Humans crave for, and flourish under emotional connections; be it with each other, or with a brand. It's said that an emotionally connected customer offers a 306% higher lifetime value to a brand. Marketers (who I believe are part-psychologists owing to their deep understanding of consumer behavior) were quick to identify this and started giving their brands certain human-like personality traits and characteristics. This study of brand personality was formalized by Jennifer Aaker relatively recently in 1997 by describing 5 key personalities within which all brands operated, although the practice has been around since much, much longer.
According to Jennifer Aaker, the 5 Brand Personalities are:
Competence: Reliable, Successful, Intelligent
Excitement: Youthful, Daring, Spirited, Imaginative
Sincerity: Down-to-earth, Honest
Sophistication: Classy, Charming, Glamorous, Exclusive
Ruggedness: Tough, Outdoorsy, Heavy-duty
But even without looking at this list, it is fairly easy to place Apple under Sophistication.
A lot of traits that fall under the superset of Sophistication apply to Apple. It is classy, glamorous, and often at times even exclusive. Let's see how Apple employs the 4 Ps of marketing - Product, Price, Place, Promotion, to make this possible.
Apple's product design is one of its biggest assets. Steve Jobs, in fact, built the entire brand on how distinctive it would look in the hands of the user. It wasn't by chance; he did so by carefully assembling a team of Industrial Designers who could solve for some of the most complex design challenges whilst coming up with the simplest and most easy-to-use products.
Apple's entire product development process is heavily guarded; to the point where they have a specially guarded Packaging Room where prototypes are unboxed for the first time in front of a select group of people. They ensure complete secrecy is maintained at every step. This exclusivity directly contributes to Apple's Brand Personality.
Evolution of iMacs over time - constantly moving towards friendlier UIs
When someone goes to buy an iPhone, they rarely justify the money with the product specs. They simply say, it's an iPhone.
Apple has managed to create this psychological superiority that even holding the product is a matter of pride, and a thing to show-off.
Apple is associated with White, a color that has always symbolized royalty, grace, and grandeur. It's not a coincidence that most of Apple's products come in White by default. The other options are usually silver, or dark gray. They don't deviate too strongly from their brand colors.
Apple's brand colors lend sophistication, elegance, and gracefulness
Apple follows what we marketers call Premium Pricing. It has a two-way impact. First of all, it helps in building a certain image regarding the product superiority. Secondly, it only attracts the audience that you want your product to be seen in the hands of, thereby again feeding the notion that it's only meant for certain people.
The average cost of an iPhone in 2019 was around $800, as compared to the average cost of an Android at just $269.
It's not that the specifications of an iPhone are better than an Android - it's just that an iPhone doesn't compete on pricing. An iPhone or for that matter an Apple Watch, Apple ear-pods are sold as a lifestyle to the customer rather than just a product. And the pricing is so kept as to justify that image.
Coming to the 3rd P, the channels through which Apple's products are sold have a deep bearing on the perception of the brand's personality. The two primary channels are - Apple Stores, and Website.
Apple's stores rake in about $5,500 per square foot, almost twice that of Tiffany's, and by far the most for any retail outlet in the world. It's not by chance that the stores are so successful. The CEO of Eight Inc., Apple's store design agency has said in various interviews that everything from the lighting to the desks and their layouts are carefully thought through and designed so as to create a context where a certain behavior is elicited. And that behavior, of course, is of purchase. The stores are spotlessly white too, reinforcing the brand colors and brand personality of sophistication, class, grandeur.
Apple's Palo Alto store
Apple's website is their other point of contact for a prospective buyer to get acquainted with the products. The web design carries their brand ethos, and again helps in contributing to the overall brand personality and image. In fact, the website is consciously designed to create a continuity in experience with the retail stores.
Some of Apple's web design principles:
Minimalist: Apple keeps the hero image of its landing page minimalistic. After all, have you ever seen Royalty making too much noise? The other things that are minimal include their top navigation and amount of written content.
Following the 'Less is More' principle
On Brand: Just like the products and the store, Apple's website is very heavily tilted towards the usage of white and related royal colors.
Their usage of negative space, contrast between black and white, simple iconography, and lightweight sans-serif font are some of the other things that help in creating the classy, elegant look.
Promotion can mean various things right from sales promotion and offers all the way up to the ads and marketing campaigns deployed by the brand for 'promotional' purposes. In the case of Apple, sales promotion and offers can be ruled out because they don't do any. The only offers you will find are the ones given by re-sellers, and not the brand itself.
Apple's lack of sales promotion or offers contributes to its exclusivity. It doesn't need to give price-offs unlike any other brand.
Talking about advertisements and marketing, Apple follows a couple of different approaches, all designed cleverly to add to their brand's elegant and sophisticated image. Let's take 2 specific ad campaigns to understand this.
The first approach Apple employs is to let the product do the talking instead of using heavy verbiage to describe the products. All over the world's major cities, in the most plush locations, Apple puts up billboard ads with an image that's shot on an iPhone. And with that simple act, it conveys everything it wants to about the product. So much class and grace!
If You Don't Have an iPhone Ad
This particular campaign didn't go down too well with the audiences because it transcended the 'exclusive' zone and touched the realms of patronizing and elitism. However, it's important to point out because of how Apple tried to exclude a certain set of audience and show them that an iPhone is only meant for a selected group of people in a bid to create their exclusive image.
The ad had a voiceover saying, "If you don't have an iPhone, well you don't have an iPhone!"
Apple's carefully cultivated strategy of employing all its 4Ps and more to create a distinctive, powerful brand personality is largely responsible for the brand being a $2 trillion company today. The company's conscious decision and choices around branding have helped create such a powerful connection with the audiences that the loyalty loop keeps on giving them strong repeat business and more so, brand evangelism.
It all goes back to the start of the blog wherein I said that emotionally invested customers are likely to be 306% more profitable, on an average. In the case of Apple, those figures might be much higher!