Apple Defines the “Holy Trinity” for Product Companies

Apple AdsThere’s been a lot of chatter on the internet recently about Apple’s new ad campaign. Some positive and much of it negative. Author and former Apple ad man Ken Segall hates the ads because they “make customers seem so clueless.” The truth is that most users are clueless about technology, yet Apple needs those same users to buy more Apple products.

In their latest quarterly earnings Apple delivered a rare earnings “disappointment” after sales rose only 23 percent to $35 billion sending its stock down five percent in after-hours trading. When you are a $570 billion company, attracting larger markets and developing new revenue opportunities is everything.

So what is the strategy today? How can Apple continue to innovate, differentiate and justify its price premiums? How can it accelerate the transformation from a company for MacHeads to a company for most?

Let’s start by taking a big step back.

When Steve Jobs introduced the first iMac back in May 1998, the focus was on the product hardware: a G3/233 processor, a 15 inch monitor with 1024 x 768 resolution, 100MB Ethernet, etc.

The punch line to his presentation, and the real differentiator for Apple at the time was the radically different and simple design. The all-in-one package, the translucent candy colored box, the carrying handle. As Jobs described it: “This thing looks like it comes from another planet… a planet with better designers.”

Fast forward nine years and Jobs presents a very different, but additive, perspective on Apple’s unique value. In his May 2007 “All Things Digital” conference interview, Jobs defined Apple products as really just software.

“It’s software in the iPod itself, it’s software on the PC or the Mac, and it’s software in the cloud for the store. And it’s in a beautiful box, but it’s software. If you look at what a Mac is, it’s OS X, right? It’s in a beautiful box, but it’s OS X. And if you look at what an iPhone will hopefully be, it’s software.”

What should we take from this? Yes, you need beautifully designed products, but the innovation, differentiation and value for users is really taking place at the software level.

Now, five years later, Apple is refocusing once again.

These latest Apple ads paint a very different picture of the company. The emphasis is not on beautiful, sleek products or rich but simple software (although they are mentioned in the ads). Rather, it’s on the Genius customer service representative helping users do amazing things with their Apple products better and faster.

What’s Apple really saying about itself in these ads? It’s saying, we not only have the best hardware and software, we also have the best service out there. It’s promoting Genius as a third key value.

Perhaps Apple’s realized that successful products are not only about hardware and software, but also about delivering value throughout the entire lifecycle – including services.

If you are a product company that aspires to be more like Apple, these ads are a good indication of what the tech giant thinks it takes today to deliver differentiated value for users and subsequently for shareholders: product and service delivered seamlessly.

What do you think of Apple’s new focus on service?


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