By Caroline Brooks
In the day following Apple’s iPhone 7 unveiling, media and tech enthusiasts alike are responding with pros, cons, criticism, and even awe of the new gadget slated to hit the store shelves on September 16.
Once again, Apple strove to out-innovate itself with the new smartphone: it’s water-resistant, features a dual-lens camera, comes in a 256 GB model and in five colors, has a new “home” button, and supports wireless headphones (adapters are available for those wanting to hang onto the trademarked white ear buds).
It seems that every iPhone release has Apple enthusiasts on the edge of their seats anticipating what new features the tech giant will launch next—and that Apple has the world captivated with its brand’s “innovation” factor. But is it really innovative? Ken Szymusiak, managing director of the Eli Broad College of Business Burgess Institute for Entrepreneurship & Innovation gave his thoughts on Apple’s innovative brand platform, the value of brand reputation, and how other companies can look Apple for branding tactics.
How are tech companies, like Apple, continuously striving to incorporate “innovative” as their branding platform?
Apple clearly has a reputation as an innovative company, which is reflected in the strength of its brand and the industry standards it has created since the launch of the iPod in 2001. Unfortunately, the term “innovation” is now only associated with tech products – but the reality is: innovation comes from strategy, from management, and even from adopting a new marketing tactic.
Does this mean that, in terms of “innovation,” Apple has us looking through rose [gold] colored glasses?
The real question that many people are asking of Apple is whether or not the company is truly “innovating” with each new iPhone release. The brand itself is so strong that, as a consumer, you have to ask yourself whether or not you are truly buying an innovative product, or is it the same product you already own with additional features? And are those features truly innovative? This is open to interpretation and debate, but you can rest assured that Apple and other large technology manufacturers are trying to find the next innovation curve because it is only a matter of time before a company hits upon the next “iPhone” – but the irony is that it won’t look or feel anything like an iPhone.
Apple comes out with a new phone every 9 months, it seems. What is it that keeps consumers wanting the latest and greatest?
In my opinion, it is all about the strength of the brand paired with product/user experience. The Apple brand is arguably the most valuable on earth at this point, and although they control a significant portion of the U.S. market, there is prestige in owning an Apple product just like there is prestige in owning luxury automotive or fashion brands. However, I think that as the smartphone market becomes saturated, product differentiation will become much more difficult. It is hard to maintain the type of growth Apple has experienced by just adding “nice to have” features like Bluetooth headphones that may actually alienate some users.
What “shoestring” tactics smaller companies replicate from Apple to promote their own innovative brands?
All companies should (and do) often look to industry leaders for approaches to marketing and sales techniques. Most companies don’t have Apple-like resources, but stylistically, there are a lot of things that Apple does that may fit well with other consumer product offerings. Some of their best practices include: a focus on product design and packaging, a differentiated and high-quality approach to customer service, and uncompromising price points. These approaches aren’t a one size fits all, but clearly Apple has been successful utilizing these points of differentiation.