In the past two decates it become a common practice for companies to spend millions and billions of money in advertisement (see Table 1, due to lack of any further evidence the numbers should be taken under suspicion). Most of us think that they spent all this money just to make us buy more and more but is not only that. Their ultimate goal is to make as aware of their presence, they want to gain more and more market share and they also use various methods and ways to attract new customers that they have not yet consider them as an option.
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In order to do that they have to use some tools and means. These tools are known as Marketing Communication Tools and they consist from five principles -also known as marketing communication mix- advertising, sales promotion, public relations, personal selling and direct marketing (Armstrong, Kotler, Harker, Brennan, 2009, p398). Not all of the tools are been used from the companies, some of them are used less some of them more. This is dependable on the strategy the company wants to follow, at this assignment I will try to critically assess and evaluate two key marketing communication tools that Apple Inc. uses.
Apple Inc. founded in 1976 and is one the largest corporation across the world that designs computers, electronics and computer software. It became known by been one of the first companies to mass produce and sell Personal Computers, in 1976 Apple 1 and in 1977 Apple II. Since then they become one of the leading companies both in innovation and sales this is the reason why I choose this particular brand in my assignment.
One of the most common marketing tools used by Apple Inc. is direct marketing and as Chris Fill (2005, 4th) defines the companies’ level in his book Apple Inc. is a type four hybrid company. This means that they see direct marketing as brand vehicle and “use direct marketing to exploit market space opportunities” (Chris Fill 2005, 4th, p.738). The main tool they use for their strategy is the internet and web-mail since the evolution of technology helps direct marketing to prosper and grow. Apple Inc. exploited that by using huge storage databases to keep track of their customers’ data and preferences. Their main goal is to build a strong and long-term relationship with their customers by forming a “community” and to define the word I used I mean dedicated customers that follow Apple Inc. products blindly.
This growing “community” is the power of company; it consisted by dedicated customers that are tied to the company mainly for sentimental reasons slowing rising as a cult. Even if the products sometimes do not meet their expectations or the products are left to “die” from the company they still follow them as a cult current slowly rising. As an example we can relate to that cult is the Abandoned Apple Newton Brand Community as explained at Albert M. Muniz Jr and Hope Jensen Schau research “Religiosity in the Abandoned Apple Newton Brand Community” published in the Journal of Consumer Research mentioning how customers off different brands turn their favorite brands into a religion and giving the products supernatural and magical motifs because they believe they are consisted from some kind of magic and will survive through time and at some point they even might rise again like the phoenix from the ashes.
From a consumer point of view their strategy is not as effective as it could be; mainly because direct marketing should be more about feedback and customer profile based. From that prospective they should focus more on how they can use effectively their recourses to be more customer-friendly and diverse, they need to give you the opportunity to feedback and give your own advices, after all this are a way of saying to the customer that you care about his opinion and the customer feel that they contribute to their favorite brand.
In 2001 Apple Inc. decided to add one more communication tool missing so far from their arsenal, as a result from that they launched their very own retail stores aiming to get higher market share and to “bring” joy to millions of dedicated customers around the globe. At this moment Apple Inc. counts 324 stores around the world, their philosophy is simple, they want customers to be able to found everything around their technology in one store.
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The goal is simple, the company tries to be more diverse more interactive and more two-way communication with their customers, this is what personal selling is all about this is what they aimed at. They want existing customers to interact with new customers and sales personnel to interact with both of them. This is the way they make their “bond” with the dedicated customers even stronger, due to human interaction and tow-way communication the customers do not only attach to the brand but they evolve a special relationship with the personnel that serves them in a way that the selling personnel influence the buying decision of the customer and the customer has someone that knows what his needs and wants are.
Personal selling is a great way to learn about what your customers think for your brand, because is a two-way communication and the feedback is faster than from the one you have with research or direct marketing. Is more specific, more consumer-oriented and more flexible than other communication tools but not without a cost. The main weakness is the high cost, the cost for each contact is very high and thus less time consuming methods should be introduced and used for each customer from the sales manager, as an example Germanos ( http://www.e-germanos.gr/ the pioneers in phone selling in Greece) has evolved a very effective and less time consuming model of personal selling, it is called the “5 minutes rule” in which each sales personnel has 5 minutes to identify the customer, identify their needs, propose, take him to the counter and closure. Additionally there is always the possibility of misunderstanding due to the human factor involved in the whole process although human factor is an important part of this process is also the one part that sometimes causes most of the problems the reasons may vary from cultural and religion beliefs to differences in the social status.
As a conclusion after doing research for the strategy that Apple Inc. uses we came across equivocal results, despite Apple Inc. market share status (one of the pioneers at their market) and their total revenue their main goal is their loyal customers, perhaps giving more attention on building stronger and life-lasting relationships with their existing customers than introducing the company to new customers. We cannot get a clear conclusion if their strategy is either bad or good, the only thing we can assume is that what they do, they do it to keep the brand image at a level to justify that their brand is for the few and not for the many.
Bottom line despite their strategy or their agenda we need to respect Apple Inc. but always have in mind that we need to be critical and analyze everything to see the hidden truth and what is going on behind the scenes. At the end I want to include a part of an interview given in the September of 2010 from the founder of Accer Inc. , Stan Shih, “Apple has to be respected. He said that the company and CEO has always been using a different strategy in the computer industry. According to Shih, Apple is looking for revolution, while other PC brands are evolving naturally.”
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