When we talk about Apple, what usually comes to mind is its product line, which has become equated with high quality, invention and innovation. Preorders come rolling in even months before the release of a new product, and customers barely even blink when it comes with a steep price tag attached. Why, you ask? Because it is an Apple product, which means that it is not something to take lightly. But what this really means is that Apple has a solid product strategy in place, and it is actually working.
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In this article, we will 1) briefly look at Apple’s product portfolio and 2) investigate Apple’s product strategy.
A BRIEF LOOK AT APPLE’S PRODUCT PORTFOLIO
When it comes to consumer electronics and computing technology, one of the most recognizable names in the world is Apple. It is one of the world’s largest information technology company, and ranks in the top three manufacturers of mobile phones in the world. In a 2014 survey, it was adjudged as the most valuable brand in the world, valued at close to USD120 billion.
Originally named Apple Computer Inc. when it was founded in 1976 by Steve Jobs, Ronald Wayne and Steve Wozniak, it was originally focused on hardware development, primarily on personal computers. It wasn’t until in 2007 when it decided to shift to developing consumer electronics products that it gained a new identity as Apple Inc.
The products that are best identified with Apple include the following:
- Mac computers (i.e. iMac, Mac Mini, MacBook, MacPro, MacBook Air, and MacBook Pro)
- iPod portable digital media players (i.e. iPod Shuffle, iPod Nano, and iPod Touch)
- iPhone smartphones, evolving as follows:
- First generation iPhone
- iPhone 3G
- iPhone 4
- iPhone 5
- iPhone 5S
- iPhone 5C
- iPhone 6s
- iPhone 6s Plus
- iPad tablets, evolving as follows:
- iPad (iPad first generation, iPad 2, iPad 3, iPad 4)
- iPad Mini (iPad Mini first generation, iPad Mini 2, iPad Mini 3, iPad Mini 4)
- iPad Air (iPad Air first generation, iPad Air 2)
- iPad Pro
- Apple Watch smartwatch
- Apple TV
- Computer accessories
- Operating systems (OS X and iOS)
- iTunes (media player)
- Safari (web browser)
- Creativity and productivity suites (iWork and iLife)
- iTunes Music Store
- App Store (for Mac and iOS)
- Apple SIM (SIM card service for iPad
APPLE’S PRODUCT STRATEGY
Quality Product with Premium Offerings
The entrance of other players in the consumer electronics market meant that Apple is getting stiffer competition, especially since these competitors are churning out smartphones and tablets that are significantly lower in price. Apple CEO Tim Cook, however, is unfazed by this non-threat, calling these lower-cost counterparts as the “junk market”. According to Cook, Apple is not catering to this junk market, which is why it opts to stick to offering more expensive products that have a lot more, and better, things to offer, than what these “junk markets” are currently fielding to buying customers.
There is no denying, however, that the best product strategy that Apple employs is coming up with very good products. They call it the “great product” strategy. By continuing to hold on to high standards of quality, Apple refuses to get on the bandwagon that most other device makers are using, where they pack their products chock-full of features that, while they may be impressively advanced, actually end up making operating the device actually more complicated and not at all user-friendly.
Packaging is certainly not an area where Apple is lacking. It is known for being a company that provides clean and simple, yet functional packaging to its products. More than being flashy, it tends to boast more of a utilitarian aesthetic, but without coming across as boring or plain.
The “great product” strategy also focuses on quality over quantity. While other manufacturers’ strategy entail churning out products one after another in a short span of time and having such a diversified product mix, Apple preferred to stick to what it does best. This means that it focuses on selected products and continues enhancing them, instead of branching out to create other products within the same category.
If you look at the numbers, it is true that other companies, such as Samsung, are showing higher figures when it comes to unit sales. They are starting to occupy a larger share of the market. But this does not worry Apple. Instead, it continues to focus on its loyal customers and, despite occupying a smaller percentage of the market, is able to position itself as a premium brand and a maker and provider of top quality products.
As such, Samsung was able to eat up a huge chunk of the market because of its production of cheap and low-end gadgets. That market is not really what Apple is aiming for, and it is comfortable with the market it has right now.
New Updates, Not Necessarily New Products
Market trends are constantly changing, and demands are certainly increasing. Other companies’ response to these changes may be “give them new products”. What Apple does is to “improve the products that it has”. This explains the product refreshes and updates that are released on a schedule set by Apple. Thus, the tweaked or updated versions retain the best parts of the old versions, with the “problematic” features corrected or improved. Clearly, this means that the latest iPhone, the iPhone 6 Plus, is a much improved version of the first generation iPhone, or even the previously released iPhone 6.
These changes put the Apple product development team in a good light, particularly in the eyes of Apple users, since it implies a commitment on their part of seeking continuous improvement for their product offerings. It also effectively attracts new users, thereby increasing the market share of Apple.
Control of Both Software and Hardware
Aside from producing the hardware – the smartphones and the tablets – Apple maintains total control of its platform, which is not something that can be completely said of Apple’s main rival platform, Android, which can be modified and tweaked by device manufacturers. Having total control means that Apple users are guaranteed to have the latest version of the operating system, with updates readily and immediately made available to Apple users.
Giving Meticulous Attention to Detail
The strategy employed by Apple in its product development largely depends on what the product is. If we look into the key points in the strategy used by Apple for its flagship product, the iPhone, we will find that there are four major factors involved: the competitors, a SWOT analysis of your competitors’ product, the target market, and market survey pertaining to the product.
Compared to when Apple was founded and started its operations, there are now a lot more consumer electronics companies and mobile phone manufacturers that are attempting to compete with Apple. However, out of this sea of competitors, there are only a few companies that are considered to be major threats or those that provide serious competition. These companies include Samsung, Google, Blackberry, Nokia, HTC, and Sony, to name a few. Granted, some of these companies do not really pose a serious threat to Apple, not like Samsung and Google.
Case in point: Google is seen as the biggest competitor of Apple when it comes to operating systems and software development. Google has singlehandedly brought about the boom of the Android market, and its app store, Google Play, is currently during it out with Apple’s App Store for the top spot.
2. Product SWOT
Other companies focus on conducting SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis of their products. Apple does, too, but it does not stop there. It also conducts SWOT analysis of the products of its competitors.
Why is that?
Doing a product SWOT on your own products will not really give you the whole picture. It only gives you one angle: yours. By checking out the competitor’s product, you will know exactly what you are up against. What makes their product better? What makes yours the best? What are the possible opportunities and threats that the competitor’s products are faced with, and how can you take advantage of that?
This practice has certainly paid off for Apple, particularly when it was starting to release new products into the market. They were able to come out with products that are unique and innovative. For example, in the past, phones were bulky and on the heavy side. This was seen by Apple as a weakness, so it zeroed in on that and developed sleeker, thinner, and lighter mobile phone units.
3. Target Market
Usually, a business would study the market and identify the segments that it will specifically target, and that will figure greatly in its overall product development and strategy. However, Apple does things differently.
Apple is primarily product-driven in its approach, in that it develops the product first, and then seeking out the market for it. This worked thanks, in large part, to the high quality and unique products that Apple has churned out. It did not take long for Apple to become established as a global market. That meant market segmentation is no longer a priority, because Apple’s target market is now the global market.
Apple markets its products to cater to anyone and everyone who is looking for great value and high quality – all over the world. You will find Apple stores and outlets in major areas of the world, a sure sign that Apple is targeting customers globally.
4. Product Related Market Survey
As mentioned earlier, Apple adapts a product-driven attitude. When it creates products, it automatically assumes that there is a market for it; it’s just that the customers are still unaware that they need the product Apple is developing. It will now be up to Apple, once the product has finished development, to make the market realize that it wants and needs the product that it has to offer. After all, according to Steve Jobs, the customer does not know what he wants.
The updates and upgraded versions of products that Apple has been doing in recent years is the result of market surveys that it conducted, asking customers what products they liked, or what specific features they thought were excellent or outstanding.
Using the Music Business
The computing branch of Apple makes heavy use of the music industry to boost its presence and, consequently, its sales. This has been described as the Halo Effect of the Apple brand, and a good example would be with regards to iTunes.
It all started with the iPod, which started out as a simple music player. When the iPod hit the ground running, along with iTunes, Apple made sure to capitalize on the tandem’s popularity to lure other customers to make use of other Apple computing products. The features that users loved using on iPod and iTunes were craftily integrated in other Apple products, so that others who liked them would not hesitate to try other Apple products with similar offerings. The result is a customer experience that has become common across different Apple products.
Use of Product Experience in Branding
We cannot discuss Apple’s product strategy without focusing on its branding. “Apple” has become such a household name globally, and this is attributed to the company’s branding strategy, which was primarily focused on human’s emotions.
Anything that strikes a chord in one’s consciousness tends to make a lasting impression, and that’s what Apple capitalized on when it put its brand out there. Customers these days are smarter, looking at the overall experience a product gives them, instead of isolated moments and fleeting flashes. Apple made its brand synonymous with technology playing a major role in one’s lifestyle, innovation, passion, imagination, and human nature’s innate desire to have power or even a small measure of control. Their products offer that sense of control, by integrating concepts of simplicity and convenience.
Apple has successfully established a relationship with its customers that can best be described as “intimate”. Take note of the long queues or lines of prospective Apple product buyers that reach all the way down across the street, or the long lists of preorders, whenever a new Apple product is due for release. It takes a lot of dedication and commitment to be one of those people lining up, which is pretty much like being in an intimate relationship.
In the same way, the Apple brand also puts emphasis on customer experience by enhancing that sense of community among Apple users. Apple users are inclined to be drawn towards other Apple users, because they somehow get a sense of kinship just by becoming users of the same product, or of different products but belonging within the same product line of the Apple brand.
Apple was smart enough to play on the strong brand preference that customers tend to develop when they have tried and tested a specific product. Users will not mind developing an attachment or loyalty to a brand or a product as long as it provides what they are looking for, and by ensuring that this is the case, Apple is able to keep its customers, and keep them coming back.
This halo strategy is also seen in how Apple targets its markets. Apple started its computing segment, focusing largely on corporate markets. It used to have a strong presence in business environments. It wasn’t until the 1990s that it withdrew from corporate settings and focused on the individual instead. But that did not last long, as Apple started to go back to the corporate market and prove to be useful to business users. Apple is banking on the popularity of the iPhone, as well as the iPad, to become business tools. Today, what used to be a personal tablet can now be used in an office or workplace setting.
Considering how Cook is very vocalabout large corporations and business companies buying and using Apple products in the near future, there is no doubt that we will be seeing more of Apple on those desks.
Getting Close to the Apple User
Apple is confident about having a very good – extraordinary, even – product that it can only introduce once. Therefore, it is important to make the introduction have such an impact. Apple is quite good at that, increasing customer anticipation before the release of a product. But what about when the product has already been launched and introduced?
This is where Apple’s product strategy becomes more personal, in that it surrounds the product with excellent service and support – before, during and after sale – as well as applications software. Part of the product strategy of Apple is to ensure that the customer experience is always highly positive. Its efforts to improve the Apple customer experience is apparent in how its distribution channels are continuously expanding. Currently, the major and key cities all over the world are not without an Apple retail store. It has even struck up partnerships with leading telecommunication companies in different countries all over the world, so that the latter would become retail outlets of Apple products. Resellers are also tapped into, both online and brick-and-mortar stores.
Apple is primarily product-driven in its approach, in that it develops the product first, and then seeking out the market for it. This worked thanks, in large part, to the high quality and unique products that Apple has churned out. It did not take long for Apple to become established as a global market.
Apple business strategy can be classified as product differentiation. Specifically, the multinational technology company differentiates its products and services on the basis of simple, yet attractive design and advanced functionality. First mover advantage is another element of Apple competitive advantage.
Apple's Marketing is Built on Simplicity
That's how Apple has consistently positioned their marketing, keeping messaging and visuals simple. Most of the marketing is free of things like feature lists, pricing, or expensive special effects. They know the product will sell itself without relying on pomp and circumstance.
- Focus on product design and functionality.
- Strengthening Apple's ecosystem.
- Improving consumer service experience.
- Reducing the business's reliance on iPhone sales.
The product strategy should bridge your product vision and the tactical steps to fulfill that mission. First, your team will develop the vision for the product. For example: “We will help businesses unlock valuable information by making their data more accessible and useful.”
The four Ps are the key considerations that must be thoughtfully considered and wisely implemented in order to successfully market a product or service. They are product, price, place, and promotion. The four Ps are often referred to as the marketing mix.
Focus strategy based on cost. This strategy is concentrating o narrow market segment by providing low cost products to the segment. Apple has achieved this through the production of iBook computers to serve the customer section. Apples' competitive strategies are in tune with the generic strategies of Michael Porter.
One of Apple's main strategies when it comes to product development lies in its ability to provide well-designed products and services – with emphasis on minimalism, clean lines, and solid tones. But it can also be said that Apple has made it a point to focus on design and aesthetics over performance when possible.
- Step one: Set a business objective. First, we should confirm our understanding of the question and define a business objective. ...
- Step two: Generate solutions. ...
- Step three: Discuss solutions. ...
- Step four: Conclude.
There are three standard types of product positioning strategies brands should consider: comparative, differentiation, and segmentation. Through these strategies, brands can help their product stand out by targeting the right audiences with the best message.
- Include extensive target market research.
- Keep the product team focused and aligned.
- Help PMs prioritize features and direct resources.
- Answer the problems you solve for your ideal customers.
- Address methods that will help you achieve your business objectives.
Product strategy is the process of defining what you want to achieve and how you plan to get there. Product strategy defines the "why" behind the product and must come before the "what," "when," and "how." A goal-first approach is a product manager's best path towards innovation.
Mintzberg developed his 5 Ps of Strategy as five different definitions of (or approaches to) developing strategy. He first wrote about the 5 Ps of Strategy in 1987. Each of the 5 Ps is a different approach to strategy. They are Plan, Ploy, Pattern, Position, and Perspective.
- Customers. Perhaps the most important strategy will revolve around your customers. ...
- Partnering. ...
- Operational Improvements. ...
- New Product or Service Development / Innovation. ...
- Technology & Information Management. ...
- People and Talent.
Apple differentiates its products by pricing them higher than its competitors implying that the products are better quality and incorporate the latest technology.
So far, Apple's current strategy is not sustainable in the long run due to both high dependence on one product and to the deviation of consumer's brand perception.
With a brand value of $947.1 billion, Apple stands out for its high degree of differentiation and continued diversification across its hardware, software and services portfolio. Apple is a phone, a watch, a laptop, a tablet, a streaming service, a protector of digital privacy, all of which resonate with consumers.
Apple sets premium prices for its products and minimizes discounts to wholesalers to keep prices consistent across the market. The company aims to offer customers a high-quality product with unique features and uses high prices to reinforce the perception of added value and maintain profitability.
In terms of functionality, Apple knows how to create a product that's really easy to use. Pick up an iPhone or log into an iMac and you can use it, without struggling to work out its features. Apple is a company that is known to put ease-of-use as the main goal when designing a product.
No logo can bring you success on its own. It always has a brand attached to it (even if your company is one-week-old). Apple's logo is so successful not only because it's simple and elegant. More important than that, it reflects the brand's values and triggers the right associations.
Apple distributes its products through both direct and indirect distribution channels. The company's global marketing strategy is based on four pillars: wide acceptance, brand value, low imitation and competitive advantage.
Apple also own its own hardware, operating system, applications and services, all tied together rather neatly with its new Cloud architecture. There are no silos inside Apple and all decisions are made by this single executive committee. That is why everything Apple does works together so seamlessly.
Apple Inc's strengths include high brand identity, valued brand, leading innovation and technology, a brand of choice, competent research, and top-quality experience for its customer. And, Apple Inc's weaknesses include premium prices, incompatibility with other OS systems, and high dependency on iPhone and iPad.
A Brand Built on Innovation
The main reason they manage to offer products like that is because they focus on innovation. By that, we don't mean they just create products that are new. They also make sure they are useful, they are likely to be adopted, and that they will lead to change.
- Unique ability to design and develop proprietary hardware, software, applications and services. ...
- Powerful brand supported by strong advertising and marketing capabilities. ...
- One of the most loyal customer base in every major product market where the company operates.
"Think different" is an advertising slogan used from 1997 to 2002 by Apple Computer, Inc., now named Apple Inc. The campaign was created by the Los Angeles office of advertising agency TBWA\Chiat\Day. The slogan has been widely taken as a response to the IBM slogan "Think".
The logo's creator Rob Janoff revealed the real reason the bite is there in an interview with Creative Bits. Janoff said, "When I explain the real reason why I did the bite it's kind of a let down. But I'll tell you. I designed it with a bite for scale, so people get that it was an apple not a cherry.
Software giant Google also made a significant change to its logo in 2015 as well as in the logo of its operating system Android. Many also claim that the bite in the logo of Apple was to create a buzz among computer enthusiasts as it rhymes with a byte, a unit for data in the computing and telecommunication segment.