10 years ago this month, the first ever iPhone went from Apple manufacturing to authorized stores in cities across the world. Since then, the world economy has crashed, countries have been born, and Obama became the first African-American president, served out a full two terms, and then was replaced by Donald Trump. In all that time, however, Apple has hardly budged from its lauded position as the most successful smartphone ever.
In 2015, the iPhone reached its zenith, with its profits making up 94% of the profits of the entire smartphone industry. Its dominance is unprecedented, it is unrivaled, and it is largely thanks to great marketing. After all, the iPhone 7 is riddled with problems, yet it remains immensely popular.
As Head of Marketing for an affiliate marketing company, I can’t help but admire Apple when it comes to branding and company image — and I believe that anyone serious about marketing should feel that way, too. So here are some lessons which marketers can learn from the iPhone’s success.
1. Be Yourself
While this advice may sound like it’s been picked straight out of a children’s book, there’s solid reasoning behind it. Apple has always been unashamedly Apple and the iPhone is the epitome of this. The original product was expensive, near incompatible with third-parties and valued style over technical superiority. 10 years later, that hasn’t changed one iota.
However, people like the iPhone precisely because of all this. After all, each of those downsides has a corresponding upside. Expensive means high-quality, incompatible with third-parties means remarkably easy-to-use with any other Apple product, and style over spec means that iPhones are — for lack of a better word — beautiful.
Apple knows this. Its stores are uncompromising, minimalist masterpieces which cost tens of millions of dollars to build. However, Apple builds them because it makes the product inside look clean, crisp, simple, and classy. The iPhone is unapologetic about its flaws and acutely aware of what makes it great.
As a result, iPhone ad-campaigns never mention value for money, never argue that it’s easy to sync with other products or services, and brag less frequently about its technical features. Other smartphones try to outdo and outmarket each other on all those fronts, but the iPhone doesn’t bother. It is what it is and it sells itself purely on that.
2. Build A Following
“Build it and they will come” is one half of Apple’s philosophy. It works. Just look at iPad sales recently. The other half is “build it so they won’t escape”. The ease of using all Apple products with iPhones — and the corresponding difficulty of trying to use third-party products — means that once you go iPhone, you never go back.
This isn’t just because you’ve bought into the product’s superiority; it’s because you can’t go back. Or rather, it’s because it would be extremely difficult. Your iTunes, iCloud and apps are almost impossible to transfer over to a new phone. However, once you buy your new iPhone, they will (of course) all automatically transfer over.
3. Make Yourself Heard
iPhones are everywhere, or at least it feels like they are. It’s like you can’t go anywhere without seeing one somewhere, which is strange because (in terms of numbers) only 13% of smartphones on the market are iPhones. Apple still takes home the most cash, hence the aforementioned profit share, but that’s only because iPhones are pricier. In terms of visibility, just over one in eight smartphones are iPhones.
If you find that statistic hard to believe, it’s because you watch too much TV. While the number of iPhones in the real world is very low, the number of iPhones as product placements in TV shows, films, or almost anywhere you look is astronomical.
It’s a matter of Apple getting to the top and maintaining its position through a virtuous cycle. Because Apple makes the most money, it can spend the most on these placements. Because it spends the most on these placements, it makes the most money.
4. Nothing Lasts Forever
By far the biggest lesson we can learn from Apple over the last couple of years isn’t from its greatness, but from its weakness. Sales are falling. While only a fool would argue that this means the end of the iPhone, it may mean the end of its imperium.
It’s hard to say what Apple should do as a response to this. After all, much of its success has been built on previous successes. We’ve never had to watch the iPhone “recover” from anything, because the iPhone has only ever been a goldmine for Apple. What’s more, the company prides itself on being uncompromising. That’s its entire appeal. Trying to adapt to falling sales by changing in some way will look a lot like compromise, but not adapting to falling sales would mean doing nothing.
The truth is that only Apple knows how it will respond to this. Their products aren’t going to fall in price, but they may become more compatible — especially after the headphone-jack backlash.
The other truth is that a decade is a long time and the first iPhone buyers are now 10 years older. They might not feel the need to buy yet another phone, not when the whole appeal of an iPhone is its build quality. The iPhone needs to be able to sell itself to a new generation of customers who know nothing about its past achievements. In a way, it’ll be like starting all over again — just 10 years wiser.
Image from https://9to5mac.com/2016/12/30/apple-iphone-8-roundup-specs-features-glass-curved-oled-ar/