Apple Brand Case Study: A Closer Look

Not many companies can set up shop in a giant glass box on some of the world’s most expensive real estate, and still make a fortune.  You might be surprised to learn that Apple’s flagship Fifth Avenue store in New York City is valued at $4,709 per square-foot.  As CNN pointed out, that’s worth just about as much as The White House.

However, they can afford it.  The same article points to Apple’s $14.1 billion of revenue from retail stores alone during the 2011 fiscal year.  The company’s worldwide revenue for the 2011 fiscal year totaled $108 billion.  How do they do it?  I wouldn’t even pretend the full answer to that question is within my scope of understanding.  But, together we can take a look at some of the key elements that makes this brand so effective!

Apple Creates Geniuses

If you’ve never been into an Apple retail store, you should make your way over to see one.  Don’t go on a Saturday; definitely don’t go on a Sunday.  Really, there’s never a good time to go because the stores are packed.  People are flocking to see (1) the products and (2) the Geniuses.

‘Genius’ is a term Apple uses to refer to their expert staff that helps resolve technical issues with customers.  This is no Geek Squad.  These guys know their stuff.  (I have several friends who have worked/currently work for Apple as Geniuses, and it’s no easy feat.  Even the lowest retail positions usually require four interviews.)

The ‘Genius’ label is just one piece of the pie when it comes to why Apple is such an incredible brand.  Apple insures that Geniuses are extremely well-trained in order to resolve tech issues, but they also focus on customer education.  From group workshops to one-on-one training, Apple Geniuses represent the brand in a very human way.

Streamlined Products & Experience

Apple founder and former CEO, Steve Jobs, is famous for his cuts.  The last paragraph in this article from Fast Company covers a few of them.  But, the most impressive cut happened in 1998, after Jobs had returned to the company.  Jobs reduced the product offerings from 350 to just 10!

Jobs’ sometimes counterintuitive measures didn’t just boost sales… they did wonders for the brand image.  Recognizing that the company could make a few products really well by narrowing their focus, Jobs introduced a new brand image that has remained ever since.  Apple is streamlined and unified.  Customers know exactly what they’re going to get, how a product will work, what it will look like, etc.  If you own an iPad, for example, you’ll have no trouble at all working an iPhone.

Apple & Content Strategy

What’s odd about Apple and their content marketing strategy?  Well, there’s not much happening out there.  Sure, they have a YouTube account and some average TV spots.  But Apple hardly uses social media at all.  No Facebook; no Twitter; certainly no Instagram or Pinterest.

There’s been a lot of speculation as to why Apple is so conspicuously absent from the world of social media.  Some believe Apple to be making a statement, or being elitist.  However, those who look closer usually see the opposite to be the case.  Steve Jobs was famous for his “open door” policy with customers.  He’s one of the few CEOs that actually took time to respond directly to customers and fans via email.

While Apple may not have its own content marketing services running a Facebook page, there’s a lot to be said for a company that had a CEO who responds directly to emails.  Whether the emails were questions, compliments, or irate messages, Jobs was listening throughout his years at the helm.

Brand Loyalty

Of course, fans of Apple have an incredible sense of brand loyalty.  (This loyalty is in part due to the public’s fascination with Jobs.)  With a baseline price of $999, Apple computers are not cheap.  And, in truth, you can buy a machine with a lot more power for half the price.  However, Apple products continue to fly off the shelves.  All this without a serious online content strategy?  Imagine what your small business could do by developing this kind of brand loyalty, and hiring content marketing services to build momentum!

For more on what Apple is doing this summer, see Andrew’s recent post.

Do you think Apple needs to beef up its content strategy, or are things perfect as-is?  What would you love to see Apple do from a branding perspective?
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Ben Richardson is a writer based in Nashville, TN. While he loves writing on a variety of subjects, he's our go-to on all things related to branding and the creative aspects of content marketing. Follow him on Twitter!

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