Apple very often comes out on top in lists of the world’s most valuable brands. Its earnings are eye-watering, having achieved Q1 2023 revenues of $117.2 billion and stories of its folk-hero founder Steve Jobs continue to be told. But in what is arguably the most important aspect in Apple’s success is the relationship customers have with the Apple brand.
Apple is very good at selling products that exude an aura of exclusivity. If you have an Apple product, you’re carrying a luxury item. It’s an enviable position for a company to be in. Apple products total over 2 billion active devices, and yet these devices maintain an image of being limited, high quality items.
Apple has also cultivated a strong fan base over the years, sometimes derogatorily referred to as Apple ‘fanboys and fangirls’. When the iPhone 4 was released in 2010, people queued outside Apple stores, sometimes camping overnight, to get their hands on the new phone. When the iPhone 5 was released two years later in 2012, people sold their spots in the queue, often receiving offers that exceeded the cost of the phone itself.
When Apple releases a new product it’s usually accompanied by a lot of press activity; tech publications speculate about its user-friendliness, comparisons are made with competitor products and judgements are made on the pricing. All of this feeds into the media frenzy that helps propel interest among potential new customers.
When Apple announced the launch of the AirPods Max for $549 in late 2020, Apple’s first over-ear headphones, it was quickly sold out, despite criticisms in some corners of the hefty price tag. Others pointed out that the AirPods were expensive, but justifiably so. Apple products have become so popular that in a similar way people deliberately queued outside stores for the iPhone 5 release in order to sell their queue spots, people deliberately refresh the Apple website at the time of a product release, hoping to buy an item before it’s sold out and then later sell it on for a $100 or $200 mark-up.
Apple has marketed its products as not just top-of-the-range hi-tech items, but also as status symbols. If having the new iPhone enhances your status, being one the first people to get your hands on it enhances your status further. It’s the 21st century tech equivalent to jewellery; all of which is helped by associated social media activity such as videos unboxing the iPhone 14 Pro Max, which receives hundreds of thousands and even millions of views.
Creating an aura of exclusivity for Apple products and providing a means by which to show others that you have an Apple product has been an integral part of Apple’s strategy for years. Phone cases for the iPhone often come with Apple logo stickers so people can see you have an iPhone even if the original logo is covered. “Sent from my iPhone” was the email signature people deliberately kept in their messages when the iPhone was a new product. The same would be done by owners of the iPad, keeping the “Sent from my iPad” signature in their emails as a means to convey they were early adopters.
Keeping customers loyal to Apple is the company’s drive to innovate. Apple Books, Apple Podcasts, Apple News, Apple Fitness+, Apple TV+ and Apple Arcade are just some of the products that continue to enhance Apple’s entertainment services offering, among other hardware and software innovations. And then there’s the share price. Apple’s share price has continued to rise over the years, so much so that a $500 investment on 29th June 2007, the date of the first iPhone release, would be worth around $17,775 today (17th March 2023). As tech moves into a new era of artificial intelligence and machine learning capabilities, the spotlight will be on Apple to see how it maintains its position as the world’s most valuable brand.