I am not an Apple fan. However, I do admit that I admire their Marketing Management and the cult they have created around the Apple brand. In this story I will describe the purchasing process of an Apple product by a fan, and how both the expectations and the emotional link with the brand are accomplished and reinforced.
My girlfriend is a graphic designer. She is a self-chooser for work and needed a notebook for her work. When asking her which brand she was to purchase, she had no doubt: She wanted a Mac. I explained to her the Apple computers were overpriced and encouraged her to do some research before doing the purchase. She did. She checked with some colleagues and in some graphic design communities. The response was unanimous: A graphic designer deserved a Mac and to be more specific a notebook from the Pro line. Any other brand would not be up to her expectations!
OK. So next step: Where to purchase? Again, she did some Internet research and she could only found two reasonable places to purchase from Madrid: The Apple Store if she wanted to go online, or a specialized Apple Store (K-tuin) in Madrid. No way she could find it in stores where the comparison with PCs would be possible such as PC City or Media Markt (she could actually have got it as well at El Corte Ingles, but could not find the info in the web).
So we went yesterday morning to this specialized store. What I found was awesome. It was a pretty big place organized by product and packed with demo products and salespeople willing to explain you anythingfrom Apple. If I have to emphasize something, I would say the incredible amount of accessories you could get for every Apple product, and the face to face classes they were giving in the store to Apple users.
We stepped in and asked a salesperson for a notebook. His approach was smart and asked what did we need it for (of course no questions about our budget!). He showed us a 1399 Euro notebook, but immediately jumped in the pricey Pro series, priced from 1950 Euro onwards. It was funny to me because according to him that was what my girlfriend deserved. I raised some bad intended questions trying to make a comparison with the PCs. He came out successfully and concluded: “Moreover, this is a Mac, and it is not the same”.
You can imagine what came next. My girlfriend went for the Pro notebook in spite of my complain and then… the really funny part came to me: The time for the accessories. The salesperson suggested us getting some nice accessories for such a premium laptop. He did not say explicitly but he was saying something like “If you have not compromised in your notebook, you will not compromise in XXX”. XXX turned out to be the case, the mouse, the extra battery, etc. Fortunately, those XXX only turned out to be a case and a mouse, but my girlfriend took a magazine where all those accessories where wonderfully described. In the end, those 1950 ended up in 2150 Euros, including a case I got for my i-pod (you will agree with me that it is impossible to resist such a brainwashing!). So she paid for the Mac products, signed up for a membership card (to be sure she got all the tips and knew about all the new temptations), and was informed that the i-phone will be coming next Christmas.
What was interesting to me was that the process did not stop there. I helped her installing the notebook and the experience was awesome. First, the packaging was superb. Really well designed. Everything in place and incredibly easy to find. Second, the installation process was a piece of cake. The manual was really easy to understand and installation process really logic and intuitive. Third, reaffirmation messages were properly showed up, such as “Welcome to world of Mac” when turning on the computer. And finally, subtle ways to keep you on board were displayed such as a straight connection to i-Tunes and the Apple Store, and a request for your info to make a member of the Mac World. In other words, they made themselves sure that did not feel that you overpaid a 100% premium price and created the mechanism for keeping you caught.
You can make your own conclusions. From my point of view they have been able to create a perception and dominate that perception. Some people call it branding, some prefer the term cult. Whichever the case, they are doing from my point of view a great job!
What do you think? Do you think they´ve gone too far with the niche management? Would you do something in a different way? Is it sustainable?
Prof. Ignacio Gafo