Apple Stores and Aha moments

A couple of weeks ago my wife and I were in Glasgow in the middle of a road trip around the UK. Amelia needed a new phone cover (exciting, right?) so we went into the Apple Store in Glasgow to see what they had.

Now I don’t intend this to be another instalment in the long line of ‘How amazing are Apple!?!’ pieces, but for the first time I actually sat back and observed how slick the whole experience was. Here’s how it went:

  1. Concierge guy links us up to an assistant in the accessories area.
  2. The assistant shows Amelia the options. She picks one from the display models.
  3. The assistant orders a case from the stock room via the ‘iPhone/ordering device thingy’ all the staff in Apple Stores have.
  4. While the new case comes from the stock room, the assistant sticks around, gives us a few dinner recommendations and processes our payment on the spot.
  5. The brand new case is delivered by a second assistant, and the original assistant puts it on Amelia’s phone.
  6. As we walk out the door the receipt is emailed to us, opening up CRM/e-mail sign-up opportunities for Apple.

It’s not new in Apple Stores and it’s something I’ve experienced before, but what struck me this time was the whole operation – quite literally – revolved around the customer.

It’s very different to the typical shopper experience where you wait for an assistant, walk across the store to the registers, wait in line to pay someone and then be sent on your way. To me that all seems to suit the retailer more than it does the customer.

Apple gets the customer experience so right. When you think that this is for a phone case and not a new Mac or iPad (still exorbitantly expensive for what it was, mind) it doesn’t really make much business sense from and ROI perspective: they’ve paid a concierge, an assistant, a store room guy and another assistant to make one sale.

But what it shows is that they work a little bit harder and demonstrably value their customers at the most important moment of truth for any brand – the point of purchase.

In an economy where bricks and mortar retail is on the wane it’s probably not sustainable to assign three staff to every customer, but the Apple Store experience is another trait within a fine-tuned customer-first philosophy that’s well worth emulating. Especially when you consider all the hard work you’ve done in driving customers in store and then will do in talking to them after they make a purchase via extensive CRM programs.

At the very least, by injecting a little romance into your in-store experience your customers will come away thinking that you really give a crap.


The most important graph you’ll ever see.*

Here it is…


A couple of our planners at Cummins&Partners returned from an IPA strategic planning course recently, where they were lucky enough to hear from effectiveness guru Peter Field. Simply put, in the Advertising world he’s kinda a big deal. Peter Field has done a mountain of research in the area of the long-term effectiveness of brand advertising, which is reported in his paper ‘The Long and the Short of it’.

The above chart is absolutely key and to me summarises the contention of his work. What it shows is that two different tactics of advertising have very different outcomes in sales uplift over time. The red line shows the typical pattern of bursts of sales activity or undifferentiated product feature messaging. The blue line shows brand advertising designed to build favourability and consumer connection. What’s clear is that while sales promotions are effective in the short term, sustained investment in brand building ultimately drives stronger sales results.

A couple of observations from me.

  • We’re talking about sales, not marketing metrics. I like that this chart measures effectiveness in terms of sales – the metric that a CFO would be interested in, not just the CMO. When the rubber hits the road and you’re pressured to justify your marketing activity, it’s much easier to point to sales results than it is to awareness, brand favourability, consideration and similar other metrics that we marketers know contribute to sales but ultimately leave a shade of grey.
  • The Kaizen principle. A personal mentor of mine explained this principle to me last year, borrowed from the 20th century Japanese industry approach of continuous incremental improvement. The brand building strategy doesn’t go backwards in sales (well, much anyway) and continues to grow and grow on itself, compounding its effectiveness. Sales pick up from a foundation of where they let off at each campaign, not starting from the start again as the short-term tactic does. And apart from compounding sales uplifts, a long-term view would save significant marketing investment and not put the business through the strain of supporting short-term sales promotion incentives (eg. discounting).
  • Tenure. Let’s assume that each spike on the x-axis represents 6 months of time. Playing this out, the intersection point of sales for both long-term and short-term strategies therefore comes after about four years of activity. Think then about how long the average marketing person is in a job for these days. Four years is a pretty decent stint, isn’t it? Therefore a marketer can look back and pretty easily justify to themselves their success in a short-term cycle of campaign activity, pointing to their results as they move on to a new role before the effort of a long-term strategy bears fruit. And their replacement picks up where they left off. This short term view of 21st century career progression pretty much encourages this type of strategic approach. The challenge then becomes staying the course to the point after four years when the brand building approach has built a foundation that leaves the short term approach in its wake.

Of course this is all very easy in theory and tricky to apply in practice. What does it even look like? Think about the poster brands of marketing case studies. Take Apple for instance. Ever since ‘1984‘ Apple has invested in big brand advertising carefully crafted to ‘zig’ against the category’s ‘zag’. With Steve Jobs at the helm and spearheading sustained brand growth and product innovation over the long term, Apple has consistently produced advertising that’s delivered on the Think Different brand platform.

Not everyone has the same access to budget that Apple has but perhaps we don’t need to. Next time you’re about to plan a marketing campaign, brief an ad or schedule a social post, maybe stop and think how you aspire your brand to behave in 10 years’ time. Is what you’re doing now consistent with what your envision for your brand?

If nothing else, your replacement will thank you for it.


*If you work in marketing.

Work worth noticing

Here’s some work that’s caught my eye across some of the industry’s biggest product categories.

Food/Beverages: Raise a Glass – Victoria Bitter

It’s probably not quite right to just call this a beer ad and I think that’s precisely why it’s awesome. Another great instalment for a great cause.

Automotive: A Message to Space – Hyundai Genesis

Hyundai have done the launch of their new luxury nameplate exceedingly well, especially in the online content space (see: The Empty Car Convoy). This execution is another cracker.

Sports: Ripple – Nike Golf

I’m a bit of a golf tragic, but Nike’s new spot for U.S. Masters has got to be up there as one of the best pieces of sports advertising this year. Nike always seems to strike a balance between big emotive brand spots like this and fun ads that keeps the punters coming.

Consumer Products: Shot on iPhone 6 – Apple

Shot on iPhone6 Billboard

“See what’s possible with the world’s most popular camera” – genius. Tackles the perception of iPhones having inferior camera technology head-on. Makes for some pretty impressive large format outdoor, too.


Mumbrella360 – Day 2 Wrap

I was grateful for the later start this morning – I felt like I’d been hit by a bus when I collapsed into bed last night.

In a caffeine-induced buzz I got into the morning’s keynote session and strapped myself in for what proved to be another bloody brilliant day at Mumbrella360. Just like yesterday, Day 2 was jam-packed full of awesome speakers, great ideas and razor sharp insights. Here are five of the more memorable moments from Day 2 of Mumbrella360:

Continue reading “Mumbrella360 – Day 2 Wrap”

Mumbrella360 – Day 1 Wrap

“I’ve never seen so many pull up banners in my life.”

That was my first thought as I rolled into the breakfast session at Mumbrella360 this morning. But, as expected, the amount of exhibitors’ signs wasn’t the only thing that blew me away from Day 1 of the conference.


It truly was a who’s who of the Australian advertising, media and marketing industries, with each and every speaker offering insights I’d never thought of before. I went to sessions that included speakers from Droga5, DDB, Lowe, Y&R, Havas, The Works, Omnicom, M&C Saatchi and R/GA – pretty much a roll call of the best creative shops in town (except for JWT of course!). And just as interesting were the senior staffers from content organisations and media agencies. Here’s a summary of three key themes I took away of Day 1 and a few links to where you can find out more to get some inspiration for yourself.

Continue reading “Mumbrella360 – Day 1 Wrap”