Marketing experts, project management experts, and business strategists alike study Apple for insights into what makes a company successful. And for good reason—the hundred billion dollar giant ranked the #2 most valuable brand in the US in 2017, only second to Google.
That’s a lot of revenue. And that’s a lot of value. Clearly Apple knows what they’re doing when it comes to selling iPhones (about 70% of all their revenue) and juggling all their other projects, and marketing all of it too.
In this post, you’ll find ten top takeaways from Apple’s marketing strategy that you can apply to your business.
1. Focus on value—not price.
You don’t have to be a multi-billion dollar giant to have the suave attitude Apple has on pricing. (Theory: perhaps Apple got to where they are today partly because of their stick-to-your-guns attitude on price?)
Apple doesn’t get caught up in price wars because they know their value and aren’t afraid to price for it. What does this mean for you from a project standpoint? Don’t be afraid to charge what you’re worth when budgeting for your project.
This doesn’t mean you should expect customers to pay a premium for your deliverable—or expect your suppliers to hand out bargains—based on the unfounded assumption that you’re a special snowflake.
Charging what you’re worth doesn’t mean you’re hoodwinking yourself into thinking you’re a snowflake; it means finding out where you can be of real value to your customers, nurturing that value proposition, and making it your thing. Making it something great—something worth paying for. Something that’ll make you so good you won’t even get nervous about the price tag you put on it.
2. Find your fanboys (and fangirls).
It’s pretty much every brand’s dream that they’d have a following of users named as fervently as “Cult of Mac,” right?
They worked hard to get that fan club and the brand loyalty, but now that they’ve got it, we have to admit it’s probably a bit smoother sailing for them when it comes to pitching ideas and getting everyone on board.
So find your fans; you’ll face a lot less resistance that way. In this case, your fans are your stakeholders: your investors, your suppliers, your board or your higher-ups. Your team. Your partners.
If you can get these guys on your side with this project, if you can get a strong buy-in on this project—and then deliver on your promises—it’s likely you’ll have an easier time getting it on projects in the future. So find your tribe and romance them. Make them fall in love with your ideas.
You can do that by being really, really good at what you’re doing. It’s easier said than done, but once you’ve done it, be sure to leverage that value with your tribe.
3. Simplicity is key in everything.
Not just in advertising (and in our case, pitching as well), with their simple commercials without voice-overs or feature lists, with the plain white backgrounds and simple home-made iPhone videos.
But also with the product. The goods. The deliverables. Can you even remember a time where your phone had more than one button on its face?
We could learn something from Apple’s simplicity in advertising and in product design. In the way their advertising copy focuses not so much on features, but on why those features matter to the customer.
Look at your project plan, look at your pitch, and ask yourself: Am I getting my point across as simply and concisely as I possibly can? Am I taking any extra steps that we don’t actually need? Is there anywhere I can cut out waste so we can focus on what matters at the core?
After all, it’s easy to throw everything on a page and explode at the seams with superfluous details. That’s just brainstorming. It’s word vomit. It’s more complicated—and more worthwhile—to boil everything down to its core.
4. Know what you stand for.
Having a true north, a true identity consisting of what you believe in, what you want for yourself and your customers, and what kind of company you want to be or product you want to have, will help point you in the right direction no matter what problems arise throughout your project. And problems will arise.
So you might as well know what you stand for now, before you begin. You might as well know what you want from this project, what your brand stands for, and how those 2 dynamics will work together.
Knowing what you and your brand stand for can be not only a guiding principle throughout the project, but it’ll also help with consistency in pitching, creating, communicating, and advertising.
Oh, and the other good thing about knowing what you’re all about? That kind of confidence and conviction is irresistibly attractive to stakeholders, team members, and customers.
5. Create an experience that drives attention.
Apple is one of the first pioneers for selling experiences rather than just products.
But what does this mean, exactly? It means not focusing so much on the tangible product, but more on the feelings it elicits in the customer.
Apple does it by maintaining an air of secrecy around everything they do, creating movie-like TV ads, hosting Keynotes and product launches like they’re rock concerts, and making sure all their support staff and Apple store employees are polite and incredibly knowledgeable. It’s all about the experience.
This kind of baking experience into everything you do begins at the planning phase of your project. It’s not something you can just slap onto the final deliverable; it’s something you’ve got to keep at the core of what you’re doing from the beginning.
When planning your deliverables, ask yourself: is there a special experience for the customer here, or is this simply a product they’re holding in their hands? Or seeing on a screen? Are we handing them a thing, or are we giving them a memorable experience?
6. Create captivating visuals to win people over.
There’s no such thing as an ugly Apple ad.
Apple doesn’t do anything ugly, and you shouldn’t either. Even if it’s “just a pitch” or “just a mockup,” if you’re showing it to your stakeholders, make it pretty. You can start winning over their hearts by winning over their eyes.
So whether it’s your pitch, a mockup or wireframe, a project plan, or your final deliverable, make it look good. Make it simple—the visuals you use, the words you use to accompany those visuals. Make the visuals your priority and make what few words you use count. They’ll hit harder that way.
This makes sense, right? After all we talked about above with keeping it simple and creating experiences, it makes sense that we’d want to focus more on visuals—something that has the power to speak to customers and stakeholders more quickly, on a more instinctual level, and across all languages and culture barriers—than on words and clutter.
So do just that. Where can you use visuals instead of words? Ask yourself this question all the way through—from pitch creation to getting your deliverable in front of customers.
7. Use the stakeholder’s language.
I don’t know about you, but one of the initial appeals of Apple’s products for me was the way they talked to me like I was a regular MP3-player user. A regular cellphone user.
Just your average laptop user.
A human being.
Here’s what I mean: when they advertised the 80 gigabyte iPod, the biggest text in their ad said “store 20,000 songs”—because what the heck is a gig? I mean, we know what it is, but what does that mean for us?
That’s one of the reasons I first fell in love with Apple. They spoke to me in terms I’d understand (because I’m no techie), they spoke to me in units I care about (songs, not gigs), and they advertised with hip music that connected with me and made me realize: Wow. Apple is cool, and Apple totally gets me.
That’s what you want your stakeholders to say. “Wow, they get me.” Because your pitch and even your entire project is not actually about you at all. It’s not even really about your company. It’s about the 1) experience you’re creating (remember?) and 2) what the success of selling that experience will mean for your stakeholders.
And if you’re counting your customers as your stakeholders, really that’s all that matters. Your stakeholders are all that matters, so from pitch to deliverable-in-hands, you should only be speaking in language that matters to them.
8. Appeal to emotion.
Did anyone else cry at Apple’s Christmas ad of the kid constantly playing on his phone to the chagrin of his family, only for them to find out that he was creating a family video the entire time? No? Oh, right, me neither.
Except we do want our customers and stakeholders to cry. But, like, in a good way.
Or maybe we don’t want them to cry, we just want them to feel something. What that something is will depend on your brand, what you stand for, and what experience you want your customers to have. It could be the feeling of being touched, which might make them cry. But it also could be excitement, joy, hope, outrage (accompanied by a strong urge to help facilitate change), a sense of community, or peace.
It could be anything. Whatever it is, make that clear—not just to your customer or to your client, but to your team. To all of your stakeholders. Get that all-important buy-in and use emotion to do it.
9. Master your target markets.
You know that famous quote by Henry Ford that goes, “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would’ve said faster horses”? I love that. It’s like he knew what his customers wanted before they did.
And that’s the telltale sign of whether or not you’ve mastered your market. Do you know what your target customers want, even before they can articulate it?
Steve Jobs was a pro at this. We didn’t know we wanted all-touch screen phones until they were in our hands. At least I didn’t want an all-touch screen phone. I thought the idea was ludicrous.
And now I can’t imagine it any other way. It’s not some magical power to predict the future; it’s knowing your target markets so well, mastering the different segments of your target market so well, and being so in touch with their pain points that you can guess a solution to their problem before they do. It’s fixing problems in a way that’s so beautiful and unpredictable that it turns heads.
Keep that in mind when you’re planning market research into your project. If you’re wondering whether or not you should cut your research budget to save money, here’s a hint: Don’t.
10. Do it differently.
If I could sum up all of these previous 9 points into one big, unforgettable takeaway, it’d be to do it differently.
It’s not as easy as it sounds, sure. In order to think differently, you’ll have to strip away your assumptions, your past, your textbook knowledge, and your own appraisal of your limits. You have to think yourself into a void almost, into a space untethered by what everyone else is doing.
Apple’s ability to think into the void is what made them successful despite their minimal amount of traditional advertising. It’s what made the famous for shaking up the mobile phone industry in 2005, changing history forever by putting the phone manufacturers and their accompanying software in charge instead of the providers.
Just because everyone else—your previous stakeholders, your colleagues, your competitors, your customers—all assume a certain thing should be a certain way doesn’t mean it’s the best way.
Keep this in mind; with your advertising, with your pitching, with the design of your deliverable. Make it your credo.
How Will You Think Different?
Does Apple’s revolutionary way of business inspire you to change the way you run your projects? Are you fired up and ready to use one of these Apple tactics in the next project on your list?