What Apple Can Teach You About Marketing

marketing tips from apple

Apple rocks at marketing—I think that's something fanboys and haters can both agree with. From building an incredible amount of buzz, to driving fans out to buy products, to keeping repeat customers for life, they really have their act together.

There are a lot of things small businesses can learn from Apple's success, and most of them easily translate from the corporate world to the small business world. The strategies that set Apple apart from its competitors are strategies that you can learn to use too. If you're lucky, you might just grow a fan club the size of Apple's. Read more to see what Apple can teach you about marketing your business.

It’s important to be pretty.

marketing be pretty
In all of Apple’s product lines and marketing materials, you won’t find a single thing that isn’t pretty. From their product design, to their product packaging, to even their television ads—Apple spends a considerable amount of time making their stuff look better than the competition. As a small business owner, you probably should too.

There are several opportunities for your small business to have great looking materials. Website design is one place to show off; brochure design is another. Perhaps the most useful would be to create really awesome business cards. Of course, if your company sells products you should probably make them look great too.

People like big photos.

picture of the apple home page
A quick look at their website, and you’ll see that Apple fully believes in the old adage “a picture is worth a thousand words”. With the amount of information and content floating around these days, I’d say I agree with them.

A good picture has more impact, it can be digested faster, and it can convey more feeling than a similar sized block of text. Images also just look prettier (see previous point).

Finding great images for your business to use can take time, but there are several resources available to help you. My favorite sources for images are Flickr (make sure to check licensing info) and iStockPhoto. With those two massive photo collections, and a little bit of time and effort, you should easily be able to come up with some powerful imagery.

Keep your message simple.

iphone's simple marketing message
Apple’s been practicing what many authors and marketing gurus have been preaching: keep your marketing message simple. Simple messages are easier to understand, easier to remember, and easier to share.

Here’s an example, it’s Apple’s description of the iPhone: “Revolutionary Phone. Widescreen iPod. Breakthrough Internet Device.”

Stick to what’s important and keep your message free from extras. You’ll be following in Apple’s footsteps in no time (well, at least you’ll be better off).

Let your fans do the selling.

apple fans talking
Look closely at any of Apple’s commercials, and you’ll notice something interesting. They all feature a customer or a user.

Apple’s strategy isn’t to tell you how cool their stuff is (since you probably wouldn’t believe them anyhow), their strategy is to show other people using and talking about their products. It’s just more personal, and more believable, when your fans promote for you.

One way to use this idea with your own business is to encourage your customers to rave about your product. The best way to do that usually involves exceeding their expectations and delivering a fantastic product.

Let the media do the talking.

media talking about apple
Instead of the traditional advertising blitz in the months and weeks leading up to a product launch, Apple takes a more subtle and viral approach. They like to slowly leak details about a new product, then give a presentation to ‘wow’ reporters and media people, and finally they put out a simple press release.

The end result of their careful lead up is that literally every mainstream news outlet (and thousands of smaller ones) starts talking about them. During this period, they don’t spend a dime on advertising for the new product.

The media can be a very powerful force, especially for small businesses—if you can only get them talking. By Apple’s example, you can do that by giving them something new and unique to talk about.

Create a unique customer experience.

Apple's unique customer experience
Every stage of customer interaction is carefully planned at Apple. The minute you visit their website it seems like you’ve entered a different web. If you visit one of their stores you feel like you’re at an exclusive party. When you finally buy their product, even the packaging makes you a part of Club Apple.

The consistency and uniqueness of Apple’s customer experience is one of the biggest achievements of their marketing department. Once you become a part of their fan club, it’s hard to turn back.

Creating your own unique experience is as simple (or as difficult) as deciding on what makes your company special and showing that consistently through all of your customer touch-points. As challenging as it may be, creating a consistent and unique customer experience is one of the most rewarding things you can do for your small business.

Get a charismatic CEO.

apple's charismatic ceo steve jobs
If a company’s head is in the right place, chances are its feet will be too. At least, that’s how a lot of customers see it—and Apple has taken the idea to heart. Having Steve Jobs present every new product Apple releases shows customers that upper-management cares. It also shows that the CEO is a smart, excited, and friendly person. Since he’s running the company, it’s only natural to think that the company will reflect his personality.

This is one of the lessons from Apple that is even more important in small business. Your customers will judge the quality and character of your business more by its upper-management than by its underlings, which means you have to get out there to show just how charismatic you and your business can be (since I’m assuming you are upper-management).

Always stay one step ahead.

apple 5 year stock chart
After Apple’s tremendous takeover in the mp3 player market (about 5 years ago), it would have been very easy for them to bask in their success and become complacent. But that isn’t what they did—they continued creating, releasing, and marketing new products. It’s a good thing too, because they’re competing with giants like SanDisk, Microsoft, Creative, Samsung, and many others.

One of the best things you can do for your marketing efforts is to keep your product one step ahead of the crowd, that way there is no choice but to stand out. Apple has proven this fact time and again, with the latest break-away release being the iPhone.

Did you know that LG, Samsung, HTC, and Nokia all have a big touchscreen phone, very similar to the iPhone? Most of them even have 3G, and most have more functionality than the iPhone too.

What makes the iPhone special is that it was released with a beautiful design, a simple-yet-powerful message, lots of pretty pictures, and an unequaled customer experience—all provided by Apple’s well-oiled marketing machine.

I don’t personally use many apple products (I’m a vista guy), but I wrote this article because Apple’s marketing machine really is superior to most other companies, and the things that make them great are all things that apply to small businesses too. Pay a little attention to what they do, and you might just get some great ideas for your own business.

Reader Comments

Dec. 19. 2007 3:27 AM
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That was definitely an awesome article, I definitely agree and Apple certainly takes the crown in producing a good marketing plan, along with passionate Apple product lovers =o)


Dec. 19. 2007 4:54 AM
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Design definitely has such a powerful impact. Not being much of a drinker (allergic to tanins), I struggled picking wine out for friends the other day. Guess which was the deciding factor - “Julie, lets buy this one , its pretty.” Peter & I laugh all the time about the fact the people are more willing to accept rediculous bugs in pretty apps (after all check out the newest ical - what a failure).

Then there is the question of cool. In the US, unique and contrary always lead cool. As apple gets less unique and contrary - who will come in to fill that gap. Will apple soon stop being cool?


Dec. 19. 2007 8:38 AM
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Junaid: I’m glad you enjoyed it.

Shane: I think they may have lost some of their newness, but I think it will be a while before they stop being cool. As much as their products may be similar to the others on the market, their positioning is so different and their user experience so unique that I doubt they will lose their fan club any time soon.

I think their ascension from mediocrity was brought on by great marketing, and I think that their continued success still depends on it.


Dec. 19. 2007 10:10 AM
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I do agree that Apple has its products and marketing down—as someone who just switched to Mac (after starting off with C64, Atari ST, and then a slew of home-built PCs before a Dell laptop), I must say the experience has been more than pleasant.

Yet you may have the slickest-oiled marketing machine, but you still gotta deliver the goods (iCal withstanding, I guess).

For me, the switch to Intel was the final kicker.

Anyway, a very insightful article.  I notice your website follows similar principles—I shall have to check out the rest of it.

Best,
Dave


Dec. 19. 2007 10:39 AM
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nice, you list all the big points.
i’ll definitely send you trackback here soon :)
thanks


Dec. 19. 2007 4:51 PM
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Dave: I definitely agree about having to deliver. The best marketing you can possibly do is to give your customer a great product, and the opposite is also true too.

Jacky: Sounds great, I’m interested to see your thoughts and opinions.

Thanks for stopping by,

- Mason


Dec. 20. 2007 7:55 AM
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Being a little cynical and having being accused of elitism by my friends, I have to say that you can put fantastic equipment in front of the public and they are proud to tell you what they own.
But tell me what you can produce on a Mac that I can’t produce on a PC.
Most of the people I know with Mac have them as a trophy. Nothing wrong with that but they have to learn how to create and stop using words like ultimate, awesome, unique, experience and my god!
In other words get the equipment, ( and I agree totally with the author) but learn how to create things that meet objectives.
Merry Christmas. ( Not Fu….in’holidays) The Baldchemist


Dec. 20. 2007 7:34 PM
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I have a Dell laptop. It’s sleek, silver and has white edges. My daughter had just bought an iPod, which came with two stickers - big white Apples straight from MacIntosh.

I stuck one on my laptop. Man, it’s too funny.

“You have an Apple?”  Strangers stop to watch me work.

“Hm?”  I look up.  “No, it’s a Dell, actually, that’s just a sticker.”

“Oh.”  All interest gone and the person walks off.

A few minutes later… another passerby…

“Hey, is that an Apple?”


Dec. 20. 2007 8:21 PM
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James,

Haha, that’s hilarious. Did you know that dell actually hired an ex-Apple product designer to make those laptops, the white bordered ones?

That just goes to show you how much strength is in the Apple brand, and that even great product design isn’t everything.

- Mason


Dec. 20. 2007 8:25 PM
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The best part is I get to feel smug and cool with an ultra cheap beater computer.  Until I have to admit I don’t have a Mac. Yet.


Dec. 20. 2007 9:11 PM
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Great article!  The beauty and artistry of Apple - and even moreso the dedicated Mac fanatics I know have convinced me to make the switch.  I just got my first Mac laptop last week and I absolutely love it.


Dec. 20. 2007 10:19 PM
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Thank you for your informative article!


Dec. 26. 2007 12:28 AM
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As I write this comment on my Apple iPhone (horizontal on my couch,I might add), enjoying some classic Rush, I must agree with the thoughts expressed in this article. Being a Mac user (fanatic?), I will also admit that, while I could do everything I do on a Windoze (sorry, couldn’t resist), machine, working in Mac OS X better facilitates my creative efforts, and helps me deliver better work more quickly and efficiently. Just like a master mechanic who takes pride in their professional tools, I look at my computer hardware and software as an integral part of my success. I’m glad Apple is there to help me “think different.”


Jan. 4. 2008 5:33 AM
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Being an audio engineer, I can tell you that there most definitely are things you can do with a Mac that you can’t do on a Windows PC. I’ve had my Macbook Pro for several months yet, and not one application has frozen, not even once. I have not even had to restart my computer at all, I just put it to sleep when I’m not using it.

On the contrary, when I tried to use my Dell desktop with Windows XP a few days ago, it froze multiple time, shot out countless errors and just plain didn’t work right. Maybe as my Mac gets older it will start to show signs of age by freezing more often, but I doubt any operating system could cause more headaches for someone doing processor-intensive editing than Windows.


Jan. 4. 2008 5:13 PM
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awesome article, wait.. did you just say you’re a vista guy? gross, xp is better by far. lol anyways it’s true, apple really knows their stuff. apple switch was one of their best ideas ever


Jan. 6. 2008 12:24 PM
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I am from India.
Here there are people (a lot of them) waiting for the official release of the Apple iPhone.
The BRAND is considered a pride to own. You have an Apple in your hand, and you become a Magnet in that place.Its Marketing at its very best. I have been a fan of Apple and ll continue to be.

A nice article there. Keeping it Simple always works..


Jan. 7. 2008 5:25 PM
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Aside from the NFL, Apple may have the best, most effective,  marketing in the history of modern communications. 

Cheers,

Karl A. Shalek
www.fastercats.com


Jan. 11. 2008 9:32 AM
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Nice article. why not learn from the best?


Jan. 19. 2008 8:50 PM
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Excellent “lessons to be learned” take on marketing and I like the simplification.  I sent the link to my wife who unwittingly has pretty much been following these basic guidelines ever since she co-founded Delaware Hypnosis Partners 5 years ago. As her creative consultant, I urged her to re-read your article at least weekly to maintain her focus as you’ve managed to condense on one page the essential tools of business atttraction.

Nice blog overall, by the way!


Jan. 20. 2008 10:49 AM
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“A thousand songs in your pocket” Checkmate! Big Pics are the most over looked and easiest thing to fix! Nice article.


Feb. 8. 2008 10:52 PM
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Apple really does an amazing job marketing.  Their Mac vs PC campaign has really made Apple products “cool? and PCs “boring?.  They play off all the things you hate about your PC computer and their simple, straight forward message really sinks in.


Oct. 31. 2009 8:54 AM
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Very nice tips. And its true being simple but deep creates universal messages. These messages can become intruiging but yet interesting and promising. Being unique also does great marketing movement. Everyone wants to become different, so a company to effectively do marketing - must make a difference.


Nov. 22. 2009 7:25 PM
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Great tips, thank you!


Nov. 25. 2009 6:21 PM
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A really good articule. Mac´s design, advertising and communication is always one step ahead


Dec. 1. 2009 7:22 AM
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Brian,

I disagree. Just because it freezes up doesn’t mean it doesn’t do the same thing. I mean, yeah, a blue screen every one and a while, but hey,I personally prefer to use PC for my recording. Phenomenally cheaper and sound is definitely on par. (Well, if I actually put some money into mics and better instruments.. but thats another story for another time)


Dec. 4. 2009 8:25 AM
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It’s the how…that’s tough.


Jan. 21. 2011 4:02 PM
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One of “The Best” articles I have ever read and very helpful. Short and to the point without alot of wasted fluff. Wish more writers would stop wasting our time and get to the point like this article did.


May. 19. 2011 7:50 PM
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Interesting article; Apple has always been at the top of it’s game when it comes to advertising and promotion.  All of these tips have really helped Apple to increase their brand awareness and momentum over the years.


Oct. 26. 2011 12:53 PM
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A picture is always worth a thousand words.  Nobody reads block text because 1) they don’t have time and 2) they simply don’t want to. 

We used to rely on block text for our website(s) until we realized people were not responding to it.


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Apr. 10. 2013 2:45 PM
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I feel APPLE is not a technology company, is a marketing company, HAHA


May. 14. 2013 11:28 AM
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May. 18. 2013 2:54 AM
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Loved reading this article. Steve Jobs certainly was a genius.
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May. 18. 2013 3:39 AM
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Apple certainly knew how to market.  They took regular off the shelf technology and turned it into a movement.


May. 27. 2013 4:53 PM
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Apple truly rocks. What a waste Steve Jobs is gone.
Belgravia Villas


May. 27. 2013 9:31 PM
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Belgravia——I am curious as to why you think “they’” rock.


Apr. 5. 2014 7:15 PM
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I must say this its a awesome post, what did you just say you’re a pro marketer ? Keep switching idea. thanks.it was one of their best ideas ever


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Apple is one of the major competitors of Samsung in the mobile industry, both of them have been competing with each other for so long.


Jul. 20. 2014 8:59 PM
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I love Apple products, their marketing team is awesome.


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That y I am a proud apple fan. I love all my apple gadgets and I proudly show them to the non apple users.


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Aug. 13. 2014 11:08 AM
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Think about adjusting your own believed process and giving others who may read this the benefit of the doubt.


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Sep. 10. 2014 4:55 PM
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nice, you list all the big points.
i’ll definitely send you trackback here soon :)
thanks a ton Mason


Sep. 14. 2014 8:49 PM
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Sep. 14. 2014 8:56 PM
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Sep. 25. 2014 8:20 AM
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The best part is I get to feel conceited and cool with a ultra shabby blender machine. Until I need to concede I don’t have a Mac. Yet.


Sep. 25. 2014 1:15 PM
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Oct. 6. 2014 11:41 AM
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Oct. 6. 2014 11:43 AM
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Oct. 7. 2014 4:30 PM
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Oct. 8. 2014 7:39 AM
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Good product sells itself.

If you had to offer a product whos hardware costs over 2x as much as the market leader, you’d have to come up with some scheme to attract customers. 

This is done by using flashy marketing gimmicks, slick styling, and duping the customer into feeling good about overpaying for your product compared to the alternative [ kind of like how rolex watches stay in business ].  Classic snob appeal. 

The entire series of “I’m a PC / I’m a Mac”  commercials drip with this sort of smarmy smugness that builds up a small but rabidly loyal fanbase who drink the Kool-Aid to be part of the Exclusive Cool Kidz Club.  Probably the same sort of people who purchase Tommy Hilfiger clothing - buying products that include a ‘status surcharge’.

I have no beef with Apple Products per se, but they are overpriced and I find the superficial way they market their products and represent their customers [ and competition ] repugnent.  Apple Fanboys who are gullible enough to swallow the sales pitch dutifully look down on any non mac user that ‘doesn’t get it’ with open disdain and contempt.


Oct. 13. 2014 4:54 PM
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What you said is absolutely correct.


Nov. 7. 2014 10:36 AM
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They have a good marketing strategy and everyone must take some good lessons of it.


Nov. 19. 2014 4:42 PM
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They can really teach you many things about marketing, Taking into accounts that they launched themselves above their ‘enemies’ in this industry of gadgets with their only good looking items and only smart ideas, even if not better than the others.


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Nov. 30. 2014 2:02 PM
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Its really good marketing tip…


Dec. 2. 2014 9:43 AM
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Really wonderful tips thanks.


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