The report “Australia’s iPhone fascination hits Samsung, Sony and Android sales” published in The Australian Financial Review said Apple’s iPhone remained the No 1 smartphone brand purchased by Australian consumers. So why can iPhone be the No 1 brand?
Purchasing a smartphone may be a specialty purchase requiring high customer involvement. Consumers may spend efforts to look for the best smartphone in their mind.
The factors that affect consumer decision to buy a smartphone include not only specifications, but also aspects of consumer behavior such as sensation and perception, motivation, attitude and decision-making, emotion and social norms.
This post will analyze Apple’s marketing activities from consumer behavior aspects to seek answers to the above question.
What is Consumer’s Perception of Apple?
Consumer perception theory indicates sensory stimulation can lead to perceptual impression to a brand. The clean lines, simplicity, beauty, high-end design and premium user experience of Apple products, retail stores and other Apple elements provide consumers sensory stimulation, which may subsequently form consumer’s high-end brand perception on Apple.
All those sensory and perceptual impressions can be learned and stored in consumer memory and may eventually become brand associations of Apple. Millward Brown’s Report shows Apple is the world’s most-loved brand with the highest brand equity in 2015.
How Does Apple Motivate Consumers?
Maslow’s hierarchy of needs tells us consumers purchase products to fulfill their needs. Purchasing a high-end brand, a status symbol, may help consumers to meet their higher-order esteem needs.
Apple markets its iPhone as a high-end product. For example, Apple often opens its retail stores at high-profile locations in high-end buildings, which signal consumers the high-class status of Apple products. This implies that owning an iPhone will give consumers a sense of pride and success, which may motivate them to buy iPhones.
How Does Apple Influence Consumer’s Attitude and Decision Making?
Have you seen below scenes before – large crowds queuing for new iPhones?
Apple intentionally conducted these scenes to make passionate crowds do the marketing for them. This free but perhaps the most effective marketing campaign influences consumer’s attitude – iPhone must be the best and important to people because so many people lined up for it!
Attitudes are conceptualized as a mix of beliefs and importance weights. Consumers may have different attitudes towards a brand. Apple uses various ways to influence consumers to make them believe iPhone is not only nice, innovative and valuable, but also important and powerful to change people’s life, appealing to consumer’s emotion to buy an iPhone.
Apple’s below advertisement – “You’re more powerful than you think” is another example of how Apple influencing consumers. While other smartphone manufacturers may tout CPU speed, screen size and other specs, Apple has been trying to market to consumer’s heart rather than educating specs only.
What Can Apple Improve?
As below, Deloitte Mobile Consumer Survey 2015 shows iPhone achieved dominance with mobile consumers under 45, which hold 73% of the smartphone market, proving Apple’s current strategy of high-end branding and premium pricing was effective in this market segment. However, iPhone’s market share with older consumers 45-54 is behind Samsung’s.
Consumer behavior theory tells us sociocultural factors such as age cohorts affect consumer behavior. One study finds younger consumers are more brand focused and less price sensitive but older consumers treat price more important.
How can Apple grow its market share further? Exploring older consumer segment may be an opportunity. Interestingly it seems Apple has started working towards this direction with its latest announcement of launching iPhone SE, the cheapest iPhone ever with smaller size but high-end design.
It seems iPhone SE has learned from the failure of iPhone 5C, a low-end plastic design, which contradicts consumer’s high-end perception of iPhone.
What is Apple’s Challenge?
Apple has done an amazing marketing job, creating high expectation from consumers. How to keep meeting this high expectation is a huge challenge for Apple. It will be interesting to see what Apple’s next movement will be.