There’s a process of thought in marketing that outlines the different strategies in which businesses can operate. You can be ‘sales orientated’. This means that you go out to your customers and you target anyone who may want to buy your product, and hard sell them.
Another is ‘marketing oriented’. This means you perform extensive market research and find out what it is your customer wants and you fill that market. Another (and quite outdated) is ‘production oriented’. This means that you create a great product, regardless of whether you know the market wants it, and you advertise that product, hoping the market will come to you. This approach is commonly known as, “build a better mousetrap and the world will beat a path to your door.”
Now, which approach do you think that Apple ought to follow?
Let’s face it, the first (sales) ain’t Apple strong point. They’re famous for making great ‘brand-awareness’ advertising, but when it comes to product, their adverts are strong on concept, but lacking in hard-sell. The reasons for that a partly down to the long-term plan they have for the brand. Put simply, they do not wish to cheapen the product line. I can see the idea behind this, as they are not a mass-market supplier, they fill a niche and fill it well. This isn’t the best approach to increase market share however.
What’s next – the marketing approach. Apple are famous for abhorring ‘focus groups’, instead relying on gut instinct. Interesting. You can argue the business sense of this, but hey, the are the original ‘crazy ones’.
Thirdly we have the ‘production’ orientatated approach. This approach is all but dead in modern business practices, but Apple generally follow this plan with good success. The idea being is that you create best-of-breed product and hope that the market will notice and beat a path to your door.
You’d think that this approach would not work as people simply buy what advertised to them strongly enough (i.e. Windows). It doesn’t matter if it’s an inferior product, there is a hugely strong ‘herd’ instinct in buying all high-tech products where a degree of knowledge is required to make an informed purchase. Most people lack the courage to go against the flow. Everybody else chooses this computer, so it must be right. It’s tragic I know, but Apple has something else up their sleeve that backs up this production orientated approach (hardware) and that’s SOFTWARE and it’s effective.
Let me impart a story that shows how it’s effective.
A work colleague of mine has used PC all his life. He’s never come across a Macintosh at all. His opinion is like most PC users – indifference, he’s no power user. He’s never used a Mac, doesn’t see what all the fuss is about and doesn’t have an opinion either way.
Anyway, this colleague was brought into my design department in order to help out with some simple graphics work. After a hasty crash course in Quark Xpress & InDesign, he’s pretty well up to speed, and has helped a great deal in the more mundane work in the studio.
After showing him the obvious, (such as how to do forward deletes, where all the applications are in the dock, the menubar is always at the top of the screen etc.), he, like most Mac newbies has picked up the Mac basics pretty quickly, and it’s been interesting to see a virgin Mac user up close, going through some of the trials & tribulations that most new switchers must go through.
It has taken him about 3-4 weeks to realise he can experiment with his system without breaking it. It’s taken him about 3-4 weeks to suddenly realise that his computer hasn’t crashed or frozen. It’s taken him about 3-4 weeks to realise that all the viruses we get sent via our company-wide emails don’t affect his computer at all. It’s taken him about 3-4 weeks to suddenly realise that he’s had no problems printing. I could go on, but you get the picture.
I first saw the glimmers of a switcher when he saw my iBook, which I bring into work. He asked the price, he asked what it could do, whether it could run Office, Adobe CS etc.
One day he brought in a DVD. This DVD was a DVD that a local company had created showing a wedding that a member of his family had attended. He wanted to know whether it could be copied as the company that created it was going to charge £200 for this, on top of the £1000 it took to create it.
His father (who owns his own PC-based photography business), had tried to copy it, but to no avail, and he said that it looked like ‘one of those Mac-DVD’s’. I wasn’t sure what he meant by that but I took a look at it.
Straight away I realised that it was created in iDVD. It used the ‘flowing curtains’ effect and looked really impressive to the layman. I realised that it was OK, but certainly didn’t push iDVD at all in the effects department, and was quite amateurish actually.
I pointed this out and showed my colleague iDVD. He was stunned. “So this DVD was created using software that comes free with all Mac’s?” he said. I answered in the positive. It turns out that his father had seen this DVD, and wanted a slice of this business. He had looked around for a PC-based program that could do this, but to no avail.
I left my colleague with this information and thought no more of it until a few weeks later when I was asked by my work colleague which Mac I would recommend to create these sort of wedding DVD’s. I gave a few suggestions and now his father is the proud owner of a top of the range iMac G5, with DVD Studio Pro. It doesn’t stop there however.
All this happened about 6-12 months ago, and at this point he has all but transferred his entire business over to Mac’s, and guess what gave him the final impetus to switch totally? it’s Apeture, the latest software from Apple that’s directly targeted at his sort of business.
And what of my work colleague? Well he’s just offered to buy my iBook from me for a very good price. It means I can replace this iBook with a brand new one for a couple of hundred pounds.
So there you have it. The reasons for these 2 PC-users switching were exposure to the hardware (my work colleague), and exposure to the software (his father). This approach by Apple is an approach that is unique in the computer industry and I can tell you now that it IS working.