Print 31 comment(s) - last by Tony Swash.. on May 18 at 1:07 PM

The key to Apple's success is elimination

It's no secret that Apple is a wildly successful software/computing company. Its products compete with some of the largest tech giants in the world like Google and Microsoft, yet it beat them all when Millward Brown (and over 2 million consumers) selected Apple as the world's most valuable brand in the 2011 BrandZ study. 

For Apple, the strategy is quality over quantity. The company has a smaller portfolio than most tech companies, but that hasn't stopped it from being in the top ranks. Just last month, Apple announced record fiscal Q2 revenue of $24.67 billion USD

Apple has certainly come a long way after experiencing consecutive quarterly losses during its attempts at reinvention in the mid to late 1990's. But many credit Jobs' return to Apple in the late 90's for the company's turnaround and introduction of revolutionary products.

But according to Nike CEO Mark Parker, it isn't so much what Jobs did for the company that turned it into a success, but rather, it's what he didn't do. Parker recalls having a conversation with Jobs when he first returned to Apple as CEO, asking for advice regarding Parker's Nike products. 

"Do you have any advice?" Parker asked Jobs. 

"Well, just one thing," replied Jobs. "Nike makes some of the best products in the world. Products that you lust after. But you also make a lot of crap. Just get rid of the crappy stuff and focus on the good stuff." 

An awkward moment slipped by where Parker just laughed at the advice, but Jobs didn't even chuckle. He was serious about what he had said, and after thinking about it a moment, Parker realized he was right.

"We had to edit," said Parker.

When Jobs returned to Apple, he cut the product line down from 350 to 10, and focused only on a few machines that were meticulously perfected. This strict focus has led to effective product designs and communications for Apple. For instance, when Apple released the next-generation MacBook laptops, the company announced that its aluminum unibody enclosure reduced 60 percent of the machine's major structural parts, making it thinner, lighter and surprisingly stronger.  

"People think focus means saying yes to the thing you've got to focus on," said Jobs. "But that's not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully. I'm actually as proud of the things we haven't done as the things I have done. Innovation is saying 'no' to 1,000 things."

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Apple strategy
By nafhan on 5/17/2011 11:37:03 AM , Rating: 4
For Apple, the strategy is quality over quantity.
And marketing over quality... :)

Anyway, I'd say the advice of focusing on a few key products is pretty sound. However, at the same time, it's kind of generic enough that he may as well have been saying "work smarter, not harder!" The difficult and complicated job of implementing a simple strategy like that is where Steve has done an excellent job, and to throw another trite phrase out there: "easier said than done!"

RE: Apple strategy
By Mitch101 on 5/17/2011 11:40:58 AM , Rating: 2
Have you seen the HP notebook ads in the Staples flyers comparing HP laptops to the cost of an Macbook? :)

RE: Apple strategy
By Tony Swash on 5/17/11, Rating: -1
RE: Apple strategy
By Reclaimer77 on 5/17/2011 1:02:34 PM , Rating: 3
Have you seen Apples profits and growth compared to HP :)

Have you seen their advertising budget compared to HP?

Tony, market growth means DICK to the end user. That's only useful for boasting fanbois.

RE: Apple strategy
By Tony Swash on 5/17/11, Rating: -1
RE: Apple strategy
By kleinma on 5/17/2011 4:49:46 PM , Rating: 2
If you like being told what to buy, how you should use it, and have no deviation from the course that Steve has set out on, then Apple is for you. If you actually care about having a computer that you can make yours (and not his) then something along the PC lines is a better choice.

RE: Apple strategy
By Tony Swash on 5/17/11, Rating: -1
RE: Apple strategy
By perfixalot on 5/18/2011 6:01:13 AM , Rating: 2
McDonald's also makes a lot of burgers that millions want and buy. It must be great food then.

And it is great food, from a sales point of view, from a lot of people's personal view point it must also seem to great food, or they wouldn't keep buying it.

Even though many of us realize that fast-food is not really great value for money, nor nutritionally superior, we still eat the crap they make.

To me the question is more about is the trend in consumption of technology (as well as food) really beneficial to society, communities and even the world as whole?

I don't know the answer for sure, but I just have gut feeling that a lot of the global issues causing a lot of misery for the unfortunate is due to people wanting things to be easy. The simplest way to have things easy is to ignore the hard questions, assume it's up to others to provide you with solutions that "just work", and build an identity by proxy by associating yourself with hyped labels, such as "quality", "successful", "innovative", etc.

RE: Apple strategy
By Tony Swash on 5/18/2011 1:07:04 PM , Rating: 1
I don't know the answer for sure, but I just have gut feeling that a lot of the global issues causing a lot of misery for the unfortunate is due to people wanting things to be easy. The simplest way to have things easy is to ignore the hard questions, assume it's up to others to provide you with solutions that "just work", and build an identity by proxy by associating yourself with hyped labels, such as "quality", "successful", "innovative", etc.

That makes a lot of sense.

Why make complex technology easy? Why empower more people to use it? Let's make it harder because thats better (for some reason), lets make all keyboards with braille, lets make all the menu items in Sanskrit, lets shrink the size and definition of displays so they are harder to see, lets make the OS really obscure, non-intuitive and buggy (I guess Microsoft has that one covered already).

People really do the talk the most amazing bollocks on this forum especially when they are deranged by Apple-phobia.

RE: Apple strategy
By optics261 on 5/18/2011 7:57:30 AM , Rating: 1
People have been customizing Mac's and making them their own for a long time.

RE: Apple strategy
By nafhan on 5/17/2011 4:54:14 PM , Rating: 2
Let's hope that Apple's competitors also think mistakenly that Apple' success is down to advertising
By "us" do you mean Apple stockholders and fan boys? Sane people (excepting stockholders) hope for a vigorous competitive environment. Apple's success isn't purely down to advertising, but even you have to admit "image" is a big part of Apple's appeal to many people.

RE: Apple strategy
By Azethoth on 5/17/2011 11:29:53 PM , Rating: 1
Not "image", but industrial design. Apple has been doing good industrial design for longer than competitors have served up *yawn* beige boxen. Oops, I meant black boxen, because black means you designed it super good!

Image is what you get after you do the industrial design and become known for it.

RE: Apple strategy
By KoolAidMan1 on 5/17/2011 4:56:44 PM , Rating: 3
Have you seen their advertising budget compared to HP?

Have you?

HP's advertising budget is absolutely colossal. IMHO they make the best TV ads of any of the tech companies out there. Unfortunately it is no reflection on their consumer products, as their low end laptops and desktops are junk. Elitebooks and other business products are a different story, but by then you're paying more than you would for a Macbook Pro for not much more or in some cases less.

You know which company's advertising budget dwarfs even Apple's R&D budget, forget their ad budget? Microsoft. All that advertising cash couldn't make the Zune into a hit. It did work out for the XBox 360, which is good. Their advertising turned the Kinect into a smash, and it shook the negative stigma of Windows Vista with the release of Windows 7.

Obviously Apple's marketing is big, but to assume that they outspend other tech companies in that area is completely false. It seems to fall back into the whole "keep it simple and focused" concept that this whole article opened up with in regards to product lines. Seems like if you apply it to advertising, that also makes that more effective and efficient.

Maybe people should listen...
By InvertMe on 5/17/2011 12:13:43 PM , Rating: 2
As much as I dislike Apple they seem to pull the rest of the market around by the nose.

Apple makes a new product, Appleites eat it up and then suddenly the rest of the market decides they need to make 100 versions of the exact same product.

Steve/Apple has something going on - so maybe his advise worth listening to.

RE: Maybe people should listen...
By Fracture on 5/17/2011 1:30:34 PM , Rating: 2
You can't patent utilitarian objects, so I highly doubt it. On the other hand, Apple and other increasingly less competitive brands could learn something from Zappos about improving the customer experience.

RE: Maybe people should listen...
By Zingam on 5/17/2011 1:59:01 PM , Rating: 2
I don't think so. Apple didn't invent anything. There were smartphones before iPhone, there were notebooks before MacBook, there were tablets before iPad and I doubt that they've invented the MP3 player. What they do is they take something and make it more marketable.

The difference between Apple and HTC for example is that Apple sells a service not just a piece of hardware. Their smartphones come with a synchronization software, an online shop to buy crap from, easily available development tools etc.
And this also works because they have few products. I've they introduce 10-20 new iPhone types a year even if they reach more people they'll not stand out so much and Apple won't be able to sell them for so much money.

RE: Maybe people should listen...
By KoolAidMan1 on 5/17/2011 4:49:11 PM , Rating: 2
The notion that Apple only sells to the faithful and the brainwashed is a false one. They have broken way past that limited market and into the mainstream years ago. Something like the iPad or iPhone doesn't outsell a mainstream blockbuster piece of consumer electronics like the Nintendo Wii by selling only to the stereotypical Apple zealot.

RE: Maybe people should listen...
By darckhart on 5/17/2011 9:16:14 PM , Rating: 3
No... they've just brainwashed more....

Scotty I Need More Power!
By Reclaimer77 on 5/17/2011 11:16:19 AM , Rating: 5
"Distortion field at maximum, Captain!"

RE: Scotty I Need More Power!
By Mitch101 on 5/17/2011 11:38:25 AM , Rating: 2
Steve Jobs
Ignore the problem and it will go away.

And one more thing.

Deny Deny Deny Deny even if you know its your kid, design flaw, whatever Deny beats rock, paper, scissors and lava.

And one more thing.

Believe your lies and they become truths.

And one more thing.

If it leaks push them off the foxcon building. Its like a $3,000 fix.

And one more thing.

If sales drop change the color and hold a press conference.

And one more thing.

feel free to add your own.

By StevoLincolnite on 5/17/2011 11:49:15 AM , Rating: 1
"Distortion field at maximum, Captain!"

Is that line from the show... "Nadesico?".

Brutal Honestly
By msheredy on 5/17/2011 11:21:11 AM , Rating: 2
As much as it sucks to hear we all need it from time to time. And if you don't think you need it your name must be Steve.

RE: Brutal Honestly
By Reclaimer77 on 5/17/2011 11:24:36 AM , Rating: 2
It's not honesty, it's just more spin. Jobs cut the products he cut not because they were "too much" or whatever, he did it because they were inferior and couldn't compete.

So his advice is really that if you make something that's crappy and gets beat by competitors, don't actually try to make it better, just cut it and focus on a few things.

What works for Apple wont necessarily work for Nike. I'm pretty sure we won't see Nike radically changing anything because of this "advice".

RE: Brutal Honestly
By michael2k on 5/17/2011 12:24:53 PM , Rating: 2
No, spin is everything said afterwards; your post, my post, the article, the interview. He did in fact say exactly what you said, essentially, cutting crap because they were inferior and couldn't compete.

If he really said it, he wasn't spinning anything. The proof is in the pudding; he cut hundreds of products from 1997 onwards. Big products, small products, models, etc. 1997 had 13 Mac models, 7 of which were variants of largely the same Power Macintosh. 1996 saw the introduction of 12 models.

The year later? Apple only introduced 4 models in 1998, discontinuing many of their 1997 and 1996 models. 1999 only saw 7 models introduced, 5 of which are direct replacements of their 1998 models. The Power Macintosh saw two upgrades in one year, from G3 to G4.

This also applied to the eMate, Newton, Copland, A/UX, AppleWorks, HyperCard, and in the recent past also OS X Server, XServe, XSan, XServe RAID, etc.

It's a basic concept applicable to people, even; you cannot do everything well. Don't even try to make crap, is the nuance he's imparting. If you know it's crappy, don't do it. Do it better, or don't do it. You're exhortation to make it better is a waste of resources because it's already too late. You've wasted resources, goodwill, marketing, advertising, shelf space, and brand image on crap.

RE: Brutal Honestly
By robinthakur on 5/18/2011 7:46:36 AM , Rating: 2
You are so right. Would that MS took that advice before they kept pouring money at the Zune, Kin, the Live strategy, even the Xbox was a black hole sucking in billions of dollars until very recently. Still, Apple expereinced its own downturn through the 90's so it has learned something hopefully and the knowledge has been imparted widely throughout the company.

By Breakfast Susej on 5/17/2011 11:43:36 AM , Rating: 5
I may be mistaken but isn't Nike already fully versed in making a five dollar sweatshop labor product and selling it for two hundred based on brand name alone?

RE: Really?
By inperfectdarkness on 5/17/2011 7:02:54 PM , Rating: 2
i can't vote you up any i'll voice my approval instead. :)

nike already has the sweatshop thing in the bag. now it just needs to master it--foxconn style--and start pushing employees to their deaths.

No Faith Argument
By brshoemak on 5/17/2011 3:36:52 PM , Rating: 2
selected Apple as the world's most valuable brand in the 2011 BrandZ study.

Sorry, I don't trust any study from a group that can't spell "brands" correctly. ;)

RE: No Faith Argument
By raphd on 5/17/2011 7:24:00 PM , Rating: 2
like the app store, Apple will copyright the word "brand" soon. Or maybe that was his advice to Nike.

Steve jobs has super power
By ghost55 on 5/17/2011 12:15:07 PM , Rating: 3
Steve jobs Reality Distortion Field(tm) FTW!

By INeedCache on 5/18/2011 9:09:07 AM , Rating: 1
Apple's success is a combination of very good marketing, generally good products (although overpriced), some lying (Jobs is lucky he isn't Pinocchio), and very gullible and misinformed consumers. Is a $1000 MacBook better than a $600 Windows PC? Yes. And for the price difference it should be. But is it better than a $1000 Windows PC? No. Probably not even better than a $900 Windows PC. Ah, but the marketing and consumer stupidity make the difference. Cut out the crap? In a Jobs world, there would be no cars affordable for the low and middle class. We'd be left with luxury cars only. Same with Apple. Computers for everyone? No.

"Death Is Very Likely The Single Best Invention Of Life" -- Steve Jobs

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