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January 06, 2011

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» Nobody Cares About Apple Products Either from Dude, It's Marketing
Last week, David Meerman Scott (@dmscott), author of Real-time Marketing & PR (on my to read list) and blogger at Web Ink Now, wrote a post Apple is Not Different as a follow up to his Nobody Cares About Your Product post. Basically, he states that org... [Read More]

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Nick Altrup

Great post, David. You've hit the nail on the head. Apple is classic proof that people don't buy products, they buy solutions.

Jdahline

Not sure how ground breaking this is. Really what you are saying is the people buy on benefits, not features.

Sean Carpenter

Classic Sales 101 - features tell; benefits sell.

Reminds me of the old story of the customer in the hardware store looking at drill bits. Asking what size drill bit isn't as good a question as what size hole is needed.

David Meerman Scott

Not really, Jdahline.

"Benefits" are things dreamed up by marketers to use in their messaging. A focus on problems starts with buyers, not with the internal people at a company.

Too often I hear about marketing people sitting around a conference room inventing benefits so they can talk about them in their promotions.

This is different than understanding buyer problems.

Richmac

1,000 songs in your pocket is the classic Apple approach to product positioning. Instead of the usual focus on features and benefits - it answers the ultimate consumer question - what's in it for me? Great post. Blog comment written on the "world's thinnest notebook"!

EquineValentina

Great points!

PTC_Analysis

Good post David.
The way you describe the six things people love about Apple makes it clear why Apple products are so successful: because they address multiple problems/issues that customers are looking to solve either consciously or otherwise. For one customer, the top reason to choose an Apple product is its sleek design. For another, it is the cool factor. For yet another, it is Apple's customer service. Each Apple product represents a unique package that addresses multiple customer needs. An Apple product that solved only one problem and failed to address other pressing problems would not be successful. Why else is Apple so successful selling products that are generally more proprietary and expensive than the competition?

David Meerman Scott

Richmac - Exactly. "What's in it for me?" in addressing real problems rather than reverse engineering a benefit based on the feature set.

PTC - Yes. A focus on different problems can even lead to different marketing techniques, content, Web sites, and whatnot.

Brian

Be insightful enough to identify problems no one else has and solve them better than everyone else!

Pretty simple, right?!? Not so much.

The irony is that customers usually voice their "problems" by going on and on about new features or capabilities they'd like to see. Good companies listen and build them. Great companies interpret that feedback to understand the real problem and then innovate a novel solution that no customer could have possibly envisioned.

David Meerman Scott

Bian - You're right. Which is exactly why you need to speak with NON-customers.

If Apple wants to learn about problems, they need to speak with PC users, NOT Mac users.

David

Gabor

Great post! I wonder how (if at all) this can be adapted to political communications, i.e. a politician (or a marketer wishing to influence stakeholders) can formulate their message from a 'what's in it for me' approach. Thanks for the great insights anyhow.

Paul L'Acosta

Great points David. Now, what do you think of Apple's inability to follow up on something so simple as their productivity suite for the iPad? I'm referring to the Numbers, Pages, and Keynotes software suite they sell at the App Store for $9.99? They have tons and tons of feedback of what's wrong with the suite, but Apple hasn't done anything since they launched it back in April 2009 (along with the iPad)? Just wondering what your input might be on this... See you soon! ~Paul

David Meerman Scott

Gabor -- what's interesting about political communications is so-called "micro-targets" which are essentially the same as buyer personas. What a candidate offers to someone who has been without a job for a few months will be different than what the same candidate offers the executives of a corporation.

Paul -- I don't know anything about this issue. But in general, open communications is the best approach.

Scott B

I'm not sure if it's a sign that Apple's losing touch, or if it's an indication that it's still hard to identify exactly what problems an iPad actually solves - an issue many people have struggled with since the product's announcement - but they're taking the completely opposite approach with their new "iPad is..." ads. It's all about the product, and it seems very contrived and even a little arrogant. A couple of examples:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lpo__xhTSv8

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jHbfi5SE_3A

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MKxoqRoRB0c

Bjoosse

Amen. We see this challenge all the time in the B2B world--web sites and other communications full of detail about products, with minimal presentation about why or how those products can help the customers. There's no question that the engineering success of Apple products has played a large part in the evolution of the Apple brand...but it is key to remember that "brand" is really a relationship, that customers define your brand based on their interaction with you and your products. In that light, user-centered engineering clearly is the core element--solving problems and presenting capabilities for the user, not the designer.

Christina Pappas

I understand tha validity of solving problems but what about introducing problems to people that they didnt even know they had? If a buyer likes what they already have and it works for them, what incentive do they have or knowledge to know that they could be better, faster, more smart-looking, etc?

Did '1000s songs in your pocket' really solve a problem or introduce something that people didnt know they wanted or needed?

Bill Hewitt

Great Article. I forwarded it to my son and only replaced marketer to any job title one has. here is what I said
Tyler I thought this was a great article, and one you could apply to any job you do.
Take the line " as a marketer you've got to deeply understand your customers and work your butt off figuring out what problems you can solve for them."

Just change marketer to manager

I thought this would interest you!

Dad

Trine

You hit on another point that's not being commented much on: People buy on solved problems, but they also buy on feelings; like beauty or being part of a tribe. Apple has many things in addition to these, but you can actually sell on feelings alone.

Jasmine Sandler

Yes people do buy solutions and that is what product as well as service innovation is all about. So, I own an Online Marketing and PR agency that focuses on helping businesses and executives use the web to drive brand awareness, online sales and customer loyalty. When I step back I realize that my clients use and love us for the time we save them and the money we bring them. In general, their issues are lack of knowledge, lack of time and lack of money. We are solving their issues by providing them cost-effective solutions by experts. Either you solve a problem from the outside-in as an industry innovator, such as Apple or from the inside-out such as a service organization. When we look at service clients we have like consulting firms, financial services firms, etc, we continually look for what is costing them time and money and we innovate in our solution set. This post caught my eye as in one of my first speaking engagements at Agent-cy , 5 years ago, I used apple.com as an example of the perfect e-commerce user experience - clean, engaging, client service oriented and much more. Great post!

Jasmine Sandler
CEO
Agent-cy Online Marketing, Inc
http://www.agent-cy.com
http://agentcy.wordpress.com
http://www.jasminesandler.com

Tony Faustino

AMEN -- "As a marketer, you've got to deeply understand your buyers and work your butt off figure out what problems you solve for them."

It's always about the challenges confronting our customers and clients. It's something bigger than ourselves.

When our content or products/services, helps our customers/clients (1) make a more informed decision or (2) makes their lives easier, everybody wins.

If I help someone make a more informed decision, and he/she goes with someone else -- all the better. Why? Because now I've moved one step closer to earning their trust.

I'll take the road to earning trusted advisor status over making a quick buck every day of the week and twice on Sunday (which ironically is today).

Thank you for the inspiration David.

Steve Johnson

Apple gets many things right: they build products that address the most pressing needs of their clients; they communicate a simple idea that reveals their solution to a problem that the customer will understand.

They listen to "real" people, not just power users.

Any company (or department) can do this. It means listening to what customers mean, not just what they're saying. And it means making sure that you're listening to the "right" customers, not the biggest, loudest, or most recent.

Identify the right persona and the rest gets easy... and much more fun.

Bob Corrigan

Wrong: Apple is fundamentally different. They figured out they needed to control nearly every aspect of their solution (e.g., battery chemistry, operating system, hardware, application delivery) in order to maximize their ability to compete, and they had a leader with the juice to make it happen.

They went "closed" when the prevailing "wisdom" was that people wanted "choice" when in fact what most people really wanted (and will continue to want) is for their crap to work.

And frankly, for most of us, we can't even apply the lessons of Apple as very few of the organizations any of us work for have the resources to completely go it alone in the marketplace and create a whole value ecosystem out of whole cloth.

So let's not overthink this whole thing. Apple wins because they've figured out that people, given the opportunity, prefer to be lazy, and they've removed complexity from the value delivery chain. Nothing more, nothing less. They are the fridge to MSFT's icebox. We threw out our iceboxes when we got refrigerators because we hated being sysadmins for our food.

Annua

Apple has a great visionary who puts user experience first. It is what you choose not to put in a product that makes or breaks it, Steve Jobs being a minimalist got it right from day one.

Jdahline

Benefits are made up by marketers?

Let's say I developed a new car that had an energy efficiency that lowers my gas consumption by 50%. If that cost wasn't a "problem" to me then with your claim, what "problem" is being solved. It's pretty clear that a benefit is "lower cost to drive" "cheaper commute" etc.

Ed Waterman

Very interesting David. I had this exact conversation with an Apple rep just last week. The downside to Apple is their "proprietary encoding" and "exclusivity". Our family and business just went with 8 Droid phones and a Verizon plan because the iPhones had an exclusive contract with AT&T and the price point on the monthly service was a huge difference. I just heard that they will now be offering a Verizon option for iPhones, however we're under 2 year contracts. They just missed us.

Then the iTunes debacle! My daughter got an Itunes gift card for Xmas. She was SO excited (she just got an iPod from us for Xmas too) and got on my wifes computer, listened and downloaded $20 in her new favorite songs. She then found out that her iPod could only sync up with MY computer (not my wifes) and we had 5 computers with iTunes (some restricted limit). Bottom line, she couldn't load them on her new iPod and couldn't forward the songs to another computer (like mine) where she could sync it up AND her gift card was charged and had no balance left. Then we went through the 30 minute support thing. We finally just bought her a $20 gift card from Amazon. They are .mp3's compatible and movable to all computers (not proprietary .m4u's from Apple that only play on some devices).

To truly thrive like their open app architecture, Apple needs to unhinge their copyright restrictions, as well as exclusive service contracts. I told the rep our stories and that while we LOVE Apple products, there were compatability problems and service restrictions that make them less attractive than other options.

Ed Waterman
Prodigy Marketing Group

prodigymarketinggroup@hotmail.com

David Meerman Scott

Great discussions here -- many thanks to all...

Thanks Steve - good to hear from you.

Bob - All true. In my post, I am not talking about all the different aspects of the company. I am merely saying that when you market a product, it is best to focus on what problems you solve.

Jdahline -- yes of course. That is a real problem being solved (saving money). I'm talking about fake problems. Things like 100 channel pre-sets on car radios that make the things so complicated that people cannot use it. Made up benefit = "you can save 100 radio stations!"

Ed - All good points. In these cases, Apple is not solving problems for you, Your problem was to buy your daughter a gift. It didn't work out so well.

Brendan Ziolo

I am shocked that marketers still don't think this way. I really like how you deconstruct the argument that Apple products are different by showing how they solve the user's problems.

To be successful in your marketing and communications, you need to clearly and simply explain how your product solves the problem that user is facing and how you are better than others at solving it.

To to this, you need to talk to both your customers and your non-customers to find out what problems they are facing. When you listen first, ideally before developing the product, and clearly understand the problem you are solving then marketing in this fashion is easy and will be very successful.

Thanks David for continuing to push this valuable lesson.

Jdahline

Ed, sorry to tell you, but what you were describing has nothing to do with Apple.

1) Your daughter's iPod can connect to any PC that has iTunes (Mac or Windows based). Since you said that she downloaded music from iTunes on your wife's PC, she would be able to connect that iPod to your wife's PC.
2) The 5 computer limit is an old DRM system. iTunes music used to come with a limit of 5 active computers to play the purchased content. They ditched this a few years back. So, the music your daughter downloaded is able to transfer to your computer easily. There are a few ways to do that.
3) You can "forward" those tunes between your computer and your wife's by simply turning on home sharing in iTunes and copy pasting them from her library to yours. Literally, two clicks.
4) I am making the assumption that you are both using iTunes to manage your music. Since you claim your daughter purchased music from Apple and synced with your computer, then my assumption should be fact.

Ruby201190

Great points here. I myself own Apple products from computer to Ipod and Iphone. I also belongs to Apple community as well. Not really crazy fan of Apple but I just love their products. They sell solutions and position the solutions well in the eyes of customers. They are also good at creating viral. Look at Ipad 2 example. People are crazy about it. Great example of good marketing strategy by putting yourself in customers' shoes.

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