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Saturday, September 27, 2014

(SALES) It's Apple Picking Season…


Labor Day weekend marks the start of apple-picking season. It happens every year. The anticipation of fresh new apples starts around mid-June. Then the speculation begins as to how good the crop will be this year. If last weekend was any indication, this crop is the best ever.

In the first 24 hours of availability, over 4 million orders were placed. Yes, Apple?s iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 plus appear to be a hit. (You thought I was talking about fruit!) You don?t really think that apple harvest time and Apple?s new product release time every fall is just a coincidence do you? It?s all part of an amazing brand strategy.

Carver (my son) and I love this time of year. It?s fall update season. This happens every year. There is no surprise here, yet listen to the news and you would think, ?Wow, this has never happened before.?   

Love Apple or hate Apple, you have to respect and admire the brand loyalty and the amount of free advertising they enjoy. For the past several months the technology world was abuzz with leaked photos, anticipated features, and speculation on new design and enhancements. The haters are responding to blogs, posting their own articles, ridiculing this ?cult-like? following, ridiculing the products, and suggesting that the brand they use is far superior.

Blog responder ?dennisclemente? says on All Things D: ?There is a bigger picture not many people realize in a sluggish US economy. Apple already contributes a big part to GDP. It could boost GDP by $3.2 billion in the fourth quarter, keeping some (not all) American jobs.? 

Wow, that?s big stuff!

On the other side, blog responder ?chrisD? says: ?Besides blind iSheep who really cares about this? Gee a new iPhone with slightly better processor and screen and some other tweaks, boring as usual. I bet iSheep will still line up for hours for it. Comical?  

Why are people so loyal? Here are my top four speculations:

1. It just works. More than a marketing slogan or funny commercials, when I get a product from Apple, I tear open the box and begin using it right away. Ease of user experience is a major cause of brand loyalty.

2. It began as a ?cause,? not as a company. Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak set out to ?challenge the man.? They believed that by creating a personal computer it would give the common man a ?level playing field? to big business. The cause of ?sticking it to the man? resonated and inspired people.

3. Consistency of purpose. For years Apple has demonstrated this ?stick it to the man? mentality by thinking differently. Just a few years ago we had to buy entire CDs or albums to get the song we wanted. Apple changed that and now we buy songs. Every innovation from Apple has a consistency of purpose behind it: To enhance or make life easier for the user.

4. It?s cool, therefore I?m cool. For years, those of us fascinated with technology were called ?geeks.? Apple changed all of that and made us cool. They don?t even make a pocket protector.

How Apple did it, is a bit more difficult to explain. I believe some of it was carefully crafted strategy and some of it was just luck. From a branding and sales strategy perspective, there are five things I can point to in an effort to explain the success:

1. Positioned as ?Cool Underdog.? Psychologically this caused people to ?cheer? for them. Bill Gates and Microsoft had a virtual monopoly and represented ?the man.? 

2. Controlled distribution channels. You can?t buy Apple products just anywhere. While this may seem counterintuitive to the ?get it to the masses fast? approach, by controlling the distribution, Apple controls the customer experience. Because of this, Apple is famous for customer experience. Even the way they package their products is ?cooler? than anyone else.

3. ?Genius? reputation. Go to a big-box store that sells computers and the last thing on your mind when talking to a salesperson is ?genius.? Go to an Apple Store and the employees all have the familiar blue shirt with a tag around their neck and you instantly refer to them as ?genius.? They even have a ?Genius Bar? for you to get help.

4. Apple products play/work well together. Once you?re ?in? you?re kind of ?stuck,? which is of course part of the plan. Your iPod, iPhone, and iPad can all share the same content as your Mac. Effortlessly synchronize devices with no wires. The software seems made for the device and user. You don?t have to read a For Dummies book to figure Apple products out.

5. Created perceived need. Apple creates products we didn?t know we needed, but now can?t live without them. Before the iPad you would have asked, ?Why in the world do I need a device that does nearly everything my laptop does? It?s an iPhone x10 in terms of size but it can?t make calls? Who needs that?? Now it?s the Apple Watch. Do we really need another watch? No. Bet they sell millions.

Just last week at the Radio Show in Indianapolis I noticed John Potter of the RAB wearing a smart watch. I told John that I was intrigued by the Apple Watch, but wasn?t sure I actually needed it. He told me that he felt the same way about his Samsung watch. It was given to him as a gift, and at the time he didn?t realize he needed anything like that, but now he won?t leave home without it.
There is something very magical that happens in Cupertino (hometown of Apple?s headquarters). This is a bonus point, because I can?t figure out how they?ve done it. If you own Apple products and you even consider looking at another product, they have created such a loyalty in their customer base that looking elsewhere causes guilt or feelings of ?cheating.? I have admired the Galaxy line of phones from Samsung and often thought to myself, ?If iPhone didn?t exist, I?d buy one of those.? Apple doesn?t just exist, they dominate the hearts and minds of their customers.

Don?t forget Apple started in a garage in California with two quirky and passionate guys. What they?ve created is magical, but repeatable if you?re wiling to invest the time and effort into your brand. Gaining the global recognition Apple has achieved would be a huge undertaking. Locally however, in cities and towns across the globe, independent businesses are able to dominate. Apple stirs the powerful emotions of love and hate in the marketplace. They are doing this because they use a consistent repeatable brand marketing strategy:

? Consistency of purpose.
? Consistency of brand.
? Consistently exceeding customer expectations.
? Consistently learning and innovating.

Is there anything on that list that can help your business? Anything that can help your sales career? If you take each of those factors and identify your own strengths and opportunities, you might enjoy a better harvest.

Jeff Schmidt is EVP and Partner with Chris Lytle at Sparque, Inc. You can reach Jeff at
Twitter: @JeffreyASchmidt

(9/24/2014 10:45:57 PM)
What a mindless article. 400,000 march in NYC because the planet is burning up, and all you can do is glorify America's insane consumerism. Pumping out more crap that we don't really need, and polluting the environment even more. I hope you enjoy your toys, Mr. Schmidt, because they come at a much higher price than you realize.
(9/23/2014 12:28:24 AM)
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