On Friday, September 25, Apple formally launched the sale of it newest generation iPhones — the 6s and 6s Plus. As was the case with previous launches, thousands of aficionados camped outside Apple stores for the opportunity of being among the first users of the company’s newest smartphones.
The following week, Apple reported that, after two weeks of pre-orders and the public launch on September 25, the company sold more that 13 million units of iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus during the first three days of availability. In so doing, it beat by 3 million units, the record set in 2014, when it launched its previous generation iPhone. It’s worth noting, by the way, that the number could have been even higher, because China was not included in the initial rollout.
To put that into perspective, we are talking about $10 billion worth of business in only 12 markets, by just one company during a three-day period. That alone is more than 5 per cent of the total value of jewellery sold in all markets around the world over the course of a full year.
To be fair, not even Apple expected to maintain the same pace of sales as it did in the days immediately following the launch. But that does not detract from the company’s ability to generate a level of consumer excitement that resulted in 13 million units being sold over 72 hours.
In marketing terms, Apple is the golden standard, but for the jewellery industry, it also represents our opposition, particularly among the so-called Millennials, who include consumers born between 1982 and 2004. Unlike the generations that preceded them, and in particular the celebrated Baby Boomers, they appear to have less of a natural affinity for fine jewellery. This makes them perfect targets for savvy marketing experts like the folks over at Apple.
How does Apple do it? Catherine Kaputa, an American brand strategist, listed five marketing tools that the company uses most effectively to build its product hype. Interestingly, two of those tools are well known to the jewellery business.
1. Create the illusion of scarcity to increase demand.
De Beers caught on to this kernel of wisdom many years before Apple was ever founded, and in many cases the scarcity of the product is more than simply an illusion. But what Apple realised and the jewellery business does not fully appreciate, is the perception of scarcity is not just a means of driving up prices, but also a tool to generate demand. This is because, if used properly, it draws on the consumer’s inherent reluctance to miss out on the opportunity of owning and enjoying the product. That is why there rarely are customers who are ready to camp outside their neighbourhood jewellery store, in order to be the first in line.
2. Wow customers through design and packaging
Design, of course, is a jewellery’s bread and butter, and ultimately is a primary factor in the decision whether to buy the product or not. Packaging the product is something that some of us do well – Tiffany’s blue boxes being an excellent example — but a great deal can still be learned. As Ms. Kaputa points out, many customers are so overwhelmed by Apple’s beautiful “open me first” packaging that they don’t ever throw the box away.
The other three tools listed by Ms. Kaputa are less effectively used in the jewellery business.
3. Cultivate an air of secrecy and intrigue to fuel speculation and buzz.
When it comes to teaser marketing campaigns, there is no company better than Apple. It deliberately creates a sense of suspense, providing almost no information, but encouraging media speculation to build to a deafening level. Are you aware of any marketing campaign in the jewellery business that is so carefully scripted? Like Apple, we have a relatively structured business cycle, which should enable us to create narratives that would generate a sense of anticipation among our customers. Doing that may not be easy, but it certainly is not impossible.
4. Focus on a “friendly” customer experience.
Have you ever visited an Apple store? If you have, you will know what I mean. Simply stated, it is fun being there. You are encouraged to touch the product, to use it and ask questions. The sales staff is not simply well informed, but it includes “geniuses.” Compare that to the typical experience of a jewellery store. There, the staff often regards every one who enters as a potential thief. Products are kept behind glass cases, and, frequently the customer needs to strain in order to read the tag describing the product and listing the price. Security obviously is an issue, but is this really a “friendly” customer experience?
5. Create a passionate community of fans who identity with the brand values.
Jewellery certainly does have its passionate fans, but other than a handful of companies, there are few selling jewellery with clearly defined brand values. Indeed, the overriding perception among younger consumers often is that we are lacking in the values that they identify with. That is a problem we must address if we are to be able to compete successfully with the Apples of this world for the consumers’ discretionary dollars.