My social media timeline is flooded with the chatter of the new iPhone 11 launch. It was diehard fans (most from the marketing industry) who started weighing in on the new three camera awesomeness, but that was quickly followed by ridicule and memes from the anti-Apple alliance. It is a testament to a brand like Apple that it can generate so much organic engagement, from both lovers and haters with a simple product launch. I have never experienced any other brand get this much free mileage. Now, before I get to the marketing aspect, let’s quickly get the tech bit out of the way.
The iPhone launch trinity line-up this year is the iPhone 11, iPhone 11 Pro and the iPhone 11 Pro Max (the latter two are the high-end models. The version 11 is not only surprisingly priced at $699 (great for Apple fans), it is also packed with the dual camera feature (more on that in a bit). Since this is a marketing forum I won’t get too technical with the specifications, I am sure you will soon have many reviews popping up on your newsfeed.
Welcome features for the Pro and Pro Max are a fast charger, longer battery life and the 4k native video at 60fps. For the most part there is only a minor change in the overall technology upgrade, which is a bit of a letdown since the whole theme of the launch event was ‘By Innovation Only.’ Visually there is very little difference in terms of design. Even where there is innovation, most people I know will hardly put it to good use. For example, how many iPhone users do you know in Pakistan who will use the A13 Bionic processor to even 60% of its potential, with the exception of hardcore professional high-end gamers? However, if you are a fan, the two cameras on the 11 and three cameras on the 11 Pro and 11 Pro Max are the big game changers. The ability to shoot telephoto, wide or ultra-wide is new. Add on the amazing night-shot mode and you have fans going into a frenzy.
From a marketing point of view, it seems that Apple’s product development ethos is to make every new model upgrade ‘just good enough’ for their fans. The features are always just enough to suggest that there is a difference, but in all honesty they never feel like they are really needed. I mean yes, the new slo-mo (slow motion) selfie feature is cool, but would I upgrade my camera for it? Probably not. But the brand has built such an ardent following that there is actually a discussion going on between fans on a disastrous design change… Apple decided to move their logo from the bottom of the back to the centre. You might think that changing the placement of the logo is possibly the most irrelevant thing for a smartphone purchaser, but apparently it is not for iPhone fans.
So the big question is why do people spend ridiculous amounts of money for features they can get in an android phone for half the price? It is the genius in branding that is Apple. Over consecutive years, the brand has developed a cult following – something every brand aspires for but rarely attains. This is also why Apple can charge such a premium and get away with it.
I am not saying that the features are useless, but their usefulness, including the high-end processing and definition can only be used by a handful of people I know in Pakistan, which primarily include film directors, photographers and professional gamers. How many of them do you know? Yet I am willing to bet that you will soon start seeing the new phones among your circle. Apple have made their brand so iconic that it makes people feel as if they are untrendy if they don’t own the latest model. Apple have been intentionally testing the price elasticity of their smart phone range for years, slowly taking it up year on year. What they have found is that fans have an appetite for high-end models and are happily willing to pay a super premium for it.
There is no doubt that the smartphone market is saturated but Apple is doing something really smart. While they have mid-range phones priced at $699 upwards, they are betting on the higher end models. In a cluttered market, they are carving out a niche for a premium product. They might sell a few less, but every year they are charging more for them. Will it work in the coming decade? If you are an Apple fan or hater comment below and let me know what you think of this strategy.