iPhone 7 turns technical limitation into a marketing masterstroke

iPhone 7 turns technical limitation into a marketing masterstroke

Was Apple removing the headphone jack on its latest iPhone a technical misstep or a genius marketing move?

Apple’s long-awaited launch of the iPhone 7 appeared to be a bit of a dud, as the new features quickly became a source of discussion – much of it negative. Industry experts began questioning if Apple had lost its touch and run out of innovation. But a brand’s innovativeness isn’t just a reflection of its products, it is its image as a whole – and Apple certainly knows how to create this with communications.

The iPhone 7 might not seem very innovative from a technological perspective, especially to tech-savvy experts who were hoping for a bigger bang than longer battery life and an improved camera. But Apple played a smart communications game and removed the headphone jack – something that was much-maligned by many, but a masterstroke nonetheless. And here’s why…

This small yet controversial change quickly became the topic on everyone’s lips and helped strengthen Apple’s image – so it becomes a brand that continually pushes boundaries and changes the way we use technology, not one that can’t live up to its technological expectations.

The economy of emotion

One reason Apple has been the industry leader for years is because it’s one of the best brands in the world when it comes to forming emotional connections with its customers. Sometimes this comes from the design of the product, or physical contact with it, and so for Apple this often starts in-store.

Many brands have tried to imitate Apple but failed to understand one of its real competitive advantages is its control of the customer experience at any of its locations. Apple’s staff have been trained to build relationships with the customers and help them solve problems, not sell products. This attentive approach, along with innovative payment methods and the stylish warehouse flair interiors, make the Apple stores desired destinations for customers.

Not everyone’s emotional journey starts there, though. Apple’s strategic communications are among the most instantly recognisable – either dramatically informing us of advancements in phone history or giving the audience a broader history of technology (as well as the part Apple plays in it). Take the ‘Pencil’ creative ad for the iPad Air, a great example of this playing out.

But no matter where this emotional connection comes from, changes will always spark mixed feelings – and get people talking about you in return.

The luxury to fail?

Despite its sometimes questionable decisions, Apple is one of our time’s most trusted brands. Its image has been built up by stories and clever communication rooted in its history, people and vision. We have seen it in the Get a Mac ads, which put the differences between Mac and PC head-to-head in a brilliant way:

Add to this the iconic, sometimes enigmatic, figure of Steve Jobs, who became almost as famous as the brand itself, spawning hero worship of him (not to mention a Hollywood film of his life), and you have a powerful proposition.

By having this foundation of trust, Apple is one of few brands that can afford to be brave, and even make a mistake or two before it would really damage its reputation. This is a luxury which not even its biggest competitor Samsung can afford, which is now suffering severe branding issues following the Note 7 crisis.

Still relevant, still profitable

With customers queuing outside stores and signing up on waiting lists, it proves that Apple once again has succeeded in remaining relevant and innovative to the big crowd, which also is its main target audience and end market.

Apple’s real innovative genius lies in its communications strategy, where a small feature like the headphone jack probably helped to both strengthen Apple’s image as a groundbreaker, challenging the status quo, while also covering up for poor technological innovation.

Many tech experts have begun speculating about whether Apple has reached the limits of its business model, and if we will only see small changes to products going forward. With all the mystery-making surrounding the brand it’s hard to predict the future. However, it’s highly unlikely Apple is done with development – we might just be in for something extraordinary in the near future.

In the meantime, they’ll undoubtedly find ways, communicative or technological, to keep their customers intrigued.

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