Apple’s device launches are arguably the most anticipated product launches in not only the tech world, but also in the consumer world. On September 7th, tech giant Apple officially announced the launch of their newest device; the iPhone 7. Think about when you first saw, read, or heard something about the iPhone 7 launch – it was a trending topic on Facebook and Twitter throughout the entire summer, where excited iPhone users would speculate what new features would be added and when the product would be available. Looking at this objectively, it’s important for us to recognize that the hype around the new iPhone launch–and all Apple products for that matter– was completely consumer created. Apple uses a mysterious, elusive appeal of doing absolutely nothing pre-launch to captivate the entire world. One company has essentially revolutionized our lives and created an obsession with their products. The real question for marketers alike is “why does this work?” Let’s take a look at how Apple has created this fascination for consumers, and have defied the norms of successful marketing tactics.
The Exclusivity Principle
Since the launch of the iPhone 5 in 2012, Apple has fallen into a cadence of launching a device at the beginning of September every year. This cadence builds anticipation for customers, ultimately leaving them anxious and excited to see what Apple will do next. At each launch, Apple uses and leverages a exclusivity strategy, meaning they build an exclusive relationship with telecom companies to be the sole distributor of their product.
Although September 7th was referred to as ‘launch date’, this was actually when their preorders opened. Telecoms and providers had a limited number of iPhones for the first couple of weeks, which only added to consumers’ anticipation. So if Apple knows there is extremely high demand for their product, why do they limit the number of preorder phones available? Simply speaking, this is part of their marketing strategy – this exclusivity principle that Apple uses adds to our fascination and the elusive nature of their devices. It creates enviousness of those who have the new iPhone and elevates our feelings of urgency and needing of the new phone, which causes us to want these products even more.
Apple vs. The Norm
I think that Apple’s exclusive strategy is the starting point for the discussion on how they defy traditional marketing and consumer behaviour practices. To illustrate this with an example, how many advertisements have you seen that come straight from Apple? The majority of Apple advertising, specifically for the iPhone, are ads we see that actually coming from telecom companies such at Telus or AT&T. Apple is using their providers to advertise for them–the sheer power and recognition of their brand allows them to have this control.
We are living in a time where companies are infiltrating more channels than ever, and trying to connect with consumers at every possible moment. Facebook, targeted digital ads, Instagram, Twitter, TV, radio, the list goes on forever–brands associate this broad reach across multiple platforms with being ‘top of mind’. Apple manages to have this top of mind position by their exclusivity and consumer loyalty. It’s a brand that’s infiltrated, disrupted, and changed our lives without ever being overbearing or in-your-face with advertising. Search for Apple on Facebook and see what you come up with, compared with one of their competitors, such as Samsung. The App Store and Apple Music both have a bigger presence on social media, but Apple as a company does not have a centralized brand presence.
Apple’s Most Important Marketing Tool
Think about it this way–the word “iPhone” is synonymously used with “smartphone”. To Apple consumers, a smartphone is mutually exclusive to an iPhone. Despite the fact that the iPhone 7 has only been available for a matter of weeks, the iPhone 8 is already being speculated about. An iPhone or Apple product isn’t just viewed as a lifestyle brand, it’s an essential part of your life that you can’t live without and that no other company has been able to match. As I stated at the beginning of this article, it’s an obsession. This obsession and fascination has in turn led to their consumers demanding iPhones from telecom providers and keeping Apple top of mind. This is all being done without any financial investment from Apple.
These tactics used by Apple are what have created an extremely strong and loyal customer base. Now, Apple’s own consumers have become their best and most important marketing tool, giving them a superior advantage over their competitors. Telecom companies choose to release TV advertisements that feature the iPhone to compliment this high demand.
Sample AT&T iPhone commercial
Although I do not think the iPhone 7 will not be one of the biggest movers Apple has released, I think the important discussion is this cult of followers that Apple has created. Their revenue may be slightly down year over year, but this has not made their customers any less loyal. In a world where companies are pouring money into disruptive marketing and advertising, Apple has shaped consumer behaviour to their advantage. We depend on our iPhones, our Macbooks, and iPads as a part of our everyday lives. Apple is an amazing example of products that have created a place in our lives that is not a nice to have, but a need to have.
Erin is a fourth year commerce student at the Smith School of Business and part of the Queen’s Marketing Association. She has a strong interest in the world of digital marketing and consumer behaviour. You can always find her around Goodes Hall with a coffee in hand.
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