Dreaming out loud in cardboard, for the whole world’s benefit

My better half is off in LA helping a sick friend, and she sends a feel good story back from that city:

And the follow up:

Two things:

  1. Awww. Really, seriously, awwww.
  2. Sounds like a needed antidote for a world where psychologists talk about the value of unstructured play, and worry that a huge pulsing pushing market of toys and activities undermines this.

 

Ok, maybe it’s only partly a weekend non-marketing post. Sue me.

Apple: Price skimming or legitimate luxury? Part 2

I have a couple of colleagues at work who think Apple are price skimming on their phones. What they mean is that they aren’t producing new innovations that keep their product ahead of competitors, and instead of recognizing that, and dropping their prices to compete directly, they are hanging on as long as possible to higher price to skim extra money out of their still-loyal customers.

Is this true? Is Apple cashing in, or are they just charging more money for a consistently premium quality product, like BMW and Calvin Klein have been successfully doing for years? Which is to say, are Apple’s big marketing advantages sustainable? I present my take on what Apple’s advantages are, and in a series of posts I will talk about them one at a time:

Apple’s advantages:

  1. First mover with technological innovations
  2. It just works a) intuitive usability
  3. It just works b) devices work together
  4. Higher build quality
  5. Brand image

2) Intuitive usability: There’s no real question that the explosive success of Apple’s recent string of  pods, phones, and pads is largely down to this. Apple weren’t the first people to ever think of the idea of carrying music digitally, or having a touch screen phone, or a tablet computer. They weren’t even the first to invent the graphical user interface (GUI – i.e., clicking on icons and windows rather than typing in commands), or even the mouse (thanks Xerox Parc). But they were the first to make all of these things usable enough that people actually wanted to buy them.

Of course, Apple aren’t the only ones who can play this borrow-and-improve game. When Microsoft first copied Mac’s mouse and GUI, the story goes, Steve Jobs was so furious he summoned Bill Gates forthwith:

“You’re ripping us off!”, Steve shouted, raising his voice even higher. “I trusted you, and now you’re stealing from us!”

But Bill Gates just stood there coolly, looking Steve directly in the eye, before starting to speak in his squeaky voice.

“Well, Steve, I think there’s more than one way of looking at it. I think it’s more like we both had this rich neighbor named Xerox and I broke into his house to steal the TV set and found out that you had already stolen it.”

It took Microsoft a while to make something that was remotely as usable, but they got there in the end. And now Android is doing right back to iPhones what Steve jobs did to everyone else first, pinching the good ideas and making them their own.

But is Apple’s design acumen capable of sustaining this advantage – assuming no more revolutionary technological innovations?

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Word coinage of the day: zomguilt

Non-marketing weekend blogging:

We need a word for that moment when your brain refuses to accept the reasonable and convincing proof that you did not actually just do something wrong. My suggestion for your sense of guilt’s cursed lurching on, despite a well-deserved bullet to the head: zomguilt.

As in:

I had a few minutes of zomguilt this morning when I heard the recycling truck rumbling by, and couldn’t quite shake the urge to leap out of bed and rush our bottles (and myself) to the curb, ZOMG, just in case it comes around again – even after remembering that I definitely did put the bins out last night.

Survivor’s guilt is an extreme version of this.

Contrast: sneaking guilt, which is the first dawning of realisation that you did, in fact, screw up, and wriggling on the hook, which is an attempt to rationalise away that what you did wasn’t sooo very bad.

Apple: Price skimming or legitimate luxury? Part 1

Side note: This blog officially made it to La Decima before Real Madrid. That’s10 posts for me, and only 9 European Championships for them. So glad I don’t have to fire myself.

I have a couple of colleagues at work who think Apple are price skimming on their phones. What they mean is that they aren’t producing new innovations that keep their product ahead of competitors, and instead of recognizing that, and dropping their prices to compete directly, they are hanging on as long as possible to higher price to skim extra money out of their still-loyal customers.

Is this true? Is Apple cashing in, or are they just charging more money for a consistently premium quality product, like BMW and Calvin Klein have been successfully doing for years? Which is to say, are Apple’s big marketing advantages sustainable? I present my take on what Apple’s advantages are, and in a series of posts I will talk about them one at a time:

Apple’s advantages:

  1. First mover with technological innovations
  2. It just works a) intuitive usability
  3. It just works b) devices work together
  4. Higher build quality
  5. Brand image

1) First mover: Apple originally had near 100% of the smart phone market by essentially having the first (good) smart phone…. And they made the smartphone market a pretty big one by making the iPhone so… good. They did the same thing for the iPod, the iPad, and the MacBook Air. That’s really quite the string of innovative market shaking first-of-kind products. These have to have been the single most identifiable steps that catapulted them from being a largish company to arguably the biggest in the world (depending how you measure it).

The bajillion dollar question if whether it’s Sustainable? If I had inside info on this I wouldn’t be posting it here, I’d be speculating the answer on Wall Street. That said, on the one hand you don’t want bet against a streak, but on the other hand, how many new ideas like that can there possibly be? And is Google muscling in on this mantle with their upcoming Glass, and rumoured watch?

This, BTW, is where the laws of punditry require me to say “and can they do it without Steve Jobs?”. But without underselling his brilliance or charm, Steve Jobs oversaw Apple for several decades, and he only really had that string of market-shaking products in one of them, so it’s not like his very presence was automagic innovation dynamite.

Apple’s latest announcements are that they are going to make iTunes into a streaming music service that more or less does exactly what Spotify already does (to stem the bleeding presumably, more than to win new customers), and they just:

unveiled the latest update to its iPhone operating system which features new icons, new typfaces, new applications, multi-tasking for all apps and improved searchability. Tim Cook, Apple’s chief executive, described the revamp as “the biggest change to iOS since the original iPhone was introduced”.

Nifty? Perhaps. Re-revolutionary? That’s a pretty tall order.

There are an ongoing few factors that work in Apple’s favour here though:

They have ungodly amounts of money stored up, which lets them act almost as their own bank to finance new innovations and production methods. Also, because they sell such enormous quantities of each item that they make, they end up being the single biggest customer for the pretty much all the relevant parts. If you are a company in China that makes, say, extremely high quality video displays, and Apple rolls up asking for a run of them for a new device, then you drop everything, and focus all your production on Apple. If there are scarce resources that go into making anything, then Apple has the inside track to corner it, and nobody else really stands a chance.

The bottom line is that when and if Apple are able to come up with a brilliant new technology, they are likely to be able to beat everyone else to market quite handily.

Bottom line: It doesn’t seem like a good idea to count on Apple continuing to rock the market with breakthrough innovations year after year, but if anyone can do it they have a number of advantages in trying to get their first. Is it sustainable? Somewhat. Probably.

Full disclosure: I’m a PC guy, married to a Mac girl, who partly wrote this on an iPad.

Town vs. Country: A contrast in pictures

Weekend Non-marketing post.

Presented without comment:

Item #1

Walking through the streets of Manchester last Friday, on my way to see a play at the Royal Exchange Theatre, I saw a sizeable crowd of people and a few bike cops milling about All Saints Park.  Popping in to see what all the fuss was, I discovered a bunch of people in the act of disrobing. It turns out to have been a bike ride:

(picture & story via Manchester Evening News):

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Marking the marketers. Volvo: A (for clever psychological tricks)


volvo poster - 2013-02-27 11.32.11

This is perhaps one of the most low-involvement car ads I’ve seen – by which I mean, it’s an appeal based purely on emotion, with no attempt at evoking cognitive thought or processing.

There’s no information on offer at all, other than the line announcing the model as new. It doesn’t tell us that this car is sporty, roomy, or award winning. There’s no attempt to target it at particular people – nobody is even visible, let alone of any particular age or description. There are no social or lifestyle clues in the background either; it’s not zipping through nature or past a night club.

There are only two things on this poster, and one is the standard mood-lit front corner view that is mandatory for a car ad (it must be their best look, who knows). The only other thing is a pretty minimal caption:

I WANT / SOMETIMES / GETS

Thing is, I like it.

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