In his final keynote speech at the 2011 Apple Worldwide Developer’s Conference, Steve Jobs remarked that, “If the hardware is the brain and the sinew of our products, the software is its soul.” Jobs’ intimate understanding of and vision for his products stands out as one of the key reasons behind Apple’s success. His notoriously protective stance on his company vision and the extent of his involvement in the conception, design and development of his products right up until their anticipated release is legendary. But the man behind Forbes’ most valuable brand of 2015 also knew a little something about value creation and customer value management.
There are a number of definitions for customer value management around the web. One of our favourites comes from The Marketing Site, and is as follows: “…executing proactive, conscious, inspired and imaginative actions that create better gains or value for customers and all stakeholders.” Steve Jobs understood this at a fundamental level, and it was through the immersion in his own brand, its products and the people he envisioned using them that the story of Apple will go down as a lesson in product and customer value management.
When it comes to value, perception is reality
Modern market spaces demand a more introspective look at our products to better understand how they can provide value in the lives of our customers. Apple has always understood that upfront product and customer value-demonstration would make the conversation around the price-tag that came with its products less contentious. And if we marketers know anything, it’s that customers will accept a higher price tag if they perceive a product to perform a function or fulfil a need that no other product can, or significantly better than other products can. Entering an already saturated and fiercely contested industry, the iPhone was able to stake a significant claim on its target market thanks to its positioning as the brand that would shake up the hitherto inert mobile device industry. Today, the iPhone’s predecessors such as Nokia and Motorola can no longer compete in terms of devices sold.
With brands like Nokia, Blackberry and Ericsson seemingly at an impasse when it came to innovation, the iPhone revolutionised the industry with device and content synchronisation via its iTunes application, a superior and easy to navigate user interface, a pioneering App Store and content storage capabilities previously unheard of by mobile device consumers. And it’s pertinent to note that such new introductions could very well have led to disaster if customer buy-in wasn’t well-understood by Apple. However, these revolutionary “gambles” paid off thanks to a customer-insight-driven value-based marketing strategy that effectively communicated these new value-adds to the market. Today, the company’s unique and oft-imitated product launch events have become an industry norm with competitors like Microsoft, Samsung and others realising the value in creating intimate settings where C-level employees avail themselves to brand loyalists and others to communicate new features, functions and the future of their products.
But were these gambles based on a hunch alone?
For an outsider, Jobs’ knack for knowing what customers want may appear almost messianic. But at the heart of what makes Apple such a leader in product and customer value management are the insights the company gleans from touch points like its computers, mobile devices, wearables, apps and events. Its recent purchase of location-based data company, Mapsense, will enable it to augment its existing data channels with even more valuable customer metrics that will in turn allow it to position the brand more strategically and understand how, when and where to inject value into its products.
But it’s worth returning to the definition of customer value management described at the beginning of this post. The decisions that led to the successful adoption of Apple’s brand of innovation by its customers were based on a creative and imaginative approach that relied on the intelligence and individuality of its target consumer base. Apple’s marketing strategy was simultaneously proactive, conscious, inspired and imaginative. Despite Steve Jobs discounting the value of traditional market research, he understood the psychology of Apple consumers and knew how to market the iPad effectively by appealing to the perceived value of the Apple brand and a slick, ergonomic design. The lesson here involves understanding your target consumers well enough to create and manage their values beyond their own predictions and expectations. The level of insight needed for this calibre or customer value management goes far beyond your typical market research, into the realm of big data, customer analytics and healthy dose of intuition.
Julian Diaz is Head of Marketing for Principa. American born and raised, Julian has worked in the IT industry for over 20 years. Having begun his career at a major software company in Germany, Julian made the move to South Africa in 1998 when he joined Dimension Data and later MWEB (leading South African ISP). Since then, Julian has helped launch various South African technology brands into international markets.