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What Can Apple Teach Us About Branding?

Another month, another successful product release for Apple. As you’ve surely heard, Apple released their iPad 2 earlier this month amidst great fanfare. Sales have been brisk, and are expected to remain strong many months into the future. Here’s a question for you: how many other companies can grab instant media attention simply by announcing the release of a new product? Do Toshiba users breathlessly search the blogosphere for hints related to next year’s laptop model? How many people line up outside the Sprint store for the release of the latest BlackBerry smartphone? Clearly Apple is doing something that very few contemporaries can do. This success hasn’t happened by accident—it’s a result of a deliberate branding and marketing strategy. What can each of us learn from Apple and apply to our personal branding efforts? Read on…

1) Scarcity = value. Have you ever wondered why Apple always seems to run out of products after a new release? Surely the company that revolutionized the smartphone can figure out how many iPhones are expected to sell in their opening weekend—and can handle the logistics required to ensure that their stores won’t run out of stock. You’re right, of course. Apple could easily overstock their stores to ensure that everyone who wants a product can get one. But by deliberately running out of stock, Apple is able to create a perception of scarcity and value.

2) Not for everyone. Whether it’s pricing strategies or the decision to restrict iPhone usage to the AT&T network for several years, Apple sometimes seems determined NOT to sell their products to everyone. That’s counterintuitive, right? Why would any business limit their sales? The answer is that Apple wants their products to be seen as exclusive and valuable. Excluding certain market segments makes it clear that Apple products aren’t for just anyone—and that perception is in large part responsible for the frenzy that accompanies each product release.

3) Focused on adding value. Watch any Apple commercial and you’ll notice a theme—Apple doesn’t market their products by listing all of their features. Instead, Apple shows customers how their products can improve their lives. The iconic iPod commercials are a classic example—rather than talking about memory space, or sound quality, or the intuitive menu design, Apple emphasized how pleasant it was to be able to listen to your music at the gym, or on the bus, or when out for a jog. The focus isn’t on what their products can do—the focus is on how they add value to the lives of their customers.

You may not be selling a product or service as innovative as the iPad, but you can take these lessons and apply them to your brand. Create the perception of scarcity. Don’t offer your services or products to just anyone for any price—treat them as valuable commodities. And above all, focus on adding value to the lives of each of your clients or customers. You may never sell millions of products in a single weekend, but you can expect to see an increase in demand as your brand becomes more exclusive and more valuable.