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Time has arrived.

In Apple, brand-building, innovation, iPhone, Technology, Uncategorized on April 12, 2015 at 2:56 pm

Apple Watch customers could wait months.

by Robert Liljenwall

Gold-Apple-WatchAnyone who has been through an Apple launch before, knows you have to get in line early or be phone-ready when the clock strikes midnight.  Pre-orders started Friday April 10 at 12:01 a.m. (Pacific Standard Time) and true to Apple’s prediction, it was a sell out, not for all models but for the lower-priced editions.  For many, they’ll have to wait until June and in some cases, August.  Those who got their orders placed early will get Watches in May.
Theories abound about Apple’s strategy — did they purposely reduce the number of Watches available to create a “sold-out buzz”, thus hyping the Watch’s popularity? Is it really that much in demand?  Do consumers (Apple fanatics) really crave this new wearable device?  Many of the skeptics and cynics opt for the former — one professor cited “this has always been Apple’s strategy — create a sense of high demand even if there isn’t one.  But it works.”
Apple doesn’t comment on these conjectures, but in March, Apple provided rough estimates — 5-6 million watches (in all editions) would be available at the launch.  Wall Street analysts in Fortune’s review had predictions up to 44 million would be sold in 2015.
Stories abound about how to get around the wait.  There are speculators who will sell you their pre-order on eBay for a $1000 over the cost so you can have your immediate gratification.  And people are snapping them up.  There are high-end, specialty retailers — like Goldgenie.com, who has created a 24k Gold, Rose Gold, or platinum Apple Watch with Swarovsk-style crystals that come with your choice of exotic animal skin straps for the $17,000 variety.  Apple is surely going to string this out as along as the buzz and demand are there.  But what about the Watch?  Is it worth it?  Does it do all of the ‘tricks’ that Apple says it will do.  (See the iimpressive Apple Watch video on www.apple.com)
Reviews project another Apple “hit”
Although there are mixed reviews about the Apple Watch, from the more than 20 such reviews we have seen show a clear and sometimes enthusiastic approval for the Watch.  Early testers said — “It’s goes beyond my expectations…”  “It makes me want to wear a watch again.”  “It takes a bit to get used to it but once you get over the learning curve, it’s incredible.”  But what is really driving this Apple Watch demand?  See our Eight Reasons Why.

Eight reasons why Apple Watch will be successful

In Apple, brand-building, Fashion, innovation, iPhone, mobile & tablets, retail, Technology on April 12, 2015 at 2:54 pm

How will fans love thee?  Let us count the ways.

by Robert Liljenwall

8 apple watches1.  Apple relies on its existing customer base to drive initial sales on all new products.  Apple has sold over 500 million iPhones.  Their customers have the highest upgrade % of any comparable smart phone. As they say, the existing customer is the easiest and ‘cheapest’ to sell. If you own an Apple product, you have already received many emails about the Watch.  Apple knows how to mine it’s customer base, and they are uniquely successful at extracting money from their customer’s wallets.
2.  Apple customers are “discreet adopters”.  Apple never introduces a new device (think iPod, iPhone, iPad) that isn’t tested and performs at the highest level.  Apple is not the first to jump into the new product space — they take a wait/see approach, figure out how to do it better, and then fill in all the gaps and produce exquisitely designed devices that are superior in execution in all areas.  Samsung has given them a ‘run for their money’ but they’re perceived as a lower-tier product — certainly not on the same prestigious level with Apple, regardless of their performance.
3.  Apple’s customers are brand loyal.  They ‘believe’ and ‘trust’ just about everything Apple says about its products.  But these customers don’t just take Apple’s word for this — they know first hand that Apple products perform as expected, and they learn that their customer service is superior.  Yes, they pay more and are eager to do so, but they honestly believe their products are worth it.  For example, they know from experience how polite, courteous, and knowledgeable the ‘geniuses’ at the Genius Bar are.  And they love how they can ‘experiment’ and access all Apple products in their store.  All this builds their brand — they know that every contact they have with their customer is a solid building block for selling future products.
4.  Apple’s snob appeal.  Make no mistake about it — Apple is a luxury product.  They  never discount.  They don’t put on “sales” in Apple stores.  That Apple logo that shines brightly from your laptop in a Starbucks says this about you:  I have an Apple laptop….I paid top dollar for it….I am the kind of person who wants and needs the best…I am proud to be an Apple user.  Being an Apple user also says that you appreciate quality products and services because that’s the kind of person you are.  You want the best.  And wearing the new Apple Watch on your wrist for everyone to see will just be another way to express your commitment to the highest quality, the best.  In many ways, Apple users are tech snobs.  And they’re proud of it.
5.  Apple’s frenzied cult.  This brings us to:  Is Apple a cult?  Of course, it is.  It was always Steve Job’s vision to create the best computer in the world, the MacIntosh.  Then the iMac….then the MacBook…..iPod….iPhone. And now, Tim’s Watch.  Apple customers have been enraptured by the company’s products, its culture and position as a truly luxury brand, they have almost a blind passion for any new product.  They will ‘blindly’ buy their next new thing because  even if they may not need it, they want it.  This is based on customers wanting to always be “cool”, “chic”, tech-savvy, smart.  Apple customers believe so strongly in the Apple methods of inventing new things, they want desperately to be the owner of their latest invention.  It’s a sign that “I am truly a member of the one of most exclusive clubs in the world.”  I may not be able to join the country club, but I can own an Apple Watch and enhance my own brand at the same time.
Passionate Apple users also believe they truly own and depend on the best products in the world that makes their life better.  Apple is not a commodity — it’s the #1 brand in the world today (and the most valuable) that stands for something truly great — Superior Invention.  Superior Design.  Superior Innovation.  These are the common themes in the reviews we have seen on previous Apple products, and the Watch is no different this time around.
6.  Apple takes advantage of its market position.  They are not fools ….they can be arrogant for sure, but for the most part, it’s deserved arrogance.  They have earned, time again and again, the loyalty of their customers because they have delivered in the past.  Consequently, they rely on an established and proven methodology for creating and marketing new products that limits (or eliminates) failure.  There have been glitches — the antennae on the early iPhone was one — and the Apple Map app was a disaster.  Since Jobs created the first new Macs after his return to the company in 1996, their development and marketing process has essentially remained the same.  The only difference Jobs made the second time around was to open up the source code so they could extend their programming and offerings to users without having to spend the $$ on them.  Hence, there are over 1.2 million apps today for the iPhone and developers are now pushing for new apps for the Watch, although we doubt it will handle that many apps.
7.  Apple is the World’s Biggest Tease.  Think about it:  We have been teased about the Apple Watch for over a year.  This teaser campaign is perhaps the best marketing strategy ever created in the history of new product launches.  Nobody does it better.  Not even James Bond.  And what this does is create a “feeding frenzy”.  I asked a gentleman last night in a restaurant who was dining with his wife….they were both looking down at their iPhones — he had a 6, she had a 6 Plus (and proud of it).  I asked him if they ever talk at dinner anymore….they laughed.  Of course we do.  Are you getting an Apple Watch…she emphatically said “no.”  He, on the other hand, nodded ‘yes’, with a huge grin.  “Have to.  It’s my destiny.”  Think about that….his “destiny”?  Every brand marketer in the world wants this kind of customer loyalty.
8.  Apple is the ultimate creative force.  There is an old marketing adage:  The Creative Plan is the Marketing Plan.  I learned this while at Disneyland years ago.  Disney’s creative plan — designing and operating the world’s best outdoor attraction — was the reason for its success.  Not its marketing.  And what makes Apple’s marketing so effective is that their products are so damn gorgeous and work flawlessly (most of the time), they require less marketing than what their competitors must spend.  The brand extensions from Apple II to the Watch have proven winners every time.  Steve Jobs is responsible for building this creative culture.  And yes, he was a meanie.  He wasn’t always the nicest guy.  They got rid of him once.  But it was his devotion to creating the world’s ultimate products that serves today as their foundation for being the world #1 brand and most valuable company.  
 
With every new launch, Apple takes its brand equity for a spin.  They use this equity — tangible and intangible assets — to insure that their products are superior in every aspect of their design, function, and purpose, but more importantly, Apple hires the best “experts” in their field to guide the company down a new path — in this case, the watch business.  They recruit the best and brightest (“who can resist?”) from the world market and make sure that they pay attention to their cultural beliefs and practices at every turn.  They may, perhaps, stumble on the Watch launch, but for any company to take on such a mammoth undertaking in a whole new category — such as the tradition-bound watch business, there is no company better qualified to take this plunge than Apple.  They’re not betting their farm on this one product — but they are indeed dealing from a position of strength.  It’s a marvel to watch, pun intended.

Am I going to get the Watch?  Yes.  When?  Not sure.  I have gleaned myself from the frenzied rush to stand in line for hours or dial 17 times to reach an Apple order taker after the clock strikes Midnight.  I’m older now…and besides I have learned that, like with the Watch, I don’t really need it.  I want it.  And yes, it’s my destiny.

Looking back and forward on 5s Journey

In Apple, brand-building, iPhone, retail, Steve Jobs on September 22, 2013 at 3:48 pm

by Robert Liljenwall

The journey is over. And it is now beginning. I have my 32GB Gray iPhone 5s in hand … and I am warming up to it. If you really want to experience it before you buy it, download iOS7 and you’ll get the (almost) complete look/feel, which takes time getting used to. I hated the color and font scheme of iOS7 but my passion to get the 5s overcame my dissatisfaction with the look I had on my 5 after downloading 7.  Thought the pastel/light gray scale was very inappropriate and still do, but I am getting used to it. If you need glasses to read your screens on your iPhone, you’ll need them for sure on the 5s.

But back the journey. As you may have read, I canceled my phone order for a gold 32GB when I realized that I could actually get one on 5/20 at the Pasadena Apple store (instead of waiting until Oct. 8). They still had plenty of gray 32GB in stock … and the wait was a very tolerable 45 minutes in line. The Apple sales people were extremely helpful, courteous and gave me all the time necessary to feel comfortable with some minimal training. The entire transaction took less than 20 minutes, and it was seamless. I was, indeed, thrilled I made the right choice to stop by for a second time at the now infamous Pasadena store (where fights broke out early 5/20 with homeless stand-ins who were cheated by a rather unscrupulous creep who refused to pay them to stand in line for 10 hours). The line at Apple was 3 times longer than when I got inside … apparently word spread that they had some inventory – AT&T had only 64GB.

iphone-5s-loveWhy am I so passionate about this?  Brand marketers love people like me – we put up with lines, some dissatisfaction with the product, and still plow forward through what most people think is insane. This is what Steve Jobs has done to me and millions more. Is the torch passed?  I think so. Business Week had a great cover “What Us Worry?” – showing CEO Tim Cook and his two henchmen – Craig Federighi and Jony Ive. But like I said earlier, “it’s too early to tell.” I can tell you this:  It’s fast. Video and photo quality are the best ever. Downloads are quicker. New pull-up that gives you immediate access to key programs is brilliant. And thank God for iCloud – all apps and programs perfectly preserved.

So far, the Journey with Apple has been a real treat, actually. Well that’s not totally true. My girlfriend, Julie, wasn’t particularly happy with me waking her up on 5/20 at 4:45 a.m. to run me down to the Apple store (some 5 miles away) to see how the line was (too long) … and she continued to comment on this ‘sacrifice’ during the day. “Yeah, but haven’t you had fun telling all of your friends about your ‘experience’?” “Of course …” So, I just provided her with some great story-telling fodder … so she benefited, too, wouldn’t you say?  She agreed. – RJL

My Perilous Path-to-Purchase the iPhone 5s

In Apple, iPhone on September 20, 2013 at 9:30 pm

RJL official shotOur intrepid Brand Editor, Robert Liljenwall,
shares his Homeric quest for his very own iPhone 5s

Time:  9:22 a.m. PDT – Sept. 19, 2013

Called AT&T and they immediately had a message that if you wished to order an iPhone, “please go to our website, ATT.com.”  Which I did.  Discovered they had purchase options for every phone except the 5s and really no mention of it … all of their in-store phones were posted.  I think they could have had a posting of the 5s with the notation that orders will not be taken until Sept. 20.

Time:  9:30 a.m. PDT – Sept. 19, 2013

Called Apple to find out the best way to order an iPhone 5s.  ”Order it over the phone because we will probably run out of inventory Friday in the stores and the insure that you get the best chance of picking up a 5s right away is to order for store pick up. ”  OK – that’s my path.

Time: 9:35 a.m. PDT – Sept. 19, 2013

Called Jeff Sandgren, my BTN partner to inform him of the ‘path’ (order on phone) … and then he hit me with – “what time zone are they talking about, New York time?”  Hell, I don’t know.

Called them back immediately.  ”Sir, it’s Pacific time.”

There you have it.

Time: 1:15 p.m., Thursday, Sept. 19, 2013 

When to call?  Apple told me it is probably best to call ahead of midnight – long queue and you will probably not get connected right away.  I’m slitting my own throat on this recommendation – so please wait until I get my iPhone 5s before you call.  I will notify BTN immediately when I have confirmation.

Time: 1:23 p.m., Thursday, Sept. 19, 2013

Talked with Apple again regarding the requirement to have iOS7 on your existing phone to transfer data to your new iPhone 5s or 5c.  You don’t need it.  I have downloaded it anyway onto my current iPhone 5, and not thrilled with the interface.  But that’s my preference – at least I want to be able to read better-reading font that isn’t lightface.  Let me know your opinion … Calendar is especially weak.

Time 3:49 p.m., Thursday, Sept. 19, 2013

Been navigating the new iOS7 on my iPhone 5.  Clean, slick but of course, you can’t read half of the content because the designer specified a light-face font that is used on all standard Apple applications (calendar, weather, mail, contacts). The trouble with their design, which will annoy anyone who even has 20/20 vision, will be that the type face, when used in a secondary treatment, is converted to color gray, and the font is then apparently screened back to 20 percent, which means, simply, you cannot read it quickly or easily. This is extremely annoying and I consider this a major design flaw that will endanger the acceptance of the new iOS7 interface. The Apple tech rep I just talked with said – “well that’s the way it is. It cannot be changed.” So there you have it. Be prepared to struggle with readability. I am a huge Apple iPhone fan, but this design alteration is going to cause the company problems.

Time:  7:15 p.m., PDT, Thursday, Sept. 19, 2013

Apple Store – Pasadena.  Frustrated with the interface look/feel, I decided to descend upon the Apple store in Pasadena (#2 store to open) … ranted a bit with an employee who had no idea what I was referring to … asked for manager.  ”What’s the problem?”  I told him gently and calmer this time:  ”I find that the interface design on Calendar, Call screen and Address book, along with several other apps, were terrible – type is too light…you can’t read the thin-faced font that is 20 percent gray (like on the phone record for time called; calendar (Saturdays and Sundays).”  I show him what I meant … and Steve (the Manager), agreed.  He was calm, helpful sympathetic and empathized with me – “I agree with you.”  He said he was a part-time app developer and already noticed this deficiency and had notified Apple about the color scheme.  He said hopefully they will fix this soon … and I told him I think this is similar to the “map” fiasco … I would shoot the graphic designer responsible for this.  There are numerous issues with color, backgrounds and contrasts – but I won’t go into this now.  It’s set.  Nothing we can do about it tonight.  I’m still moving forward in buying the 5s tonight (after midnight), so I am not giving up on Apple.  But I wasn’t the only one to complain – seems like there were about 45 other customers in Apple with the same complaint … we’re not alone.  See you later … Are you listening Apple? 

Time: 12:22 a.m., Friday, Sept. 20

Called Apple at 11:38 p.m. to check on “best time to call” and this lovely miss from Austin, TX . “Best to call around 11:58 … so you’re not held in the queue too long.”  So I did.  Slammed shut.  ” … due to the high call volume …”  Well, you know the drill.  I even contemplated driving to the Apple store and waiting in line, but my late-in-life maturity kicked in.  So, after 35 calls later, I’m in the queue now. Yes … I’m “in” … and I’ve been on this call for 8:05 minutes so far and counting.  I’ve gone from depression to elation. (You see, how whip-sawed Apple treats us?)  I’m not there yet … but hopeful.  Keep you posted.

Time:  12:50 a.m., Friday, Sept. 20, 2013

I am somewhat elated – after 35 calls, holding for 21 minutes, I got through to an Apple rep in Portland who was very helpful.  I did get a ‘gold’ 5s because I could … and 32GB … and with Apple Care, which came to $475.  However, it is being shipped (as all orders are over the phone according to the Apple rep) … which means I get it in three weeks or so.  Not happy about that.  I honestly thought I would be jumping into my car and standing in line to get a phone, but the line was long already at 4 p.m. today and I thought it was crazy for me to head down there at midnight and stand there – perhaps if I was 30 again … but I’m more than twice that age now, and that was a deciding factor.  I can wait … done it before.  The point is: I do have a 5s coming.  BTN will be covering the progress/success of iOS7 as well as how the new iPhones are selling.  Apple was OK – and frankly, I’m getting use to iOS7 a bit more.  As I was waiting to dial tonight, I called my friend Eric Kuhne in London who is also a big Apple fan – and he just raves about the new iOS7 and shares some of my concerns about the color scheme and font treatment.  I will say this, the iOS7 is super-fast and I can’t wait to test out the other features when I get up Friday.  It’s almost 1 a.m. here in Pasadena … so it will be another Day of Adventure with Apple.

Time: 7:28 p.m., Friday, Sept. 20, 2013

 This is the last communique regarding the pursuit of the iPhone 5s.  I have it in hand.  But it was a circuitous route, filled with intrigue, mystery, discovery, luck, and a couple of good Samaritans along the way.  It is a happy ending … but the journey to finally have the iPhone 5s in my possession was also fraught with danger and some chaos.

To cut the 5s chase, I found that I could get “immediate gratification’ at the Pasadena Apple store who had 5s 32GB still in inventory Friday afternoon.  I canceled my “midnight order” because it would be shipped in October … what were they thinking?  I decided to drive by the Pasadena Apple store and only a relatively small crowd was milling about … were there 5s phones available?  Yes, there were! I got in line and after 45 minutes, I was given a personal Apple “support” person to assist my purchase.  I canceled my previous order … and the entire transaction for the 5s was completed in just a few minutes.  An AT&T rep was there to assist … and I asked if she was busy…”not at all.  Apple really has their act together this time around.”  I was so impressed with the ease and seamless process.  I was ‘in and out’ within 20 minutes.  The Apple personnel were incredibly helpful.  Yes, I believe the iOS7 system is plagued with design challenges – but I am really impressed with the speed, the intuitive insight they have designed into each program … and I am getting use to the graphics.  At the end of this journey, I’m a very happy 5s owner.  Powerful, sleek and smart.  That’s the 5s. The Apple brand is “safe” for now … stay tuned. – RJL

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