June 20, 2011

How Apple Does it

Apple is not just the most successful consumer tech company on the planet, it is also the galaxy's most successful marketing company.

An article last week in The Wall Street Journal gives us some insight into how they have made their Apple stores into a retail juggernaut. More people visit Apple stores in a quarter than visit the four largest Disney amusement parks in a year.

Not surprisingly, how they have done it is by essentially ignoring all the "best practices" of business gurus and new age marketing nitwits.

While the oft-quoted gaggle of speakers who make the rounds of marketing conferences keep telling us we need to empower our employees and be transparent to our customers, Apple keeps its employees on a very short leash, essentially dictates the language they are allowed to use with customers, and fires anyone who thinks he or she ought to be having an "online conversation" about the company.

From the WSJournal...
"...A look at confidential training manuals, a recording of a store meeting and interviews with more than a dozen current and former employees reveal some of Apple's store secrets. They include: intensive control of how employees interact with customers, scripted training for on-site tech support...and anyone caught writing about the Cupertino, Calif., company on the Internet is fired..."
The astonishing part of all this is that to the advertising and marketing communities the lessons of Apple's amazing success are apparently invisible.

Here is a brief summary of Apple's consumer advertising activity as observed by this writer:
  • Apple spends a ton of money on traditional advertising, in particular TV and outdoor.
  • Apple's advertising looks much the same as it did 20 years ago.
  • Apple's advertising is always product focused. The product itself is usually smack dab in the middle of the page or screen. There is never any "lifestyle" bullshit or "branding" nonsense (as I have written here so many times, the best way to build a brand is with excellent product advertising.)
  • From what I can see, Apple spends next to nothing on social media and almost all their online ad budget on something that actually works -- search.
  • Apple's "engagement" strategy with customers is not built around dopey online gimmicks (Pepsi Refresh comes to mind) but with well-controlled, tightly managed, face-to-face communication between people and customers.
  • Apple fires those who engage in online "conversations" about the brand.
It would be hard to draw-up a set of behaviors that more thoroughly repudiate contemporary marketing dogma.

With all the success Apple has had, you'd think cmo's, agencies, and marketing "experts" would take a step back, take a look at what Apple has accomplished, and try to learn from it.

Instead they are mired in their own delusional feedback loop and blind to the evidence of their own eyes.

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