I admit I’m a bit behind my own schedule when it comes to this week’s posting. I’ve been shooting for getting things up at the beginning of the week but that hasn’t been the case this time around. But we’re in the middle of a torrential downpour right now in Minneapolis and I’ve got some good tunes going (Earlimart’s “Treble & Tremble” if you’re interested), so I figure there’s no better time than to crank this out.
I want to focus this week on a brand that is almost omnipresent in the marketing world…make that the world in general: Apple. (And yes I realized that I could just be adding to the overkill.)
There are different ways that I could go with this thing. There are a couple angles that are pretty centric to my job: Apple as a collaborator AND a competitor. Apple as a retailer with an amazing sales performance. (Check out the crazy sales per square foot numbers that are quoted in this Wall Street Journal article.) Or I could take it from the standpoint of hiring employees that truly are your brands’ biggest fans and advocates. (Yes, chalk me up as a firm believer in that philosophy.) But I’m going to take this back to the idea of being just another consumer, kind of like I talked about doing in my post-vacation write-up.
On the home front, we’ve been in the market for a new computer. Our trusty MacBook Pro has been getting worked over by its double duty: family computer and business computer for my wife’s photographic endeavors. Frankly, a newer computer with additional horsepower was needed. After doing some research and getting advice from some of our IT friends, we headed over to the Apple store so we could narrow down the choices. And I’ll be honest here, this was being bought for my wife’s business; I was primarily there for moral support. But I also was there because I love taking the ethnographic approach to studying shopping experiences.
Let me tell you something: Apple is completely buttoned up when it comes to shopping and buying from them. And I’m not even going to talk about their actual products. At the Apple Store itself, we met with a super knowledgeable employee that was respectful, engaging and very savvy about the paces that photographers’ computers are put through. A couple hours later (after store hours), we had a couple more questions that we needed answering. So we called the Apple toll free number and again were greeted by a friendly Apple “expert.” We talked through the various iMac specifications, pricing options and even discussed the pro’s and con’s of their refurbished product lineup. After that phone conversation we thought we were ready to pull the trigger, when one last outstanding issue came up. It was late and I didn’t want to make any phone calls, so I logged on to the Apple website and tried their instant chat function. And within seconds I was chatting again with a helpful and informed Apple employee. He got us exactly the information we needed; we were poised and ready to buy.
Maybe because it’s because I work for a large retail organization and I understand how complex it can be to build and maintain customer experiences at a massive scale, but I couldn’t have been more impressed. Within the span of four-to-five hours, we interacted with the Apple brand in three distinct forms and fashions, and every time it was seamless and fantastic. I know that Apple has more than its fair share of fanatics and detractors. Are they premium priced? Absolutely. Do they subtly try to upsell you without “selling” you? You bet they do. Do they encourage people to use an “all Apple ecosystem” of products and services? Definitely. But when it comes to the shopping experience they provide, I’d think you’d be hard pressed to find anyone that would call them out.