Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Marketing 101 from Apple

If you’ve been within 100 miles of any business school, you have , no doubt, memorised from cover to cover, all the pages of Marketing Management by Philip Kotler. A doyen of marketing, Kotler is the S.C. Johnson & Son Distinguished Professor of International Marketing at the Kellogg School of Management . His work was the standard text book 30 years ago, and still is.

Many marketing hotshots are educated on his concepts and then blithely spend a lifetime ignoring it. Make a shoddy product, charge the moon for it, pour a fortune down the drain in advertising and then wonder why the product isn’t selling ! The zillions of dollars sloshing around the advertising industry is testament to this “Marketing Myopia”, to borrow a phrase from another seminal piece by Ted Levitt from a few decades ago.

One shining exception to this is Apple. They anticipate (and sometimes even create) consumer needs and meet it brilliantly. To hell with all the rest. Take the case of the iPhone. Absolutely brilliant product. But remember the awful contract with AT&T they forced American consumers into. Remember the small fortune it costs to buy one. Remember the shameful “pajama string” that goes for the cable (really what an abomination that is). Remember even now, you have to wait to get one and not just buy it off any shelf. And yet what happens to sales ? They just announced yesterday that iPhone sales grew by a measly 100% ! And what do they splurge on advertising ? Zilch.

Witness the virtual religious fervour over the event Apple has scheduled for Wednesday. It is hotly rumoured that we are going to see the unveiling of the iSlate or iPad, or whatever its going to be called. They have virtually the whole world drooling in anticipation. Huge secrecy (they have obviously never heard of Market Research), with well planted leaks to titillate. Simply brilliant. They have the whole world standing in a line waiting to see it. No prices for guessing how much they have spent on advertising to achieve such consumer interest.

How do they do it ? Simple. By focusing on getting a product that’s so outstanding that it needs nothing else. The iPod and iPhone together with iTunes and the Apps Store all fall into this category. Just one focus. Get a product that fills a consumer need , with a consumer experience that’s out of this world. Get the product right. Get the product right. Once more. Get the product right. And some more.

Methinks whoever invented the 4Ps of marketing did a disservice. The worthy should have nominated one P with capital letters and 3 small ps besides it. Actually marketing pundits have got this well understood. The trouble is they have got the wrong P in capital letters !

I suppose its only a coincidence that some of Apple’s blockbusters have got one capital P in its name – iPod, iPhone ……