be a tragedy if a brand has done all the hard work to get the customer to the last mile only for someone else to whisk them away. Metrics to track them such as foot falls, interest identifiers, price quotations etc should be put in place to catch drop outs.

Make the last mile, the winning mile.

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How Apple is Helping Microsoft

November 10, 2009 Leave a comment

When I started working, decades ago, the work place comprised of cabins and cubicles. The senior managers occupied cubicles and us, lower rungs, sat around in cubicles.

One took an appointment to meet one’s boss, because the doors were made of wood or had frosted glass thus not knowing if she, or he, would be busy. Similarly when the boss wanted to talk to you, he had to send his secretary out looking for you, or he came himself.

As you can imagine it was an office with ‘formality’.

Yet a lot of physical activity. Walking to and fro from cabins and cubicles. This movement created a sense of motion in the office and more importantly you met colleagues as they were walking the corridor. That gave opportunity for conversation, office gossip and a few laughs. Many a friend I have made in those years.

Fast forward to about 10 years ago with the emergence of  the open office. Except the head of office or the managing director, everyone sat in full view of the rest. Even the 2 – 3 cabins that existed seldom had floor to ceiling walls and the doors were always simple see through glass. This created a new dynamic. A visible office. You saw your team mates. Other colleagues. If you wanted to see if a specific person was in her/his seat all you needed to do was stand up and spot the head.

And then use the phone. Or shout across the hall.  Sometimes conversations would be conducted in this manner. This invariably got some smart aleck remarks too. In addition to the visible, it also was the noisy office.

Irrespective of the office type there was an energy in the office.

Fast forward to today. We are still in the open office mode. (My current office is as open as can be. We don’t even have partitions separating two work spaces). But what’s happened is that we now have silent offices. There is very little cross office conversation. Barely anyone walks around either.

What you do see however is that nearly everyone has two wires sticking out of their ears. Yes the ipod. It’s changed everything. Everyone has one. Maybe 2 or 3. When they are at their work station they are plugged into the network as much as the ipod. And that has completely changed the dynamics of the workplace. Not much walking. Not much talking.

Silence reigns. (Here I refer to advertising agencies where the change has been dramatic. I find client organisations have been like this for pretty much all the time that I remember visiting them. Their offices have also physically changed to the open office. But the silence has always been there.)

Even if one called out to a person you wouldn’t get a response. I am a ‘walk up to the person’ kind of person. Not a shout across the hall type. And even I find, that it is not just enough to walk up to the person, you need to even tap the shoulder.

What I have seen growing alarmingly in the work space now is Instant Messaging. And here I mean people chatting with their colleague sitting a few spots away or even across them. It saves the walk. It guarantees attention, as you cannot ignore the flashing blue tab in the bottom of your screen.

If you have an ipod IM becomes your prefered mode of communication. And given MSNs dominance in this space, Apple is basically helping Microsoft grow. I imagine the two Steves have frequent laughs over this.

As more people move to communicating via IM, the less conversations will we see. And ideas come out of conversations.

Will one day companies have to ask people to turn off their ipods like you turn off your phones on a flight? The phones go off for the safety of the plane. Will ipods need to go off for the safety of the organisation?


Not quite what Apple intended

September 4, 2009 Leave a comment

Apparently the minimalist design of the Apple store and the products inside helped some burglars steal 23 Macbook Pros, 14 iphones and 9 ipod Touches in 31 seconds!!!

Obviously the strength of the brand makes it hugely attractive even to burglars. Unintended consequences of brand building. But more to add to the lore of the Apple brand!!

Read the article and watch the camera footage here!!

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How Apple innovates

Here’s another great article on learnings from Apple’s innovation process.

It talks about 5 steps

1. Clear your mind

2. Build your elite

3. Cultivate your elite

4. Don’s rush. Don’t dawdle

5. Clone your own Steve Jobs

Click here to read the whole article.

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Four principles of Apple’s success

Yet another analysis of Apple’s success.

It identifies four principles that made Apple a great success.

1. Lead, don’t follow your customers

2. Temper engineering with art

3. Focus on the few, sell to the many

4. Be your own toughest critic

Detailed article here.


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