What Makes Apple Run And Partly Cloudish

Earlier this week, I polled my test audience on, “why any of you think Apple is so successful, or hip, or cool, or special?” There weren’t many surprises but here is a quickee rundown of responses to the question from a group of advertising professionals whose names have been changed to protect me:

“Monopoly on mass appeal.” Pete H.

“Design and products appeal to many people, the buzz gets everybody into it.” Joe B.

“Great marketing (dancing silhouettes!), sleek product design (minimalist) and good usability (my 5 yr. old brother has no problem managing an iphone).” Tom O.

If Apple finds this guy, Tomo, they’ll hire him for sure.

“Apple succeeds in creating products that their cult-like following cannot live without, even if they were just fine before.” Elias M.

“Pioneered a line of multi-function gadgets and became an example of how hip marketing can convince every age group of the need of a gadget.” Zsa Zsa B.

Let’s face it, Apple marketers know how to read the cues from their research and advertising. They have to do a lot of focus group work and they understand how their community relates their aesthetic choices to our cosmology. They build narratives in their advertising that make folks want to jump on board. An Apple campaign is built on folk lore legends and archetypes and adventures that resonate deep in our amygdalas. They have even managed to make technology sexy, so look out.

We are naturally dazzled by their strategic saturation planning and their products’ coattails, which they orchestrate like a symphony. The pilgrimages to Moscone Center are recitations out of Lorenz’ study on imprinting behavior; and they understand how to herd the flocks. We just want to know how can we duplicate the experiment.

How can we learn how to sell technology better from the Apple experiment?

More than any other ingredient, beyond product, Apple advertising gets tremendous coverage. The sales and customer service people are not winning many medals, nor are their little stores, which I expect will soon disappear. The support networks that independently look after their products also aren’t setting the pace. But they have won the GUI war, they have found the best way so far to interface with so many different people all over the world. That user interface magic must be transferrable. We should be able to ascertain why it works so well.

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But their marketing and advertising people, well they sure have set the bar high for ad folks to reach. You see it in product placement on TV shows and they demonstrate that Apple is not anyone’s fool when it comes to new media. They have managed to take a huge bite out of the social media enterprise business by being the first real non-windows threat since the eighties. Yet one might also say that they have reached these new heights in spite of themselves, as they surely haven’t done much to placate the adversaries who await them.

Complete saturation is the trademark goal of the Apple brand. They are not the best product, in a given category, they are the only product. Just as this now well-known line – the one I keep hearing in a loop in my brain- “If you don’t have an iPhone, we’ll, YOU DON’T HAVE AN IPHONE.” That final condescending chord, so discordant in the message, as if to say, ‘you are pathetic.’

I guarantee the voice talent on that ad required days of shooting and many takes on that last dependent clause. Just to get that exact timbre in his voice, the proper register to make you feel like warmed-up road-kill, because YOU don’t have an iPhone. I expect that is what Steve Ballmer and his immediate entourage are feeling like, these days, as they see that while the news of their acquisition of Skype may have brought much needed free chatter, the jury still awaits what may come of it. Their stock price continues around the same price it’s been for nearly ten years, with no hope in sight for a shot of confidence from the investment community that Ballmer can move the needle. Double jeopardy remains in order.

It’s not clear what is going to happen with RIMM, or Research-in-Commotion, when the dust finally does settle, but all phone manufacturers realize they are simply making throw away devices – commodities – that have little significance in the marketplace. They simply aren’t making an iPhone. And, they can’t make money. In spite of the enterprise lock on the Western alliance, corporations are fighting for their life, and telecom may not win as easily as it has in the past. The Blackberry and its pals are not, after all, iPhones.

Salesforce.com (CRM) seems to be the other big winner in this move to an enterprise in the cloud. They announced a huge quarter today and they stand to make some major leaps in the next couple of years. They are fighting for the same dollars Oracle now claims, and Mark Benioff believes he can EVEN take markets away from Oracle. If CRM can marry an enterprise to an iPhone, well you might find them talking to the enterprise. Wouldn’t that be the ultimate hook up, but wait …

Consider that CRM is the reason the Cloud got funded initially, though it took Ellison forever to accept the idea and get behind it. Sales-driven economies support those employees who deliver sales. If the sales leaders are using iPhones, they are not going to want to give them up, nor will the arguments to force them hold any weight. The reason they are sales leaders is because they set the pace, they are hip, and they know how they want to communicate.

The markets have already accepted change, even if the present occupants of the enterprise machine are not ready to join them. Now if we can convince software sellers to invest the sort of ingenuity that an Apple uses, our response rates would grow.

After a lifetime of fascination, and over twenty years peddling software, I’m pretty sure I don’t want to bet my enterprise on any mass exodus from the Windows platform. Not this year anyway. I’m also sure Apple isn’t prepared to launch an army of enterprise engineers around the world to replace the networks that run on Windows. But our enterprise is shrinking and our need to stay associated with Windows is basically Office. Beyond Office, we are free of them.

Open Source, unfortunately, lacks credibility and financial support and a hip GUI, but every enterprise owns more open source every year. The real migration will be to the Cloud, to Amazon and Google and hundreds, if not thousands of smaller networks where folks can do what they need to do to take care of their business. Specialist sites and communities will continue to push the envelopes while the global online community expands and shrinks the world at the very same moment. Every year I look at my business and I consider what is stopping me from moving to Google or another vendor. I find fewer and fewer reasons to want to own and manage any boxes.

This is no way predicts that MS won’t further self-destruct and lose share to this group, even faster than I predict, because they don’t seem to admit yet that they have no strategy for community organizing. They have missed the mark on the corporate scene and universal substitutions are being adopted. Isn’t there some big shot in this country who has that sort of background who can help those boys in Redmond get their act together?

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