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5 Things Small and Medium Businesses Can Learn from Apple's Marketing Genius

By Joe Jones - Meet the Team

What can a small or medium sized business learn from a brand that spends millions on advertising and market research every year?

Branded white Apple computer mouse

As it turns out - quite a lot. Some of the greatest marketing pioneers of our time actually build their strategies and execution on core branding and advertising concepts. In the process, they turn into case studies that even the smallest organizations can learn from.

Apple is a perfect example of this phenomenon. Yes, they were recently estimated to be worth an unfathomable $1 trillion. And yet, since they first entered consumer technology mainstream in 1984 with a literally disruptive commercial, they've been emphasizing concepts that still convince and convert potential customers more than 30 years later. Consider these 5 things that even small and medium businesses can learn from the marketing genius of Apple.

1) Don't be Afraid to Disrupt

Since its founding in 1976, Apple has carved out a niche for itself in the specialty computer space. Like many other budding businesses, it could have been satisfied with that position. The fact that it's now the world's largest information technology company is clear evidence that it wasn’t.

Ascribing it all to a single commercial would be too basic. But undoubtedly, the 1984 Super Bowl commercial that launched the brand into national consciousness condensed much of Apple's strategy for the next 30 years into 60 seconds. It quite literally ends with the rebel protagonist, representing the brand, smashing the image of an authoritarian leader on a giant screen representing its main rival, IBM.

The message is clear: don't be afraid to aim high and be different. Your product or service might have what it takes to aim at larger aspirations than just maintaining sales goals. Confident, clear messaging is absolutely essential to getting there.  

2) Go Beyond Basic Cultural Stereotypes

Before Apple, computer experts were nerds. Today, owning an iPhone is key to being accepted into 'cool' culture. Generally speaking, 'Made in China' denotes inferior product quality. But Apple's products, manufactured in the same country, are considered among the highest-quality technology devices in the mobile device and desktop computer space.

Again, a simple lesson hides behind these apparent contradictions. Apple did not consider itself limited by cultural stereotypes. Instead, it began to challenge them through strategic messaging. It established itself as a ‘quality first’ brand, before its sourcing became known. It built its products into the culture, rather than letting culture define it. In other words, it engaged in a simple messaging play that any brand, regardless of budget, can replicate.

3) Turn Your Brand into an Experience

Over the years, Apple has become more than just a collection of its features. When you buy an iPhone or iPad, you buy the experience. Opening an iMac for the first time is simply different than it would be for any other brand. Why?

Marketers have tried to answer that question for decades. The simple answer again comes back to messaging. Consider the first and now iconic iPod ad. Immediately, you knew this was more than just a portable music player. Simple graphics and straightforward colors showed how listening to music in a specific way can change the way you live your life.

To this day, Apple is experiential. Apple Stores and Genius Bars have taken on a life of their own. Yes, the core product is still technology. But the organization has built a lifestyle around it that's as essential as those earbuds. If you can make the same switch for your business, you'll be in good hands.

4) Keep Differentiating Yourself

In other words, never rest on your laurels. What brand in recent years has epitomized that concept more than Apple? Nokia, the once powerful cell phone brand, is merely an afterthought because they ceased to find differentiators. As the years and decades have shown, Apple will not be making that mistake.

Differentiation does not have to be technical. According to most reviewers, Google actually has the superior smartphone. But let's be honest: none of that matters. Having turned its brand into an experience, Apple continually improves and reinvents itself with new products that fit into this experience. A few years ago, it was the iPad. Now, the Apple Watch is starting to break barriers. And of course, the iPhone (10 years after its initial model) just keeps improving.

No, your business should not move away from its core product offering. But who says you cannot build on it? As you enter growth mode, consider new opportunities to differentiate yourself from the competition. To this day, Apple positions itself as antagonistic to other technology brands. It quite literally forces its audience to consider it on its own. That's a strategy fit for any business.

5) Visuals are Your Best Friend

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, it's the way in which Apple communicates that has caused it to become such a dominant force in both technology and marketing. All of the examples in this post showcase as much.

The 1984 commercial was a cinematic piece directed by Ridley Scott, who you might recognize from movies like Blade Runner, Gladiator, and Alien. The iPod commercial continues to live in advertising lore because of its simple but drastic visuals. And of course, in-store displays at Apple Stores carry the distinctive white brand through each little piece. 

The kicker: these visuals aren't expensive. Apple just chose to communicate through colors and images rather than words. Given that we are moving to an increasingly visual society, it's a smart move that any brand should emulate. All it takes is some creativity, and Adobe Creative Suite.

The Essence of Great Marketing

Through these five components, Apple has unlocked the essence of great marketing. Yes, it's spent millions of dollars doing so over the years. But small and medium businesses can do just as much if they follow the same core principles and concepts.

That might require a partner. Creativity is not easy, and neither is the technical knowledge to empower your visuals or turn your brand into an experience. Look for a full service marketing firm that can help you from developing a basic branding strategy to the specific execution of every individual tactic.

Tailored to the needs of small and medium-sized businesses, at Symetric Productions our services might not turn you into Apple - but they can help you unlock success in similar ways.

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