Apple 'Magical' Weapon: Educating Consumers

See It in Person

Of course, all that education had something else that Apple has spent a decade building: A hands-on classroom that’s easily accessible, where users can see with their own eyes just how these new products work for themselves. Of course, I’m referring to the Apple retail stores.

Ridiculed by retail analysts who predicted Apple would be turning out the lights in two years, Apple’s retail efforts have become a practical laboratory where consumers can see, touch and learn before they make their purchase. It’s also the place they can come for an advanced degree post-purchase, and of course, they can get remedial assistance when things go wrong.

Don’t get me wrong: If Apple’s products were not shining examples of hardware and software design, no amount of marketing, education and evangelism would help sell them. But the reverse is also true. The greatest products in the world don’t get anywhere without telling a good story. The ability for Apple to tell that story and then allow consumers to get hands-on experience with products has become a powerful combination that’s allowed Apple to succeed where others have failed miserably.

Simple, but Hard

The recipe for success here is easy, but the implementation is hard. Although most people know that the secret to losing weight is the simple regimen of diet and exercise, we still spend billions of dollars each year looking for other means of success. Because while the regimen of eating proper foods in the right proportions and exercising daily is simple, summoning the discipline required to actually do it is quite hard.

Education is the magic that’s behind much of Apple’s current success, but it’s been a decade-long process of determination, patience and keeping one’s own counsel in the face of market critiques. The question is, can Apple’s competitors get school in session and get consumers to enroll, or is the consumer going to be faithful to their alma mater?

[Michael Gartenberg is a partner at Altimeter Group, a research and advisory firm. His weblog can be found at gartenblog.net. Contact him at gartenberg AT gmail DOT com. Views expressed here are his own.]

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