Does the name Ron Johnson mean anything to you? Well, he’s the guy who came from Apple in 2011 to turn around J.C. Penney. He proceeded to come in and try to duplicate what had worked at Apple. The result-a $1 billion loss. On April 6, Ron Johnson was gone.
The effort to try to be another Apple didn’t stop here. Other high level executives were hired from Apple at Dell and Hewlett Packard. So how did they work out? Well, lets just say that Dell and HP are still just Dell and HP.
For some reason, that doesn’t seem to stop everyone. If you work in innovation, or design, or advertising, you’ve probably been in a meeting and heard someone proclaim that they want to be the Apple of the XYZ industry.
Now there’s nothing wrong with learning from successful companies. But Apple? Apple is particularly hard to learn anything from. Here’s why:
1. NOBODY KNOWS WHAT APPLE IS THINKING, INCLUDING APPLE.
When Queen Elizabeth makes a rare staged speech in public, it’s coming from a bunch of index cards and she’s simply mouthing the lines. The reports of the incident are more about what she wore and what she had for lunch. Apple is the corporate equivalent of the queen. It shows up, gives you a smile, reads from the teleprompter, and off it goes. And when you read about Apple, it’s someone’s guess about what Apple really thinks. Kind of like the queen.
2. SURVIVOR BIAS ANYONE?
While Apple’s gurus are looking skyward, they’re conveniently ignoring the failures lying at their feet. Apple’s ability to integrate operating systems, hardware and software has been hailed as the reason why they have been able to develop such slick user experiences. It’s also the reason they almost went out of business in the ‘90s.
The same decision process that produced the iPhone and iPad also came up with MobileMe, Ping and, don’t forget, iTunes. Not researching the customers has failed Apple as often as it worked. Ask J.C. Penny how that “no testing” thing worked out.
3. YOU CAN”T STEAL STRATEGY IF THERE IS NO STRATEGY
Many companies start out with goals and some ideas about how to achieve them. But that’s a work in process. Mistakes happen and corrections are made. Do you think that if Apple had conceived of iTunes as a hub for apps, content and devices they would have called it iTunes?
4. APPLE GETS BEATEN BY COMPANIES THAT THINK DIFFERENT
Mark Twain once told us that England’s greatest swordsman isn’t afraid of the second-greatest swordsman because he knew what he is going to do next. A truly great swordsman is afraid of the peasant who is coming at him with a rake, because he has no idea what’s coming. Apple’s marketing and design strategy has beaten many of its competitors because they took on Apple at their own game.
Samsung, on the other hand came at Apple with a totally different approach. It didn’t try to beat them with a better product. They came swinging a rake. Samsung did it with better advertising and better distribution. It ran a brilliant image campaign right out of the Nike and Adidas playbook.
5. SO, YEAH, THINK DIFFERENT
Do you feel like you read far too much about Apple these days? And, as Apple keeps Queen Elizabeth-type silence about what it’s up to, it’s anyone’s guess as to how truthful the information you get really is. So, if you want to be the next Apple in your category, you’re dodging the real question that you should be asking. How can you come up with something your customers will love, pay for, and be loyal to? Answer that question and maybe one day in the future people will be writing about how everyone can be more like you.
About the Author
Gordon Conner is a Branding Consultant/Coach and Copywriter who helps build killer brands for small local businesses. He has been providing advertising, marketing, branding and copywriting services for 39 years and lives in Midlothian, Virginia. He can be reached at Gordon@BranWorks.com, or www.BranWorks.com.