The reason why Apple’s products were a success was because they understood that it is not about the product, but about the service that the product carried with or around it.
Despite its existence in different forms, the idea of branding and marketing has undergone almost a complete revision recently. The reason is not hard to fathom. With a number of products and services competing for the same mind space in the marketplace, branding and marketing helps differentiate ones product. Yet, what most brands forget is the basic idea behind branding. Once it was to sell a product. Product and service were two different things. Today, however, the term ‘service’ has acquired a completely new meaning with both products and even the traditional services, have had to redefine the meaning and purpose of their existence.
Take the most popular products today and you’ll realize the service element in all of them.
Steve Jobs was one of the first to understand that when he sold a product, what was important was not the product in itself, but the services that went with it. Let’s take a few examples.
The iPod was not one of the best music players in the market. Other mp3 players offered radio, recording and larger storage capacity at half the price. Yet, the iPod captured the market, seemingly by the sheer dint of their great design. While the design element was indeed important, it was not all. The main reason for its success was the services he provided with the same. With iTunes, he made it simple and convenient for people to tune their music between their laptop and their music player. Secondly, offering millions of song at a dollar a song meant that it became convenient and legal to purchase the songs that you liked at a very cheap price. It was thus not just the iPod that people brought, but this entire service.
Microsoft tried to compete with the iPod by designing a product, which indeed was better in many ways: the Zune player. Yet, despite its many attempts, it could not even make a dent in Apples market and today no one remembers the player.
Apple continued its ‘service’ tradition with other products. Consider the iPhone. Just like the iPod, there were many phones available in the markets that were equally good, and often better than the iPhone. Yet, the reason why the iPhone worked was because it was not just a phone. But a new way of looking at a phone entirely with a design interface that allowed users to arrange their personal belongings in a way no personal devices had done before. That, with the ease and speed of a fabulous touchpad, ensured that it beat everyone, including the much touted Blackberry in the mobile market.
Apple continued the tradition with the iPad. iPad today, is again not just a tablet. It comes bundled with the iCloud, which again is a redefinition of personal computing. You are no longer married to one device thanks to iCloud, but are freed by it. Thus, you can work on the same document on your laptop, mobile or even the iPad. The device became just incidental.
Customers today are thus spoilt for choice. And in a world where you have smart brands like Apple giving them more services than they demand, it is both a wakeup call and lesson for brand that aspire to be equally or half as good. Service today is not just for service brands, but for everyone. A product today will work for the services that it carries on its back.
April 22, 2013, 5:55 am UTC
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